Scottish authorities’ move to allow at-home administration of abortion drugs violates the law and will allow more pressure on women to have abortions, critics said.
“Many vulnerable women who may be desperate about the situation they are in will be pushed towards what is seen as the easy option of being handed some drugs and sent home to stop being a problem for society,” said John Deighan, CEO of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament in 2016 secured the legal right to govern abortion issues.
In October, Scotland’s chief medical officer told Scottish health boards that the drug Misoprostal could be taken outside a clinical setting. The drug is the second of a two-drug combination used in early abortions.
Women who have suffered an early miscarriage can take the drug at home to induce labor, while women seeking abortions have been required to take both drug doses in a hospital or clinic.
Pro-abortion rights groups backed the change, including Abortion Rights, the Family Planning Association and the Scottish Humanist Society.
Jillian Merchant, vice-chair of the group Abortion Rights, said that the change would make Scottish practice reflect current practice in the U.S., France and Sweden.
“Patients are not required to take pills in front of the prescribing clinician for any other condition. Abortion should be treated no differently,” said Merchant, according to The Herald.
However, Deighan argued that “the abortion pill has been greatly pushed by the government as if it were some sanitized and easy way of ending a pregnancy. It is far from that.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Scotland will argue in court that the relevant legislation, the 1967 Abortion Act, did not intend to allow abortions at home. The legislation requires the presence of doctors, nurses or medical staff.
“The move to trivialize abortion is one that harms women and creates an environment where some women are even urged to have an abortion because it does not suit others,” Deighan continued, saying the government plan amounts to approving “backstreet abortions.”
In November, when plans to permit at-home abortion pill administration were first announced, the Scottish bishops objected that “making abortion easier ignores the disturbing reality that an innocent human life is ended,” the U.K. newspaper The Catholic Herald reports.