Pro-life campaigners have indicated they will mount a legal challenge to halt Scottish Government plans to allow women to have home abortions.
John Deighan, chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in Scotland, said the organisation had sought legal advice on the issue, and been told they “have a good chance of success”.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, confirmed in October that she had written to all health boards north of the border to say the drug misoprostol, which terminates a pregnancy, could be taken by women outside a clinical setting.
Calderwood described it as “significant progress” that women in Scotland who are up to nine weeks pregnant could take the second dose of the drug at home if they wanted, saying this would allow them “more privacy, more dignity”.
Campaign groups including Engender, Amnesty Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland have welcomed the move. Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) described it as ‘’admirable’’. But Deighan claimed the potential health risks for women were “horrific”. He said: “There would be no medical oversight and this development will result in dreadful threats to women’s health.”
SPUC said it had received detailed legal advice from an advocate who specialises in human rights cases, who said under the law the medication could not be taken without some form of medical supervision.
The advocate stated: “In my view, the taking of the abortifacient drugs must be done under the supervision either of a registered medical practitioner, or by some other suitable member of staff who is acting under the control of a medical practitioner. It cannot be done by a patient unsupervised, at home or elsewhere.”
The advocate added: “As the approval anticipates the patient administering the drug to herself without medical supervision, that approval proceeds upon a misdirection as to the requirements of the 1967 Act, and is accordingly unlawful.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We’ve worked hard to ensure women are always able to access clinically safe services.
“Scotland is the only part of the United Kingdom to offer women the opportunity to take misoprostol at home, when this is clinically appropriate.”