THE Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) Scotland has lost its legal battle against the Scottish Government’s move allowing women to take an abortion pill at home.

The pro-life group argued that the decision by ministers, over the use of the drug misoprostol, was “unlawful” and could pose a threat to women’s health and that of their unborn babies.

It launched a legal challenge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, with a full hearing held in May, after Scotland became the first part of the UK to let women take the drug misoprostol at home last year.

Issuing her ruling yesterday, judge Lady Wise wrote: “I have concluded that the decision of the respondents (Scottish Government ministers) to approve a woman’s home as a place where one stage of the termination of pregnancy can be carried out is not unlawful.”

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, confirmed last October she had written to all health boards indicating that misoprostol could be taken by women outside of clinical settings, under plans using powers available within the Abortion Act 1967.

But The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) challenged the decision at the Court of Session. The group’s lawyers argued home is not a “permissible class” of place for the termination of pregnancy and that the guidance was contrary to the legal requirement for abortions to be carried out by a medical practitioner.

The legal team for Scottish ministers challenged those arguments and maintained it was perfectly understandable that a woman undertaking a personal and intimate procedure would wish to do so in her own home.

In her ruling, Lady Wise concluded: “As a generality, it seems to me 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.”

John Deighan, chief executive of SPUC Scotland, said he was extremely disappointed the challenge was not upheld and that the group expected to lodge an appeal.

“We maintain the belief that our arguments convincingly exposed the unlawfulness of the actions taken by the Scottish Government which are in contravention of the law. We will give thorough consideration of the judgement but at the forefront of our thoughts is the expectation that we will appeal the decision,” he said.

Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “It will allow women to avoid the distress and embarrassment of bleeding and pain during their journey home from an unnecessary second visit to a clinic or hospital. Ultimately, it will help to improve women’s access to safe and regulated abortion care and take pressure off NHS services.

“In light of this decision, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists urges the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to extend the same dignity and compassion to women in England.”

Regan added that the decision marked “a very significant step forward”.

Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, welcomed the ruling.

“The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare believes women should be able to access safe and legal abortion wherever they live in the UK,” she said.

“This includes support for use of abortion medication at home...Allowing women to take misoprostol at home is a question of patient safety as evidence suggests.

“A recent study reporting on the experience of 28,000 women who had had an early medical abortion in a year showed how much of a challenge it is for women to go back to a clinic for the second dose of the abortion medication.

“Patient safety should always be at the heart of healthcare delivery. I echo my colleague’s Professor Lesley Regan call for the same dignity to be extended to women in England.”