Call to make access to at-home abortions permanent in Scotland

Alice Murray said the telemedical procedure would have been a better option for her.

Woman calls for Scottish Government to make telemedical abortions permanent post pandemic STV News
Abortion: Calls for telemedical abortions to become permanent procedures in Scotland.

A woman has urged the Scottish Government to make a scheme allowing women to undertake abortions at home permanent, after she was forced to take time off work for the procedure. 

Alice Murray had an abortion in 2019, which required two in-person appointments at Edinburgh’s Chalmers Clinic which required her to take time off work.

While her experience was largely positive, the 23-year-old said that a telemedical abortion, in which women have a video consultation before medicine is delivered to their home, would have been a better option for her. 

“I think the fact that I went to two in-person appointments over the space of a week is definitely a lot,” Alice told STV News.

Women who had a telemedical abortion said it was private, convenient and removed the perceived stigma of attending a clinic, a study found

BMJ

“There’s no reason why the first appointment couldn’t be online. There’s nothing physical that you really need to do. And it would have saved a lot of time and just made the whole process a lot more straightforward.

“When you’re in the comfort of your bedroom with access to water and whatever is around you and maybe your family, I definitely think that would have made the experience easier.”

Alice said she also encountered anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic, which women undertaking telemedical abortions would not have to experience. 

“I had encounters with the anti-abortion protesters outside [the clinic], which obviously made my experience that a little bit harder, having to walk in and out and then walk home alone after seeing that,” she said.

“I think it’s one of these things people don’t really take into account.”

Labour MSP Monica Lennon has called for Police Scotland to use Public Order powers to disperse anti-abortion protesters from outside medical clinics.

Telemedical abortions were introduced during the coronavirus pandemic to limit the number of patients attending clinics and while the procedure had been made permanent in England and Wales, Scotland is still to make a decision on the issue.

It comes as a new study found women who had a telemedical abortion said it was private, convenient and removed the perceived stigma of attending a clinic.

Although the service does remain available in Scotland, there are concerns that if it’s not made permanent, access could become more limited.

Rachael Clarke from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said: “It’s been a long, long time coming and I think the fact that still, more than two years later we’re still waiting for this decision is intensely frustrating, both for women, for providers and just for women’s rights generally.”

However there are groups calling for the entire service to be scrapped and abortion access reconsidered.

Grace Brown from Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “The calls to extend this policy I would say disregard the experiences of women and disregard the wellbeing of women. 

“It’s a reckless policy which leaves women to suffer the effects of abortion at home.” 

The Scottish Government said it will review its options and will provide an update on the issue in the autumn. 

But for women like Alice, she hopes it can give other women the access she never had. 

“I think it definitely needs to be made permanent because we’re behind England and Wales on this matter, which I think is pretty shocking,” she said.

“I definitely think a lot of the time the government looks at reproductive care in a completely different lens than they would look at other types of health care.

“At the end of the day, it should be accessible and easy and comfortable for women and anyone who uses these facilities. There’s no reason why we should make it any harder.”