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Home abortion provision strongly criticised by Scotland’s bishops

By Cian Molloy - 26 April, 2020

"Vulnerable women in unsatisfactory domestic circumstances are particularly at risk," says Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB.

A move by the Scottish government to allow ‘abortions at home’ during the COVID-19 crisis have been strongly criticised by that country’s bishops.

The President of the Scottish Episcopal Conference, Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen, describes the development as ‘deeply troubling’.

In this time of social-distancing, the Scottish Cabinet Minister for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, has allowed women experiencing crisis pregnancies to have consultations by phone or video and to have abortion medication delivered to them by post.

“It is profoundly depressing that in the midst of this unprecedented global pandemic when the resources of almost every government on earth are being diverted towards the preservation of life, especially the lives of the weak and vulnerable, the Scottish Government continues to act to end the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society, the unborn,” says the bishop in a letter to the cabinet minister.

“It is more than disheartening that the Scottish Government should see fit to promote ‘abortion at home’ as though this were a trivial matter equivalent to taking any other medication at home. A position like this appears to be more a matter of ideology than of genuine and dispassionate concern for women’s wellbeing.”

On behalf of the Scottish Catholic Bishops Conference, the English-born Benedictine asks: “Are women receiving information on all available options including details of organisations which can offer support to both the mother and the baby? Is it appropriate for drugs which end the life of a human being to be sent by post, trivialising what is an extremely serious and life-changing procedure?”

He also points out that drugs designed to end the life of an unborn child can pose a threat to the health of a mother. He says: “There is a real risk of severe bleeding and sepsis in a small number, and a need for further surgery in a larger proportion, depending on the stage of the pregnancy.”

There is also the issue of whether it is possible to provide adequate psychological support can via the Internet, with Bishop Gilbert saying: “Vulnerable women in unsatisfactory domestic circumstances are particularly at risk.

“In the current situation, there is already an increase in complaints about domestic abuse since the coronavirus restrictions were put in place. It is far from clear how the Scottish Government proposes to set in place the prudent support procedures which permit all the relevant factors in each individual case privately and without coercion.”

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