A spokesperson for NHS Health Scotland said an announcement on the licensing of the misoprostol drug was “imminent”, but was unable to confirm any details.
Now, the move has been confirmed after Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer wrote to all health boards to say the drug can now be taken by women outside of a clinical setting.
“Abortion can be an emotive subject – however I am proud this government is working hard to ensure women are always able to access clinically safe services,” said Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell.
“Scotland is now the only part of the UK to offer women the opportunity to take misoprostol at home when this is clinically appropriate, a decision that allows women to be in control of their treatment and as comfortable as possible during this procedure.”
Misoprostol can still only be taken in a registered clinical setting by women in England and Wales. It is only allowed to be taken at home if needed after a miscarriage.
This means that women in these countries have to visit a clinic twice: first to take the drug mifepristone to end the pregnancy, then to take misoprostol 24-48 hours later in order for the uterus to expel its contents.
Within an hour of taking misoprostol, women usually experience heavy bleeding. Not an ideal circumstance for people who have to travel long distances to an abortion clinic.
Recent research published in the Contraception journal found that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of women illegally buying abortion pills online, from just 5 pills in 2013 to 375 in 2016.
Allowing women to take the pill at home would help drastically reduce this figure and stop potential medical complications.
“We thoroughly welcome the Scottish government’s decision,” Ann Furedi, CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, told BuzzFeed. “This will spare women not only the difficulties associated with having to make more than one clinic visit – childcare, transport, time off work – but it will also spare women from the risk of symptoms on their way home, having taken the medication in a clinic.”
“It is simply perverse that a woman arriving at a BPAS clinic in England and Wales with an incomplete miscarriage can be given the medication to take in the comfort and privacy of her own home, while a woman seeking an abortion must take that same medication on site. We hope that the government will follow Scotland’s lead and roll out this important policy change across the rest of Great Britain.”
As Scotland moves in line with countries such as Sweden and France, people are hoping that it will pressure the Department of Health to look at changing current abortion laws across the entire UK.
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