BBC News

'Late-stage' abortion issue to be considered


The issue of "late stage" abortions is being considered by ministers after new powers were devolved to Holyrood.

Scottish women wanting terminations for non-medical reasons from 18-20 weeks gestation must usually travel to England for the procedure.

A recent study also found wide variations in practice between health boards.

The Scottish government said it was working with health boards to improve services.

The 1967 Abortion Act made it legal for women to have an abortion up until 24 weeks gestation in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Scotland Act 2016 has since devolved power over abortion law to the Scottish Parliament.

Campaigners say women sometimes choose to have an abortion after 18 weeks because of a change of circumstances, or because they only discovered at a very late stage that they were pregnant.

But while it is legal to have an abortion at this stage of pregnancy, several academic studies have suggested such terminations are rarely carried out in Scotland.

Instead, patients are referred to hospitals in England, with the treatment paid for by NHS Scotland.

'Complex area'

The reasons for this are unclear; some have suggested it reflects negative attitudes towards late-stage terminations, while a lack of specialist training has also been put forward as an explanation.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government said: "The Scottish government is continuing to work with NHS Boards to look at how improvements can be made to abortion services in Scotland.

"This includes considering the complex area of later gestation abortion services.

"Abortion is provided to all women in Scotland who require it within the legal limits."

In November First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would look into giving women from Northern Ireland access to NHS abortions in Scotland without facing prohibitive costs.

Abortions are illegal in Northern Ireland except for cases where the woman's health is at risk.

Related Topics

  • Scottish Parliament
  • Scottish government
  • NHS Scotland
  • Pregnancy
  • Abortion