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Call for Scotland to decriminalise abortion

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Abortion activist groups in Scotland are pushing for the country to decriminalise abortion, since abortion powers are now devolved to Holyrood as part of the Scotland Act 2016. 

Engender, Amnesty Scotland, NUS Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and other groups published a report with the recommendation. They are also urging the Scottish government to remove the legal requirement for two doctors to approve an abortion, and to allow women to perform abortions in their own homes by taking abortion pills. 

David Robertson, the founder of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity, warned that this would be a "backward and dangerous step"

'Scottish approach' 

Like in England and Wales, abortion is illegal in Scotland except for in limited circumstances. In most of these circumstances, abortion is only permissible up until the 24th week of pregnancy. 

But Scotland provides stronger protections for the unborn child in that it does not usually provide abortions for non-medical reasons after 20 weeks. 

The Scottish government has said that it has no plans to change the law. 

Pro-abortion campaigners are seeking not only to make sure that women can have non-medical abortions up until the 24th week of pregnancy, but also to decriminalise abortion, which would effectively allow abortion on demand. 

The report claims: "There is an opportunity within the devolution of abortion law to develop a distinct Scottish approach to women’s reproductive health and to strengthen women’s rights."

Emma Ritch, executive director of the feminist activist group Engender, which spearheaded the report, said: "It does seem there is a very unique status given to abortion, in that it is the only type of healthcare in which this criminalisation exists. We would want to see decriminalisation happen so that abortion was regulated in the same way as any other type of healthcare."

Criminalising opposition to abortion

David Robertson commented on the proposals on his blog, The Wee Flea, saying that decriminalisation would be harmful for society, as well as pose a threat to free speech and conscientious objection. He added: 

"Just as we now look back at 19th Century Scotland and wonder how slavery could be tolerated and even encouraged, I suspect that there will come a time when people will look back at 21st Century Scotland and wonder how we could tolerate the barbarity of taking human life in the womb."

"The proposal to decriminalise abortion would be a backward and dangerous step leading to untold harm for children, women, the poor and the whole of our society. The Scottish government should be looking to reduce abortions, not encourage them."

Related links:
Campaigners call for Scottish approach to abortion (Scotsman)
Women's groups urge Scotland to scrap two doctors abortion rule (Guardian)
Our bodies our choice - the case for a Scottish approach to abortion (Engender)
Abortion - should the law be changed in Scotland? (The Wee Flea)