The National:

THE 55th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967 will be marked in Edinburgh this weekend with a special celebration, while an anti-choice group hold a protest nearby.

Campaigners from Abortion Rights Scotland will stand on the city’s Lothian Road – Usher Hall side - for two hours, right across from where the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) will hold a demonstration against safe and legal abortions provided by the NHS.

The Abortion Act legalised terminations in England, Wales and Scotland on certain grounds by registered practitioners.

Introduced by David Steel as a private member’s bill, it passed in October 1967 and came into effect in April 1968.

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The act did not extend to Northern Ireland where abortion remained illegal unless the doctor acted “only to save the life of the mother” or if continuing the pregnancy would have resulted in the mother becoming a “physical or mental wreck”. In 2019, abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland.

"NHS Scotland has long supported women to make their own choices about pregnancy," Audrey Brown, retired NHS abortion care consultant, said.

"Abortion care is extremely safe, and in fact is safer than continuing a pregnancy.

“NHS doctors, nurses and midwives working in abortion care are trained to provide a safe and supportive service.

“The majority of women now choose early medical abortion in the privacy of their own home.

“Restricting access to abortion won’t stop abortion, it will push it underground and make it less safe. We must continue to support free, safe and legal NHS abortion care."

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Abortion Rights Scotland has been holding its demonstration against the SPUC protest almost every year since 2013, with two years missed due to the Covid lockdown.

The counter-protest against SPUC is both in support of the continuing right to safe, legal, local abortion in Scotland, provided and delivered by the NHS, but campaigners will also stand with people in countries like Poland and the US, where the anti-abortion movement has achieved its goal of denying free access to safe legal abortion.

SPUC's frequent assertion is it wants to make this essential reproductive healthcare "unthinkable".

In 2015, a Survation poll commissioned by Abortion Rights showed more than 75% of Scots believed abortion should remain legal and available.