The Scottish Government received 5,537 responses to its consultation asking whether its temporary approval for abortion at home by telemedicine should be made permanent or if it would be better to revert to the prior, clinic-based arrangements that were in place before the end of March 2020.
Respondents were asked to comment on how this temporary approval for telemedicine abortion had impacted on safety, accessibility and convenience of service, waiting times for women, and their preference for how early medical abortion should be provided after the end of the Covid-19 emergency.
An overwhelming majority raised concerns about the current temporary arrangements and clearly stated a strong preference for a return to the prior arrangements.
There were a range of suggestions made by those respondents who answered c) Other, most of which stated a preference for at least one in-person consultation in a clinic before providing the abortion medication.
So, given this overwhelming majority of respondents, 4-in-5 wanting the temporary telemedicine approval to be rescinded at the end of the Covid-19 emergency, if not before, what has the Scottish Government decided to do?
In an email sent on 23 June 2021 to those who responded to the consultation, David McIlhinney, Policy Officer – Donation and Abortion Policy said:
“The report [on the consultation responses] shows very differing views among respondents, particularly in relation to whether the current approach is sufficiently safe. In recognition of this, and in order to ensure robust evidence is available, the Scottish Government has confirmed today that it is taking steps to commission an independent evaluation to assess the effectiveness of the current approach, including in relation to safety. Scottish Ministers will consider future arrangements once this evaluation has been completed. The current March 2020 approval will remain in place while this evaluation is undertaken.”
Our next steps
It is important that we continue to hold the Scottish Government to account on this. We should write to our Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and Scottish MPs in Westminster, asking for:
- Detailed terms of reference for the above-mentioned evaluation.
- Full disclosure on how the government will ensure the independence of the evaluation.
- Assurance that the evaluation will be thorough and use all available data, especially when considering aspects related to safety.
On the latter point, we should continue to direct MSPs and MPs to the studies, women’s testimonies, and data shared by the Care-For-Women campaign.
Your voice matters
We should take encouragement from these results; we are clearly the majority voice on this essential matter. A close review of the detailed report shows the importance of each one of us responding to these government consultations using our own voice, our own words. The team at Christian Concern will continue to serve you by providing all the data, testimonies, insight and analysis, hoping that you in return will play your part by expressing your concerns and speaking out, because your voice matters.