Abortion remains within the criminal justice system in Scotland, with women requiring the approval of two doctors to access routine, safe reproductive healthcare. Access to services is inconsistent, resulting in a postcode lottery for women seeking abortions.

Family planning services are particularly difficult to access for disabled women, trans women, women in rural communities, and migrant, refugee and asylum seeking women.

The menopause is only recently being recognised as an issue which impacts on women’s work, family, and leisure activities. It remains stigmatised, with many women unable to seek support from healthcare professionals or employers.

Women’s health concerns are routinely dismissed if they relate to periods, meaning chronic underdiagnoses of conditions such as endometriosis.

General Election 2024?– What’s in it for women??

General Election 2024?– What’s in it for women??

Blog – Jun 10, 2024: We’re calling on candidates to commit to taking action on four key areas for women if elected – and we need your help. 

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Modernising Scotland's abortion law

Modernising Scotland's abortion law

Blog – May 22, 2024: Today we launch our new report, ‘Outdated, harmful and never in the public interest - The urgent need to modernise Scotland's abortion law and prevent prosecutions.’  

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Outdated, Harmful, and Never in the Public Interest: The urgent need to modernise Scotland's abortion law and prevent prosecutions

May 21, 2024: Reform of abortion law in Scotland is long overdue. The legal framework which currently governs when an abortion is permitted is made up of a patchwork of laws that stem from as far back as the 17th century. The law is therefore out of step with the experiences of women in modern Scotland for whom abortion is routine healthcare, accessed by around one in three in their lifetimes. The report is informed by input from legal experts and medical professionals, detailing the wide ranging support that exists for decriminalisation. It concludes with clear recommendations for Scottish Government and other key decisionmakers on what the next steps towards a modernised regulatory framework should be.

Date of publication: May 2024.

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Engender submission of evidence to the Scottish Parliament Health, Social Care and Sport Committee call for evidence on the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill

Jan 10, 2024: Engender has worked on access to abortion care since 2016 and the devolution of this policy area to the Scottish Parliament. During that time, we have identified issues relating to abortion law, access and care that serve to undermine women’s experiences of abortion and impede the full realisation of women’s human rights in Scotland. As such, we recognise the increasing need for this legislation and are strong in our overall support for the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill. We want to ensure that the Bill provides women and healthcare workers with the strongest possible protections, whilst remaining human rights compliant.

Date of publication: January 2024.

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Making the case for decriminalising abortion

Making the case for decriminalising abortion

Blog – Oct 24, 2023: Regulation of abortion care in Scotland is in urgent need of modernisation, with the current framework acting as a drag on services and as a barrier to timely access.

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New report reveals devastating impact of Covid-19 on access to pregnancy and maternity services 

New report reveals devastating impact of Covid-19 on access to pregnancy and maternity services 

Blog – Sep 26, 2023: Engender and the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) have published a new report spotlighting women’s experiences of pregnancy and maternity services during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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Engender briefing on decriminalisation of abortion for the Scottish Parliament Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee

Feb 22, 2023: This is a briefing for MSPs ahead of the Scottish Parliament Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee consideration of a new petition to amend the law to fully decriminalise abortion in Scotland on 22nd February 2023. Women’s reproductive rights include the freedom and ability to decide if and when to have children and the right to high standards of sexual and reproductive health. However, women in Scotland currently have no legal right to end a pregnancy. That decision ultimately sits with doctors, two of whom must authorise a woman’s request for an abortion. We urge the Committee to seek further and fuller evidence regarding decriminalisation of abortion following its initial consideration of this petition.

Date of publication: February 2023.

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Engender response to the consultation on the Proposed Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill

Aug 12, 2022: Engender wholeheartedly welcomes the proposed Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill and the opportunity to respond to this consultation. Harassment of women seeking healthcare represents an egregious interference with women’s basic human rights. Engender unequivocally supports women’s autonomy over our bodies and our lives; access to abortion is fundamental to women’s rights and gender equality. Access to safe abortion healthcare is essential for the realisation of women’s economic and social rights.

Date of publication: August 2022.

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Engender Parliamentary Briefing: Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Nov 4, 2021: This is a briefing for MSPs ahead of the Member's Business Debate on Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones. Engender calls for a robust strategy to respond to protests as harassment and abuse towards women, including implementation of buffer zones around clinics, as part of the Scottish Government’s stated ambitions on abortion rights and access to forms of quality healthcare predominantly utilised by women.

Date of publication: November 2021.

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Engender Parliamentary Briefing: Improving Support and Ending the Stigma of the Menopause

Nov 2, 2021: This is a briefing for MSPs ahead of the Member's Business Session on Improving Support and Ending the Stigma of the Menopause. Despite recent progress there remains a chronic stigma, imbued with sexism and ageism, and a lack of knowledge and public awareness around the menopause which prevents health professionals and society from adequately supporting menopausal women. There is a need for comprehensive healthcare training and services, while more workplace policies could be a simple action to improve conditions for menopausal women in Scotland.

Date of publication: November 2021.

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Free period products, when and where we need them

Free period products, when and where we need them

Blog – Jul 29, 2021: In this blog, Engender's Communications and Engagement Manager, Alys Mumford, talks about our continuing work to ensure access to free period products.

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Telemedical abortion services: joint letter to Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women's Health, and Sport

Telemedical abortion services: joint letter to Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women's Health, and Sport

Blog – Jun 14, 2021: Today Engender and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) have, together with 25 women's organisations, human rights bodies, and healthcare providers, written to the Scottish Government asking them to make telemedical abortion services permanent in Scotland.

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Engender response to the Scottish Government consultation on Abortion notifications and data

May 18, 2021: Engender unequivocally supports women’s autonomy over their bodies and lives and considers abortion access fundamental to women’s rights and reproductive justice. Women in Scotland must have a legal right to choices around family planning, as outlined by the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is supported by intersectional and gender-sensitive abortion services, adequate and culturally sensitive information, and support.

Engender supports the proposals to move data collection and notification of abortion to digital practices and to separate the formal notification to the CMO and data collection. In our view, this will reduce the administrative burden on providers of abortion care and on the CMO’s office and enable PHS to develop the most robust data collection possible. While we believe that personal information data collection is a vital component of service delivery analysis and improvement, provision of data should not be compelled or used to police or prevent women’s access to vital healthcare and the provision of this data should be anonymised, secure and freely given for outlined purposes.

Date of publication: May 2021

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Engender response to the Scottish Government consultation on future arrangements for early medical abortion at home

Dec 18, 2020: Engender 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 essential for women’s economic and social rights, to women’s autonomy, employment, education and access to resources, and therefore to women’s equality. In a gender-equal Scotland, all women must have a legal right to choices around family planning, which is supported by intersectional and gender-sensitive abortion services, adequate and culturally sensitive information and support and must be able to access care without intimidation, coercion, harassment or stigmatisation.

This consultation response makes the case for the continuation of telemedical appointments for Early Medical Abortion at Home.

Date of publication: December 2020

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Engender Briefing to the Women’s Health Plan: What Do Women Experiencing the Menopause in Scotland Need?

Dec 16, 2020: In 2020, the Women’s Health Plan was established with a remit of raising awareness around women’s health; improving access to healthcare for women across the life course and reducing inequalities in health outcomes for girls and women, including gender-based inequalities both for sex-specific conditions and in women’s general health. Menopause is one of the intitial priorities for this work.
Engender has produced this briefing to provide the Women’s Health Plan with evidence from our survey of nearly 400 women as part of a research project looking at women’s needs during the menopause and exisiting public policy. We also outline our additional analysis of the research findings and make recommendations for further policy development.

Date of publication: December 2020.

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Engender Parliamentary Briefing: Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill

Feb 21, 2020: Engender is clear that menstrual care is a women’s health issue, and that barriers to accessing essential products have a negative impact on women and girls’ access to education, work, leisure activities and their wellbeing. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill establishes a principle of universality, and a minimum legal duty to establish an ‘opt-in’ universal scheme for access to period products in very broad terms, which must be seen as a floor rather than a ceiling. Engender categorically supports this aspiration.

This parliamentary briefing sets our why we are calling on MSPs to support the Bill at Stage One, and agree the principle that everyone who needs access to products to manage their period has a right to access them in Scotland on a free and universal basis.

Date of publication: February 2020.

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Engender response to the UK Government consultation on a new legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland

Dec 17, 2019: Engender unequivocally supports women in Northern Ireland’s autonomy over their bodies and lives, and considers abortion access fundamental to women’s rights and gender equality across the whole of the UK.

Until very recently the law discriminated against and criminalised some UK women based upon their residence in Northern Ireland alone. The United Nations CEDAW committee inquiry into restriction of abortion in NI found that the UK Government is responsible for both “grave and systematic violations” of women’s human rights under international law. We therefore welcome the opportunity to respond to this consultation on the means of correcting this denial of rights. These proposals offer scope to go beyond restrictions in place under the Abortion Act 1967, and to bring abortion law in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK in certain areas.

However, this is by no means guaranteed by the options set out this consultation document. As a bare minimum, the new legal framework for NI must afford women and girls the same rights and healthcare standards as those in England, Scotland and Wales. The creation of a new system also provides an opportunity to learn from issues with delivery of existing abortion services in other parts of the UK, and to set new standards with an improved clinical framework and model of service delivery that works for women and girls in different parts of Northern Ireland.

Date of Publication: 17 December 2019

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Engender submission of evidence to the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee Call for Evidence on the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill

Nov 12, 2019: This document is a submission of written evidence to the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee Call for Evidence on the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill. Menstruation is painful, inconvenient and expensive, with over 20% of all women experiencing such severe menstrual cramps that it interferes with their daily activities. The cost of period products remains significant and undermines women’s already poorer economic position. In 2017, Engender convened a roundtable discussion to gain a better understanding of period poverty in Scotland. This session was attended by organisations working around education, homelessness, poverty, and women’s equality and rights. This response draws on some of this discussion as well as additional materials and analysis.

Date of publication: November 2019.

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Engender response to the Scottish Government consultation on a new National Public Health body: 'Public Health Scotland'

Jul 12, 2019: Engender welcomes this Scottish Government consultation on proposals for Scotland’s new national public health body, Public Health Scotland.

Women and men have different experiences and needs when it comes to their health because of the interactions between biological differences, relative access to resources, power, and safety, and cultural norms and expectations. The ability to influence their lives, behaviours and experiences in order to maximise their physical and mental health outcomes is highly contingent on whether an understanding of these gender differences is well integrated into the work of the proposed body and those working in public health.

Date of publication: July 2019.

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Engender note on Equally Safe: A consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault

May 8, 2019: This is a note contributing to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault. As a policy and advocacy organisation, Engender works to secure women’s rights and we are ambitious in our aspiration to see a gender-equal Scotland for all women and girls.

Engender works closely with our colleagues across the women’s sector including Scotland’s violence against women organisations. We face a shared task given that violence against women is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality, but we have specific areas of expertise and focus. We are therefore responding to this consultation only where we have additional evidence to share about the experience of disabled and learning disabled women. On the wider issue we are pleased to endorse the evidence and analysis of Rape Crisis Scotland.

Date of publication: May 2019.

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Engender Parliamentary Briefing: International Women’s Day 2019

Mar 6, 2019: This year’s International Women’s Day adopts the theme of #BalanceForBetter and provides an opportunity to reflect on both the ways in which structural gender inequality continues to constrain women’s lives in Scotland, and the political will and action needed to tackle it. Women still carry out the majority of unpaid care and household labour as a result of traditional gender roles. This is one of the factors underpinning the fact that women are still chronically under-represented in elected office and public life, including leadership of private companies, public bodies, and in academia.

Date of publication: March 2019.

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Engender submission of evidence to the UK Government Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into abortion law in Northern Ireland

Dec 13, 2018: As Scotland’s representative member on the UK Joint Committee on Women, Engender unequivocally supports women in Northern Ireland’s autonomy over their bodies and lives, and considers abortion access fundamental to women’s rights and gender equality across the whole of the UK. The current law discriminates against and criminalises some UK women based upon their residence in Northern Ireland alone and places the UK Government in breach of its international obligations.

Date of publication: December 2018.

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Guest Post: LIFE

Guest Post: LIFE

Blog – Apr 10, 2018

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Engender Response to the Public Consultation on the Proposed Sanitary Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill

Dec 7, 2017: Engender welcomes the opportunity to respond to Monica Lennon MSP consultation titled ‘Ending Period Poverty’, which proposes to introduce a Bill in the Scottish Parliament which would provide women and girls with access to free menstrual products.

Date of publication: December 2017.

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Access to Abortion: Situating Scotland in the Western World

Sep 28, 2017: This paper describes the different legal and regulatory contexts for abortion healthcare in Scotland and in other European and western nations.

Date of publication: September 2017.

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Summary of 'Period Poverty' in Scotland Roundtable

Aug 10, 2017: In June 2017 Engender held a roundtable discussion to gain a better understanding of ’period poverty’ in Scotland: the issue of women not having adequate access to sanitary products. The event brought together a small number of specialists and practitioners from the women’s sector, education and homelessness to get an overview of what information and evidence currently exists on the scale and nature of the problem, and where we can act as individual organisations and in collaboration to build the evidence base for specific interventions.

Date of publication: August 2017.

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Our Bodies, Our Choice: The Case for a Scottish Approach to Abortion

Dec 11, 2016: The devolution of abortion law as part of the Scotland Act 2016 also provides Scotland with the opportunity to develop a Scottish approach to women’s reproductive rights, incorporating improved, modernised and standardised service provision underpinned by a progressive devolved legal framework. Such a change to the legal framing of abortion should reflect international best practice and be developed following engagement with women, practitioners, and human rights and gender advocates in Scotland.

This report, supported by Scottish Women's Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Close the Gap, NUS Scotland and Amnesty International Scotland sets out the current situation around abortion in Scotland, and makes a number of recommendations to the Scottish Government.

Date of publication: December 2016.

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Women's and Equalities Sector Joint Statement to MPs on Proposed Amendment to the Scotland Bill: Abortion (NC56)

Jul 6, 2015: A joint statement from Engender, Scottish Women's Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Close the Gap, NUS Scotland, Scottish TUC, Abortion Rights Scotland Committee, Abortion Rights, YWCA - the young women's campaign, Amnesty International, Human Rights Consortium Scotland, and Scottish Women's Convention on a proposed amendment to the Scotland Bill.

Date of publication: July 2015.

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