Scotland is a pro-choice country.
About four-fifths of the population of Scotland would agree – this crosses gender-lines, voting-intention, religious belief, class/wealth, or locale – that abortion in Scotland should remain freely available on the NHS.
Only a minority think that pregnant patients who need access to abortion should have that access decreased. That minority can be loud and can be unkind – the ones who think it’s a good idea picketing clinics to hand anti-abortion leaflets to patients are particularly cruel – but they are, everywhere, only a minority.
On 28th April this year in Edinburgh we held our annual celebration of the day the 1967 Abortion Act became law. (On the other side of the road are the sad people who think abortion in the UK should have remained illegal and dangerous.)
We asked people who stopped by our stall to have cake and sign our open letter:
“We stand with the people of Ireland who will be voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment on 25th May 2018: for healthcare in pregnancy to be freely and fully available for all patients. Abortion denial is lethal.”
This week, Ealing Council made a landmark legal and political decision: patients entering or leaving the Marie Stopes clinic would be protected from harassment by the creation of a buffer zone, a Public Spaces Protection Order, ensuring that no anti-abortion protesters can set up their signs, hand out their leaflets, or otherwise harass patients seeking treatment.
The NHS had existed for 19 years before it became possible for a woman who had had her children born in an NHS hospital to have an abortion in an NHS hospital.
In Northern Ireland, though the UK citizens there pay for the NHS just as they do in England, Scotland, and Wales, a woman who needs an abortion usually cannot get one: with the exception of molar and ectopic pregnancies, which are accepted even in the Republic of Ireland as needing to be aborted, any woman who needs an abortion must find the fare to England and a place to stay overnight before the abortion.
Until next Thursday. Marie Stopes International will open a clinic in Belfast on Thursday 18th October, and – acting within the ambiguous confines of the law – will be the first providers of legal abortion to women who would otherwise have to travel to London:
The main legislative restriction is the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861. Since 1967, the Abortion Act has governed abortion in England, Scotland and Wales but Northern Ireland was excluded, and the 1861 Act still applies there.