Statistics released by Public Health Scotland show that the number of abortions carried out in Scotland reached the second-highest number on record in 2020. This significant rise in abortions accompanied the Scottish Government’s introduction of a temporary measure in March 2020 allowing ‘DIY’ home abortions in Scotland. Official figures showed there were 13,815 abortions carried out in 2020, the highest total since 2008 and an increase of 209 from 2019. The figures also show an increase in the abortion rate from 13.2 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 in 2019 up to 13.4 per 1,000 in 2020. This was the highest termination rate recorded since the 1991 regulations were introduced. The figures also show a 20% increase in late-term abortions performed at 20 weeks or later gestation. 36% of abortions were repeat abortions in 2020, up from 34% in 2019.
209 disability-selective abortions were performed in 2020. Public Health Scotland suggested the actual figure could be higher due to under-reporting. More women over 40 had abortions with a 12% increase. There was a 4% increase for 25-29 year olds, an 8% increase for 30-34 year olds and a 10% increase for 35-39 year olds. Last month, more than 600 medical professionals signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, the First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister of Wales requesting ‘at home’ abortion schemes be revoked with immediate effect. The letter followed public consultations by each government on whether to make the temporary ‘at-home’ abortion policy permanent and outlined risks that the temporary measures present to women’s health and welfare.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government has approved women and girls to take both pills for early medical abortion in their own homes, following a telephone consultation with a clinician. Prior to the pandemic, government policy permitted only the second pill for early medical abortion to be taken at home with women attending an abortion service to take the first. According to Right To Life UK, a leaked email from an NHS Regional Chief Midwife on the ‘escalating risks’ of home abortion claimed that there have been several incidents including ruptured ectopic pregnancies and resuscitation for major haemorrhage. Also a woman at 32 weeks of pregnancy was able to receive ‘at-home’ abortion pills, and there have been 3 police investigations linked to late ‘at-home’ abortions, including a ‘murder investigation after one baby was live born’.
Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “It is a tragedy that 13,815 lives were lost to abortion in Scotland last year”. “Every one of these abortions represents a failure to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies”. “In 2020 Scotland as a nation made great sacrifices to protect the vulnerable from COVID-19. Sadly, at the very same time, we as a society have also ended thousands of young vulnerable lives through abortion”. “This significant rise in abortions coincides with the temporary measures allowing ‘DIY’ home abortions in the UK. Since governments permitted ‘DIY’ home abortions, many stories of illegal late-term abortions have come to light”. “We are calling on the Scottish Government to end these ‘DIY’ home abortion schemes immediately,” she added.
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