LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Scottish Catholics are being urged to make their voices heard as the government considers making temporary provisions for home abortions permanent after the end of the COVID-19 crisis.
After the coronavirus lockdown was imposed in the United Kingdom in March, the Scottish government allowed women to be allowed to take the abortion-inducing medication mifepristone and misoprostol in their own homes after a telephone or video consultation with a doctor or nurse, with the pills being delivered by the mail. Under normal conditions, women should first attend a hospital or clinic for an in-person appointment before being given the medication.
Abortion laws are under the competency of the individual nations of the United Kingdom, except for Wales. In Scotland, abortion has been legal since 1967 up until the 24th week of pregnancy.
At the time, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, accused the government of “trivializing what is an extremely serious and life-changing procedure.”
Now the government is considering making these provisions permanent and is holding a public consultation on the matter which closes on Jan. 5, 2021. Such consultations are common in the UK when considering legislation.
The Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office, an agency of the bishops’ conference, has asked Catholics to participate in the consultation, with several “points of consideration” to address.
The office notes that women experiencing a crisis pregnancy “should be given face-to-face counselling with an appropriately qualified healthcare professional,” and adds that allowing women to have abortions at home jeopardizes the ability to receive “important information on all available options for those experiencing a crisis pregnancy, including details of organizations which can offer support to both mother and baby.”
“These arrangements risk affording insufficient time for counselling during the consultation, resulting in a failure to explore the potential physical and psychological impact of abortion on women in both the short and long term,” the office adds.
The other points of consideration raised by the Catholic Parliamentary Office include:
— Allowing abortion at home removes protection for women coerced into abortion, sometimes by an abusive partner.
— It is entirely possible that a woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy wants to keep her child and the only chance of this being realized is to have a face-to-face meeting and to consider all available help and support.
— A consultation by telephone or video risks misunderstandings between the woman and health professional and a failure to adequately address all anxieties and concerns.
— It is difficult to believe that all of the potentially serious psychological and mental health complications can be adequately dealt with over the phone or in a virtual setting. Women in a crisis pregnancy are extremely vulnerable and they must not be denied confidential, face-to-face support and help. To do so would be tantamount to neglect and a failure of government’s duty of care.
— It is impossible to replace human presence and the compassion, empathy, and understanding it brings to vulnerable women in crisis situations. Denying a woman experiencing a crisis pregnancy this human contact is utterly disrespectful to those women and to the reality of abortion which results in the death of a human being.
— There are biological risks – significant bleeding and sepsis are not uncommon. The woman might even require surgery. The office noted that it is advised when using abortion pills that the woman is kept under clinical observation for 3 hours.
— There is a risk of abuse or inadvertent taking of the abortion pill after ten weeks gestation which would be beyond the legal limit.
— Some women regret having abortions. Taking abortion medication at home, outside of a clinical setting, decreases the opportunity to reverse the procedure, which is possible in many cases.
The Catholic Parliamentary Office also noted that statistics published by Public Health Scotland revealed that in 2019, women living in Scotland’s most deprived areas were more than twice as likely to have an abortion compared to women living in the least deprived areas.
“The Scottish Government ought to explore the link between poverty and abortion and determine the factors driving women in deprived areas to choose abortion. Part of this work ought to be to give consideration as to how government can create the conditions necessary to provide women and their families with adequate support in crisis pregnancy situations and to ensure the availability of, and access to, alternatives to abortion,” the office said.
The Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office also said society “must never forget” that the abortion, whether it be carried out in a clinic or in a home, “is fatal for the innocent human being in the womb.”
“We appeal to the Scottish Government to acknowledge the reality of abortion, which ends the life of an innocent, defenseless human being, and to create the conditions which will ensure adequate support for all women experiencing crisis pregnancies, their baby, and wider family,” the office said.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome