Campaigners challenge home abortion plans

7 January 2018, 07:59 | Updated: 7 January 2018, 08:10


Anti-abortion campaigners are launching a legal challenge against Scotland's top doctor over plans to allow women to take medication to end pregnancies at home.

John Deighan, chief executive of the Society of the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said it has instructed a legal team to prepare court papers calling for a judicial review of the decision.

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, confirmed in October she had written to all Scottish health boards indicating the drug misoprostol could be taken by women outside a clinical setting, under plans using powers available within the Abortion Act 1967.

She said it was ''significant progress'' that women in Scotland 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''.

The move has been described as ''admirable'' by Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, but Mr Deighan said: "There would be no medical oversight and this development will result in dreadful threats to women's health.''

The SPUC sent Dr Calderwood a letter before Christmas threatening court action after having been given legal advice stating they have "good prospects of success". They said they received a reply stating: "We have noted the contents of your letter, but do not accept that there is any reason to withdraw the approval."

Mr Deighan said: "The Scottish Government has made its decision to continue with this policy. We believe this is an unlawful position.

"They have refused to engage in discussion on the matter despite the detailed concerns we raised with them. Therefore, we have been left with no option but to proceed to challenge it through the courts."

He added: "We have now formally instructed our legal team to prepare court papers to go before a judge and this will be done before January 25."

The SPUC said it had received detailed legal advice from an advocate who said under the law the medication could not be taken without some form of medical supervision.

The advocate stated: ''It cannot be done by a patient unsupervised, at home or elsewhere.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We've worked hard to ensure women are always able to access clinically safe services.

"Scotland is 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."