A PRO-choice campaigner has said it is an "absolute scandal" that Scottish women and teens are having to travel to England for late-stage abortions. 

Following an investigation by The Scotsman newspaper, it emerged the British Pregnancy Advisory Service warned 80 of its clients were forced to travel down south in 2020 and 2021 to undergo abortions.

Out of the 170 clients the charity treated between 2019 and 2021, five were under the age of 16.

Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks but eight health boards in Scotland do not carry out the procedure beyond 18, while four have a limit of 20.

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NHS Fife has a bar of just 15 weeks and five days.

Lucy Grieve, co-founder of Back Off Scotland which is campaigning for nationwide anti-protest buffer zones to be implemented around clinics, said women being forced to travel hundreds of miles for a termination was putting them under further stress and cannot be allowed to go on any longer.

She told the National: "It’s an absolute scandal there is no health board in Scotland that provides abortion care up to the longstanding legal limit of 24 weeks to the women in its area.

"In every part of Scotland, women are being sent to England in order to access the care they so desperately need and are legally entitled to.

"In 2014, government-commissioned research into Scottish women’s experiences of travelling to England for care was published.

"The findings were bleak and improving solutions to access these abortions were described by the researchers as a 'necessity'.

"Women reported to these government-funded researchers that they were forced to ask their parents for money without disclosing why, were unable to travel because of child sickness, and had to find ways to take time off work while they weren't eligible for sick pay. And absolutely nothing changed as a result of them sharing their stories.

"This cannot be allowed to go on any longer, and the Scottish Government must act quickly to solve this situation and make sure that no more women have to make this journey."

NHS England stats showed that between 2010 and 2020, 2057 women resident in Scotland had abortions carried out in England or Wales, while in 2020 the figure was 123, and in 2019 some 90 women traveled down south.

Five years ago, the Scottish Government said it was working with NHS boards to look at improvements around the “complex area” of later gestation abortions but it has not commissioned or undertaken any analysis of the issue since then.

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon, convener of the Holyrood cross-party group on women’s health, said: “Abortion healthcare in Scotland has been the victim of complacency and neglect for too long.

“It’s worrying that the Scottish Government failed to act on its own evidence from as far back as 2014."

Correspondence disclosed last week by the Scottish Government under freedom of information laws shows it has discussed options for increasing provision for later-stage abortions on “a number of occasions” with health boards.

The Scottish Government’s women’s health plan, published last August, promised to improve access to abortion services, outlining a “medium-term” action of providing mid-trimester abortion care locally or regionally.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The Healthcare Improvement Scotland Sexual Health Standards make clear that all boards should be able to offer abortions up to at least 20 weeks’ gestation.

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“Where an NHS board cannot offer abortion services above 20 weeks’ gestation locally, they must work to provide an appropriate and person-centred care pathway for all patients seeking abortions up to the legal limit.

“Should any women require to receive a late stage abortion outwith Scotland for clinical and safety reasons, their care is paid for by NHS Scotland.

“These represent a very small proportion of the number of abortions from Scotland as the vast majority are taken forward at an earlier stage.

“However, we are working with boards to try and ensure that late-stage services are established here so that all women up to 24 weeks can be provided as locally as possible.”