CARE for Scotland believes that human life begins at conception and therefore the human embryo must be protected and cared for at all stages of its development.
Abortion was legalised in the UK in 1967. Since then there have been about 8.5 million abortions in the UK and around 480,000 abortions in Scotland. The number of abortions in Scotland peaked in 2008 at 13,904. In recent years the numbers have fallen. In 2014, there were 11,475 abortions in Scotland and 201,567 in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland, abortion is more restricted, only being allowed when the mother’s physical or mental health is in danger. Between 16 and 50 abortions occur each year in Northern Ireland.
When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, abortion remained a matter which was reserved to Westminster. However, abortion is included in the new powers which are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament through the new Scotland Bill. From May 2016, the Scottish Parliament will for the first time have the power to legislate in relation to abortion.
The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, has indicated that the Scottish Government has no current plans to change the law on abortion. However, some groups are calling for the law on abortion in Scotland to be further liberalised. They propose the scrapping of the requirement for a second doctor’s signature for abortion referrals and for abortion on demand to be available at any stage during a pregnancy. CARE for Scotland by contrast is calling for the law to be tightened up:
– Many other European countries do not allow abortions to occur after 12 weeks gestation. The abortion time limit of 24 weeks in the UK is, therefore, one of the highest in Europe. The current arrangement is crying out for reform.
– Astonishingly there is no time limit at all on when an abortion may take place if ‘there is substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped,’ (known as Ground E.) According to the Department of Health statistics, 2,307 abortions were carried out in 2011 under Ground E. Some of these abortions were taking place because the child had a club foot or cleft palate. In 2012 a UK Parliamentary Inquiry was launched urging Government to review this law and either bring the upper time limit for abortions on the grounds of disability equal to the upper limit for able-bodied babies, or repeal Ground E altogether.
– In 2014 national newspapers exposed the fact that sex-selective abortions were happening in the UK. The subject has been discussed in recent Westminster parliamentary debates. We would like to see sex selective abortion expressly prohibited in legislation.
Many women feel pressurised into having an abortion. Some women who have had abortions later suffer from post-abortion trauma which includes feelings of guilt and regret. CARE seeks to support women who find themselves in this situation. In some countries a system of fully informed consent has been introduced to ensure that women are aware of all the risks associated with abortion and of the stage of development of the child. CARE would like to see a similar approach in Scotland.
The devolution of abortion to the Scottish Parliament allows the opportunity for Scotland to reconsider the law on abortion.
Questions for candidates
1. Mindful that babies are now viable at 22 weeks, would you support a reduction in the abortion limit and if so by how many weeks?
2. Do you agree that allowing abortion on the basis of disability up to and during birth, while limiting it to 24 weeks for all others, is discriminatory and that the practice should be prohibited?
3. Would you a change in the law to explicitly ban sex selective abortions?
4. Would you support the introduction of a system of fully informed consent prior to abortion and increased support for those who suffer from post-abortion trauma?