Women in Scotland are to be the first in the UK to be allowed to take the abortion pill at home.
Campaigners have welcomed the move and called for it to be rolled out across the rest of Great Britain.
However, ministers were warned going ahead with the plans risks a return to the days of ‘back-street abortions’.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which has been lobbying to change the law in the UK, urged Theresa May to follow the Scottish government’s lead.
Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood has written to health boards to say that misoprostol can be taken safely by women outside a clinical setting.
Announcing the decision, Scotland’s public health minister Aileen Campbell said: ‘Abortion can be an emotive subject, however I am proud this government is working hard to ensure women are always able to access clinically safe services.
Scotland’s top medic says misoprostol can be taken safely by women outside a clinical setting (stock photo)
‘Scotland is now the only part of the UK to offer women the opportunity to take misoprostol at home when this is clinically appropriate, a decision that allows women to be in control of their treatment and as comfortable as possible during this procedure.’
PROTESTERS FACE BAN FROM ABORTION CLINICS
Anti-abortion protesters could be banned from standing outside a clinic after a ‘ground-breaking’ decision by a council earlier this month.
Ealing Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion to stop the anti-abortion groups from protesting outside a clinic in the west London borough.
Councillor Binda Rai told a council meeting it was about ‘a woman’s right to access legal healthcare’ at the Marie Stopes Clinic on Mattock Lane ‘without intimidation or harassment’.
She said one of the options would be a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which would ban anti-abortion groups from standing outside the clinic.
And yesterday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has backed calls for clinics to have a buffer zone to protect women from persistent anti-abortion protesters, in a letter from 113 MPs from parties across the House of Commons.
Pro-choice campaigners and other groups said the change offers practical and emotional benefits to women having a termination.
Engender, Amnesty Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland said making women travel to clinics to take the pill ‘denies women clear potential advantages in terms of their well-being at what is often a very difficult time’.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said: ‘We thoroughly welcome the Scottish government’s decision.
‘This will spare women not only the difficulties associated with having to make more than one clinic visit, childcare, transport, time off work, but it will also spare women from the risk of symptoms on their way home, having taken the medication in a clinic.
‘It is simply perverse that a woman arriving at a BPAS clinic in England and Wales with an incomplete miscarriage can be given the medication to take in the comfort and privacy of her own home, while a woman seeking an abortion must take that same medication on site.
‘We hope that the government will follow Scotland’s lead and roll out this important policy change across the rest of Great Britain.’
Endangering women’s health
But anti-abortion campaigners said the step would leave women without medical help and could put them in danger.
John Deighan, head of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Scotland, told The Times: ‘This would mark a return to the days of back-street abortions with no medical oversight and dreadful threats to women’s health.’
The Scottish Government said the move did not require a change in the law but came under existing powers available within the 1967 Abortion Act.