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UK News

Scotland abortion numbers second highest on record

by Chantalle Edmunds

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 to take place 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 when there were 13,606 abortions. 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 women aged 15 to 44.

This was the highest termination rate recorded since the 1991 regulations were introduced, as reported by Right To Life UK.

The figures also show a 20 per cent increase in late-term abortions performed at 20 weeks or later gestation.

Thirty-six percent of abortions were repeat abortions in 2020, that is up from 34 per cent in 2019. This represents a ten per cent increase in the number of abortions that are repeat abortions.

209 disability-selective abortions were performed in 2020. Public Health Scotland suggested the actual figure could be higher due to under-reporting stating that "Ground E terminations have been under-reported in some settings".

More women over 40 had abortions with a 12 per cent increase. There was a four per cent increase for 25-29 year olds, an eight per cent increase for 30-34 year olds and a ten per cent increase for 35-39 year olds.

Earlier this 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 were 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 put in place temporary approval enabling women and girls to take both pills for early medical abortion in their own homes, following a telephone or e-consultation with a clinician. Prior to the pandemic, government policy permitted only the second pill for early medical abortion to be taken at home and that women should attend an abortion service to take the first.

According to the charity, Right To Life UK, a leaked email from an NHS England and NHS Improvement 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, that a woman at 32 weeks of pregnancy was able to receive 'at-home' abortion pills, and that there are three police investigations linked to late 'at-home' abortions, including a 'murder investigation as there is concern that the baby was live born'. 

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: "It is a national tragedy that 13,815 lives were lost to abortion in Scotland last year".
"Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies".
"In 2020 Scotland came together as a nation and made great sacrifices to protect the vulnerable from COVID-19. Sadly, at the very same time as protecting one group of vulnerable people, 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 and safety abuses 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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