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Court of Session rules abortion pills can still be taken at home

16 August 2018

A petition challenging the right of Scottish women to take abortion pills at home has been dismissed by the Court of Session.

In 2017, Scotland became the first part of the UK to let women take the drug misoprostol at home.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) challenged that decision at the Court of Session. However, judge Lady Wise has ruled that the Scottish government's move was "not unlawful".

Confirming it would appeal against the ruling, SPUC said it was "extremely disappointed" with Lady Wise’s decision.

Most abortions in Scotland take place at fewer than nine weeks gestation, and are medical rather than surgical procedures.

The medical treatment involves taking two different drugs - misfepristone, which blocks hormones that maintain the pregnancy, and then misoprostol. Within an hour of taking the second tablet, women can experience heavy bleeding.

The Scottish Government allows misoprostol to be taken at home, saying women can be "in control of their treatment and as comfortable as possible during this procedure."

SPUC challenged this move, arguing it contravenes the 1967 Abortion Act. It said abortions could only legally be carried out in a medical facility, and taking the tablet at home could put women’s health at risk.

Lady Wise rejected this, saying: "It seems to me that patients who self-administer medication at home may still be described as being treated by their medical practitioner, who remains in charge of that treatment.

"Regardless of place, there is no need for a doctor to hand the medication to the woman personally.

"I have concluded that the decision of the respondents to approve a woman's home as a place where one stage of the termination of pregnancy can be carried out is not unlawful on either of the grounds contended for by the petitioner."

You can read Lady Wise’s ruling here

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