More than half of abortions in Scotland take place at home, new figures show

More than half of abortions in Scotland are now taking place at home as women access early medical terminations away from a clinic, new figures have shown.

Last year, 13,758 abortions were undertaken in Scotland, with 53% of these taking place in the privacy of women’s homes, according to data from Public Health Scotland (PHS).

During the coronavirus pandemic, women were able to take both sets of pills required for an early medical abortion at home (EMAH).

And Women’s Health Minister Maree Todd (pictured) confirmed that this method would continue to be available, where it is judged clinically appropriate.

Pre-pandemic, it was only possible to take the second drug at home.

This method was introduced from October 27 2017 and its usage has increased each year since then.

However, now that both drugs are available, 7,310 women (53%) opted for this method in 2021.

The figures also showed that 39% of women took only the second drug at home and 18% of terminations were carried out in clinics or hospital settings.

In a statement earlier this month, Ms Todd said allowing terminations at home help women access abortions without delays.

A slight decline in abortions was noted in the PHS report – with 138 fewer terminations undertaken compared to 2020.

In 2020, abortion rates in Scotland were at the second-highest level since 2008.

And women from deprived areas are still more likely to undergo the procedure than their more affluent counterparts, PHS have said.

The rate in Scotland’s poorest communities was almost twice as high as in the least deprived areas.

NHS Tayside recorded the highest termination rates per NHS Board, with 16 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, while Dundee City had the highest number by council area – with 18.7 per 1,000 women.

Women in remote areas continued to have the lowest rates of early access to termination services, figures showed.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Early Medical Abortions at Home were introduced at the start of the pandemic to ensure that women could continue to access abortion safely, and in a timely manner.

“The Scottish Government announced last month that early medical abortions at home would continue.

“We will continue to work closely with NHS Boards to help improve access to abortion services in line with our Women’s Health Plan that was published last year.

“The First Minister has confirmed that she will soon chair a round-table summit to look at abortion rights issues in Scotland.”

The rate of abortion per 1,000 people in Scotland in 2021 was 13.4, compared to 13.5 in 2020.

Claire Murphy, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said there were “significant disparities” with regards to access to home treatment.

Five health boards, she said, only have 5% of all abortions being taken in the privacy of women’s own homes.

She said: “That’s nearly a third of abortions in Scotland where the most preferred method of abortion is simply not offered.

“An extensive body of clinical evidence has demonstrated that at-home early medical abortion care via telemedicine is safe, effective and preferred by many women.

“The ability to access care from home without having to travel to a clinic has brought down the average gestation at which women are ending pregnancies, and while abortion is safer than continuing a pregnancy at any gestation, the risk of complications are lower the earlier in pregnancy a woman can access abortion care.”

Dr Asha Kasllwal, president of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said: “We are incredibly pleased that girls and women in Scotland have continued access to telemedicine for early medical abortion.

“The evidence shows that the telemedicine pathway is safe, effective, timely, more accessible than the alternative and preferred by most women.”

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