Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Open Letter to Chief Medical Officer – Decision to allow abortion pill at home must be defended


Dear Editor,

We write with reference to your recent report that The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) intend to legally challenge the decision of Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, to enable women, for whom it is clinically appropriate, to take Misoprostal – the pill that completes an abortion – at home.

We write in support of Dr Calderwood’s decision and to urge her, and the Scottish Government, to strongly fight this legal action, if raised.

We believe that the decision to designate a woman’s home as a place where abortion treatment can be completed is progressive and in line with modern medicine. Abortion is vital, routine healthcare that around one in three women will experience in her lifetime.

In particular, we would highlight the effect which the change will make to the lives of women in Scotland:

Home administration will mean that the current arrangement – of a woman requiring to attend the Hospital to be provided with the first pill and then sent home, only to require to go back to the Hospital to be administered the second pill and then sent back home again – will be a thing of the past.

It will end the horrendous experience of abortions commencing on public transport due to outdated legislation which takes no account of medical advances or the reality of women’s lives.

The flexibility of home administration will undoubtedly benefit women who struggle to access services for a range of reasons including: domestic abuse, inability to get time off work and childcare arrangements.

In addition, it will benefit rural women who struggle geographically and financially to access such healthcare. Too often finding enough money for the required travel and accommodation is a huge obstacle in women’s access to abortion.

The change brings Scotland in line with the United States, France and Sweden who allow women to take one, or both, abortion pills at home. It is also important to note that women in Scotland were already permitted to take this medication at home, but only following a miscarriage. This demonstrates that the medication is perfectly safe and that there is no clinical reason why it cannot be taken at home.

We also note various international studies which demonstrate the safety and clinical appropriateness of women taking one or both of the abortion pills at home. This provides more flexibility while maintaining safe and effective abortion healthcare.

We believe that Dr Calderwood’s decision is not only legally sound but also has many positive and progressive benefits for women in Scotland.

Yours sincerely,

Jillian Merchant, Vice Chair, Abortion Rights

Abortion Rights Committee Scotland

Dr Wendy Savage, Chair, Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion

Gordon MacRae, Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland

Davena Rankin, Chair, Unison Scotland’s Women’s Committee

Lawyers for Choice

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

GMB Scotland

Fire Brigades Union Scotland

Richard Bentley, Managing Director, Marie Stopes UK

Mara Clarke, Abortion Support Network

Kerry Abel, Chair, Abortion Rights

Natia H Halil, Chief Executive, Family Planning Association

Dr Carrie Purcell, Academic

Lesley Hoggart, Leading Reproduction, Sexualities and Sexual Health Research Group, Open University

Mary Senior, Scotland Official, University and College Union

Ann Gow, President, University and College Union

Scottish Irish Abortion Rights

Bryan Simpson, Better than Zero Campaign and Unite Hospitality

Sister Supporter

London Irish Abortion Rights

Alliance for Choice, Belfast

Patrick Harvie MSP

Alison Johnstone MSP

Gillian Martin MSP

Claudia Beamish MSP

Ross Greer MSP




Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister

Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health

Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Public Health


This Letter was originally published in The Herald, 22/12/2018