Architect of Abortion Act hails pills move

18/10/2012:  Anti-abortion protesters outside the new Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast
18/10/2012: Anti-abortion protesters outside the new Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast

A controversial decision to allow women in Scotland to take abortion pills at home has been welcomed by the man who pushed for the procedure to be made legal 50 years ago.

Lord Steel, the architect of the 1967 Abortion Act, said he “very much” welcomed the move, despite claims from pro-life campaigners that it marks a “return to the days of back-street abortions”.

They hit out after Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, wrote to health boards to say misoprostol can be taken by women outside a clinical setting.

Lord Steel told BBC Radio Scotland when the Abortion Act was passed surgery was the only method for terminating a pregnancy, but the situation had now “completely changed and therefore the law is out of date”. He added “nobody likes abortion, but the fact is it happens all over the world”.

He added “it is far better to be legal and safe than illegal and dangerous”.

Meanwhile, Dr Calderwood said it was “significant progress” that women in Scotland could now take tablets at home if they wanted.

This will only apply to women who are up to nine weeks pregnant, and they will be able to take the second dose of misoprostol at home, offering them “more privacy, more dignity”, she said.

Dr Calderwood, also speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, said: “We’re the first country in the UK who are going to have women have the choice to take the second tablet for an abortion at home.

“This is safe, it offers women more choice and we know that this is what people want, it’s real progress

“We’re not changing any of the process around abortion. Women come forward, as they always will have done, we have doctors to speak to them, there are consent forms to sign and everything is done exactly as previously in the Abortion Act law.

“The only difference here is the second tablet, which has traditionally up ‘til now been given in a hospital setting, can be offered to women if it is clinically safe for them to take home.”

She added: “It’s a very straightforward process, it doesn’t need medical supervision for most women. It is absolutely safe for women to take this tablet at home.

“We have piloted this in areas of Scotland and we know it is very acceptable for women and it adds extra choice.”

Dr Calderwood said: “There have been campaigns in England in the past to try to move in this direction; they have been so far unsuccessful. I think they will be watching very closely this decision in Scotland today.”