Abortion and reproductive healthcare
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.
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.abortion health humanrights womensrights
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.abortion covid19 engendernews health maternity mentalhealth
Blog – Jul 26, 2023abortion health womensrights
Blog – Apr 14, 2023abortion engendernews icescr international socialsecurity
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.abortion health humanrights
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.abortion health cedaw
Blog – Jul 14, 2022abortion humanrights studentplacement
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.abortion health cedaw
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.menopause health employment
Blog – Sep 17, 2021abortion guestblog international
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.health periodpoverty
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.abortion covid19 health
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
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
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.menopause health employment
Blog – Dec 11, 2020abortion covid19
Blog – Jul 23, 2020abortion guestblog health youngwomen
Blog – Mar 10, 2020disability health ourbodiesourights
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.health faireconomy periodpoverty
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
Blog – Nov 13, 2019health periodpoverty periods
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.periodpoverty
Blog – Jul 24, 2019disability guestblog health larc womensrights
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.health womensrights menopause
Blog – Jul 4, 2019abortion disability guestblog health larc womensrights
Blog – Jun 21, 2019abortion disability guestblog health larc womensrights
Blog – Jun 12, 2019care disability health menopause
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.disabledwomen ourbodiesourrights vawg
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.womensrights makingworkvisible vawg gendermatters ourbodiesourrights
Blog – Jan 29, 2019abortion criminaljustice guestblog international
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.health abortion womensrights
Blog – May 31, 2018abortion
Blog – Dec 15, 2017education guestblog health periodpoverty
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.periodpoverty
Blog – Sep 28, 2017abortion engendernews health
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.abortion health international
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.periodpoverty
Blog – May 29, 2017abortion guestblog health
Blog – Dec 13, 2016abortion health
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.health abortion
Blog – Dec 11, 2016abortion engendernews health
Blog – Oct 14, 2015abortion devolution health
Blog – Jul 6, 2015abortion devolution health
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.abortion health devolution
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