Women in Scotland have been given the right to take the so-called “abortion pill” at home, it emerged yesterday.
Anti-abortion campaigners last night reacted angrily to an announcement by public health minister Aileen Campbell that misoprostol can be taken at home when “clinically appropriate”.
Elsewhere in the UK, the pill must be administered and taken in a registered clinical setting. The change brings Scotland in line with countries such as Sweden and France.
The change of policy came to light in a statement issued by Ms Campbell on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act, which legalised terminations under specific circumstances.
Ms Campbell said: “Abortion can be an emotive subject – however, I am proud this government is working hard to ensure women are always able to access clinically safe services. Scotland is now the only part of the UK to offer women the opportunity to take misoprostol at home when this is clinically appropriate, a decision that allows women to be in control of their treatment and as comfortable as possible during this procedure.”
According to the Scottish Government, ministers were using an existing power available to them within Abortion Act 1967 to make the change. The use of the pill at home did not amount to a change to abortion law and had been done following guidance led by the Chief Medical Officer.
Those in favour argue that allowing the pill to be taken at home will spare women from making additional trips to clinics, which can complicate childcare commitments as well as involve transport costs and time off work.
Of the 12,063 terminations in Scotland in 2016, 73.5 per cent were carried out at less than nine weeks gestation. The vast majority of these (89.4 per cent) were medical rather than surgical procedures.
The medical treatment involves taking two medicines. The first tablet, mifepristone, blocks the action of the hormone progesterone needed to maintain the pregnancy. The second, misoprostol, can be given up to 72 hours apart. It will be given out at a clinic.
Within an hour of taking misoprostol, women often experience heavy bleeding, a concern as women in Scotland often have to travel long distances to access abortion services.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “We hope the government will follow Scotland’s lead and roll out this important policy change across the rest of Great Britain.”
But John Deighan, chief executive of campaign group the Society for the protection of Unborn Children Scotland, said: “This will have many vulnerable women … pushed towards what is seen as the easy option of being handed some drugs and sent home to stop being a problem for society.”