The appeal is taking place at Edinburgh’s Court of Session.
By SPUC—the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) went back to Court to appeal a judge’s decision to back the Scottish Government’s controversial plans to allow DIY [Do It Yourself] abortions at home.
SPUC Scotland filed the legal challenge in January 2018, after Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, refused to reverse her decision to authorise the taking of misoprostol (the second stage of a medical abortion) outside a clinical setting.
Long legal battle
The appeal follows a two-day hearing in August last year at the Court of Session, in Edinburgh, England, in which Lady Wise upheld the Scottish Government’s decision. This ruling led to England joining Scotland and Wales in allowing the use of abortion pills away from medical supervision.
Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, the second most senior judge in the country, sitting with Lord Menzies and Lord Brodie, is now hearing the appeal in the Inner House of the Court of Session.
Exposing the Scottish Government’s unlawful policy
SPUC has been challenging the home abortions policy on two major legal grounds.
The arguments are firstly, the 1967 Abortion Act lays down specific rules for approved places where procedures can take place and SPUC’s legal advice states that the law “was not intended to allow abortions to take place at home.” Secondly, the legal advice says a woman who takes such an abortifacient (abortion causing) drug at home “is not consistent” with the Abortion Act which demands the presence of medical, nursing or clinical staff.
Queen Counsel Morag Ross told the court that allowing abortions at home is an innovation on the “place” an abortion can legally take place – an innovation that it is not for the Government or the Courts to make.
Dangers of home abortion
She also pointed out the dangers of regarding home administration of abortion drugs as equal to clinical administration in a medical setting. If a woman comes into a clinic at normal working hours it is assumed that the registered medical professional is available if anything goes wrong, as she is in the building where you find them. However, if the patient chooses to take the medication in the middle of the night at home–a different time and place–then it cannot be assumed.
Ms. Ross also emphasised that the approval for home use gives a very wide umbrella of environments in which the abortion pill can be taken in. Not all women’s homes will be suitable in terms of hygiene and safety, she might be being coerced to have or not have the abortion, and she might be in an abusive domestic situation.
“We cannot stand by”
John Deighan, chief executive of SPUC Scotland said:
“Clearly, the original decision was disappointing but it has always been our intention to fight this case all the way.
“At the original hearing our arguments convincingly exposed the unlawfulness of the actions taken by the Scottish Government in contravention of the law.
Mr Deighan added, “For the sake of women’s health and the universal right to life we cannot stand idly by whilst such a detrimental measure is implemented in the name of health care.”
The hearing continues.