Scots anti-abortion group warns against push to decriminalise

Scotland faces becoming an 'abortion tourist destination' if laws are relaxed as part of the new package of devolution powers, campaigners have claimed.

Abortion is a tough issue in other devolved administrations, with pro-choice rallies held in Belfast. Picture: Getty Images

Anti-abortion groups say women will travel from “all over the UK and beyond” should the Scottish Government change the law to “decriminalise” abortion.

Meanwhile, a national campaign is being launched today calling on the Scottish Government to “lead the way” in the UK and do away with “archaic” laws which mean abortion remains a criminal offence – with only the approval of two doctors making it lawful.

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Pro-choice groups will stage a protest outside the Scottish Parliament asking MSPs to back the call which is being spearheaded by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

It marks the first salvo in the push to have abortion laws relaxed since it emerged last year that MSPs would be taking control of abortion law.

More than 11,000 terminations were carried out in 2014, down from a high of more than 13,000 six years earlier. This accounts for about one in seven pregnancies.

The 1967 Abortion Act did not decriminalise abortion in Scotland, but made terminations lawful if two doctors agreed a woman’s mental or physical health would suffer if forced to continue her pregnancy. Under common law, abortion remains a crime in Scotland and women face imprisonment for ending pregnancies without the two doctors’ permission.

The call to decriminalise met with an angry response from the anti-abortion Don’t Stop A Beating Heart campaign.

A spokesman said: “The abortion lobby call for ‘woman-centred care’, but abortion is a traumatic and damaging procedure, carrying physical and mental health risks.

“We are speaking for the rights of women not to be damaged by abortion. Women deserve better than abortion.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is against any change in the limit.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “Scotland has a proud tradition of progressive abortion policy and practice, and devolution provides the Scottish Government with the opportunity to once again lead the way.

“The ability to end a pregnancy has enabled women to live their lives in the way that they see fit and bear children at the time they think is right.

“It is high time we recognised this by taking abortion out of the criminal law.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said there are no plans to change the law on abortion.