Early Medical Abortion at Home Consultation
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on whether it should make permanent changes to abortion services that were brought in at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
These changes affect medical abortion or abortion by medication in the early weeks of pregnancy. This would allow women to take both pills needed to carry out a medical abortion without needing to travel to a clinic or hospital for an in-person appointment.
We unequivocally supports women’s autonomy over their bodies and lives, and considers abortion access fundamental to women’s rights and gender equality. Access to safe abortion is fundamental to women’s economic and social rights, to women’s autonomy, employment, education and access to resources, and therefore to women’s equality.
We believe that abortion should be regulated in the same way as any other healthcare. Abortion services in Scotland continue to place a number of barriers to quality care in women’s way, including the requirement for two doctors to certify the approval for an abortion, the need for multiple appointments and lack of available services for later abortion care in many local areas. Abortion remains highly stigmatised and subject to legal and service restrictions.
We are asking people who believe in a woman's right to choose to response to the Scottish Government’s consultation before the 5th January 2020. Without your support in this consultation, Scottish women may lose access to telemedical abortion care.
This response template has been created by Engender with support from BPAS, Amnesty International, and Abortion Rights Campaign Scotland and includes some suggestions for issues you might want to raise in your own answers. The consultation consists of the seven questions - you do not have to answer all of them, and you can also indicate that you want your response to remain anonymous. You can also download this response guide as a PDF here.
If you don’t have time to add details to your answer, or to answer every question, please still answer Question 1 (Positive Impact), Question 2 (Positive Impact), and Question 7 (option A) to say that the current arrangements should be retained permanently.
Background to the consultation
Abortion provision in Scotland is still governed by the Abortion Act 1967. As a result of this law, prior to the pandemic, all abortion clients were required to travel to a hospital or specialised clinic to attend an appointment in person. As a result of the restrictions on where abortions could legally be provided, there are generally no more than a handful of clinics in each Health Board that provide these services. In Shetland and Na h-Eileanan Siar, there were no local services at all.
Until the end of March 2020, women who wanted to have a medical abortion, which consists of taking two medications – mifepristone and misoprostol – 24- 48 hours apart, have been able to take the second pill at home since 2017, when Early Medical Abortion at Home was introduced in Scotland. Early Medical Abortion accounts for around 80% of abortions every year in Scotland.
Because of Covid-19, the Scottish Government has enabled women in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to have a telemedical appointment by phone or video call before being sent both pills to take at home along with clear instructions, access to an advice line and pain management. Women who are unsure of their gestation date, who would prefer to be seen in person or who have other health concerns are still able to be seen in person. This change is currently temporary and will be in place as long as the Coronavirus pandemic remains a risk.
Telemedicine provides women with safe, effective and accessible abortion care and increases the choice available for women. Since 2003, the World Health Organisation has been recommending that abortion care be provided at the ‘lowest’ appropriate level of the healthcare system. It is a common and safe procedure that one in three women will utilise in her lifetime.
We strongly believe that telemedical abortion services should continue after the pandemic and that we should not roll-back the delivery of abortion care in Scotland by denying women an option that has been proven to meet their needs.
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