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Scottish Court throws out case against home use of abortion pills

The Court of Session has dismissed a judicial review brought by the anti-abortion campaign group SPUC (the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) against the Scottish Government’s decision to allow women to take misoprostol, the second drug used to effect an early medical abortion, in the safety of their home. Humanists UK has welcomed this ruling, which brings abortion law in Scotland in line with best medical practice in this area, and has an impact on Wales, which has followed Scotland’s lead on this matter.

In her ruling, Lasy Wise stated that ‘patients who self-administer medication at home may still be described as being treated by their medical practitioner who remains in charge of that treatment.’ Therefore, home use is lawful under the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act, which states that the procedure must be performed under the supervision of a medical professional. SPUC has announced that they intend to appeal against this ruling.

Most abortions are carried out before the 12th week of gestation and over 80 percent of procedures are carried out medically by women taking two pills either on the same day or several days apart. Until last year women in Scotland were required to take both pills in a clinic or hospital, often resulting in women experiencing bleeding, cramping, and miscarriage whilst travelling home. In July this year, the Welsh Government also issued new guidance to health boards across Wales to allow home use of misoprostol.  Similar policies already operate in the United States, France, and Sweden.

Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We are delighted that the Court of Session has upheld the decision of the Scottish Government to bring abortion care in the 21st century. Recent studies have shown that the home use of misoprostol is safe and improves the quality of women’s experience. There is no longer any medical reason for women to take the second pill in a clinical setting, nor experience the adverse effects of having done so whilst travelling.’

‘In April, Humanists UK and other campaigning groups and royal colleges wrote a letter to The Times calling upon the UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to also allow women in England to take abortion pills at home. This ruling will greatly strengthen the case for reform in England.’


For further comment or information contact Rachel Taggart-Ryan, Campaigns Officer at or 0207 324 3065.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on abortion:

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