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SPUC Scotland gives Scottish Govt three weeks to drop home abortion policy

18 December 2017


John Deighan, CEO of SPUC Scotland, says "we really have no alternative but to challenge these proposals."

Or they will face a judicial review.

Lawyers acting for SPUC Scotland have written to Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland's chief medical officer, warning her to drop plans to allow women to take abortion pills at home. If she does not respond within three weeks, SPUC Scotland intends to mount a judicial review of the proposals.

Legal challenge to threat to women's health

In October, Dr Calderwood announced that she had written to all health boards to say that misoprostol (the second stage of a medical abortion) could be taken by women outside a clinical setting. SPUC Scotland commented at the time that the "plan for DIY terminations would mark a return to the days of back street abortions with no medical oversight," and that the powerful drugs used in abortions threaten women's health.

SPUC Scotland unveiled plans to legally challenge the decision over the weekend, after confirming it had received a detailed legal opinion commissioned from a senior advocate which states they "have good prospects of success" if they take the authorities to court. Spelling out why the move by the Scottish Government may be unlawful, the legal advocate said: "In my opinion, the approval signed on 26 October 2017 is vulnerable to challenge … I think the arguments against the validity of the approval have good prospects of success."

Unlawful regulations

The letter to Dr Calderwood states: "We are of the view that the Regulations are unlawful and effectively act to remove the current stringent medical oversight from the process, thereby endangering the lives of women...Secondly, we take the view that the taking of Misoprostol at home without the presence of a medical practitioner or other member of clinical staff is not consistent with Section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967.

"It would appear to us that the Regulations proceed upon a misdirection as to the requirements of the 1967 Act and are accordingly unlawful.

"No alternative"

"We are writing to you to put you on notice that it is our intention to formally challenge the Regulations should they not be withdrawn within 14 days of the date of this letter," it continues. "Given the Christmas holidays, we will extend this time limit to Friday, 5 January 2018.

"Should we not hear from you by 12 noon that day confirming that you will formally withdraw the Regulations, then we will proceed to raise an action challenging the Regulations without further notice."

John Deighan, chief executive of SPUC Scotland said: "Our advice is clear and we really have no alternative but to challenge these proposals which go to the core of our beliefs in the right to life for unborn children and the health and well-being of their mothers."

Danger to vulnerable women

"Many vulnerable women who may be desperate about the situation they are in, will be pushed towards what is seen as the easy option of being handed some drugs and sent home to stop being a problem for society," Mr Deighan concluded. 

A recent SPUC study to mark the 50th anniversary of abortion legislation revealed the appalling impact of abortion on the health of women.

This story has been covered by the BBC, The Telegraphand The Timesamong others. 

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