A BEACON FOR WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE?

Photograph: Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

By stewartb

On the topic of the Scotland on Sunday article on abortion statistics, let’s fill some of the context void with available data:

Source: https://www.publichealthscotland.scot/publications/termination-of-pregnancy-statistics/termination-of-pregnancy-statistics-year-ending-december-2021/

In 2007:
Terminations performed in Scotland for Scottish residents = 13,733
Terminations performed in England & Wales for Scottish residents = 377 (2.7%)

In 2019:
Terminations performed in Scotland for Scottish residents = 13,596
Terminations performed in England & Wales for Scottish residents = 179 (1.3%)

In 2020 (i.e. during the pandemic!):
Terminations performed in Scotland for Scottish residents = 13,891
Terminations performed in England & Wales for Scottish residents = 123 (0.9%)

In 2021:
Terminations performed in Scotland for Scottish residents = 13,750
Terminations performed in England & Wales for Scottish residents = no data yet

For perspective, during the 1970s in some years there were over 1,000 women resident in Scotland having a termination in England.

NHS Scotland acknowledges the need to travel to England for certain abortion services: ‘In some circumstances, women needing abortion after 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy will be referred to specialist services in England, depending on their health board area.

‘Your local NHS abortion service should provide help with travel and accommodation costs or the abortion provider in England may provide travel and accommodation for you (YOU WON’T NEED TO PAY FOR THIS).’ (my emphasis)

It explains that the following two procedures are not currently available in Scotland: ‘Dilation and evacuation (from 18 weeks of pregnancy)’ and ‘Two-stage later surgical abortion (from 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy)’. See NHS Inform Scotland on ‘later surgical abortion’.

The article in Scotland on Sunday seems to be based on a press release from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) issued on 31 May.

This states: ‘at BPAS we regularly treat women from Scotland at clinics in England who were unable to access abortion care locally. Since the pandemic began, we are seeing around one woman from Scotland every week who has had to travel to England.’

So since the start (?) of the pandemic in March 2020 BPAS has seen c. 52 women from Scotland over each 12 month period – just less than half the number recorded by PHS? BPAS sees over 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain.

For those women that opt to use BPAS services – for whatever reason – does the charity have facilities in Scotland for this? Well it seems NOT – at least not during the pandemic! BPAS has one clinic in Scotland in contrast to its widespread presence elsewhere in Great Britain. This clinic is in Glasgow – but it is closed due to the pandemic! How is that influencing capacity in Scotland? How is that influencing the numbers from Scotland opting to use BPAS facilities in England because BPAS Glasgow is closed? We’re not told!

I chose not to pay to read the Scotland on Sunday article. Did it include the following? In an earlier press release (12 May 2022) headed ‘BPAS comment on announcements from the Scottish government’ we find this quote from Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of BPAS:

“At a time when reproductive rights are under attack in many other countries, it is vital that the UK is A BEACON FOR WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE. SCOTLAND APPEARS TO BE ON COURSE TO DO JUST THAT.” (my emphasis)

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