Georgia L. Gilholy: Decriminalizing abortion would be a social and moral disaster for Scotland

Georgia L Gilholy is a staff member at Young Voices UK.

Fierce leadership competition, plummeting approval ratings, and now the cops are scurrying in and out of Nicola Sturgeon’s yard like yo-yos. The Scottish National Party had a better start to the year.

While the ailing party’s new leader and Scotland’s new First Minister, Humza Yousaf, will no doubt expect some retribution for his party’s scandals at the ballot box, he has time to impose his panacea of ​​radical plans before the next Holyrood election is due in 2026 .

The decriminalization of abortion could well be one of these schemes.

During the race for the SNP’s top job, Yousaf committed himself to the policy after being approached by advocacy group Back Off Scotland, run by Britain’s largest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

Yousaf’s pledge to “put forward decriminalization proposals during the current parliamentary term” would most likely introduce abortion on demand, for whatever reason, up to childbirth.

As it stands, abortion is a criminal offense under Scottish common law, with the Abortion Act 1967 outlining exceptions under which it can legally take place. This includes termination of pregnancy up to 24 weeks gestation, generally for any reason, or up to the time of delivery if the fetus is suspected to have a disability.

To decriminalize abortion in Scotland, Holyrood would have to pass new legislation clarifying that abortion is not a crime, invalidating the 1967 Act.

While many pro-choice activists claim that decriminalization would not eliminate time limits on abortion, BPAS has publicly stated that its campaign aims to eliminate all time limits.

“I want to be very, very clear and blunt…there shouldn’t be a legal cap,” said Ann Furedi, then-CEO of BPAS, at an event to mark the launch of the decriminalization campaign in 2016. She has since shared her stance on numerous television and Radio stations reiterated apparitions.

If Yousaf keeps his promise, he would establish on British soil one of the most radical abortion regimes in the world – putting Scotland well short of the EU’s average deadline of 12 weeks and on a par with serial human rights abusers like North Korea and China.

Repealing the powers of the 1967 Act would also expose Scotland to great moral and demographic hazard by legally allowing sex-selective abortions. The practice is currently illegal in Scotland as it is not one of the five exemptions granted by the 1967 Act.

While there is evidence that the practice is already going under the radar, surely the state should be working to address rather than encourage this deeply misogynistic condition?

Sex-selective abortion has become a major global issue since the widespread adoption of ultrasound technology in the 1980s. A 2019 study concluded that around 23 million girls are “missing” from the world’s population due to the popularity of sex-selective abortion in India and China, with devastating consequences for future demographic growth, social harmony and the economies of their societies .

This also applies to newly industrialized countries: the repeal of Canada’s old abortion laws in 1998 introduced on-demand abortion and made the country a “safe haven” for parents seeking abortions in unborn women.

Not for the first time, the SNP has actually proven at odds with most women.

Polls from 2017 found that just 1 per cent of women in the UK were in favor of legal abortions until childbirth, with 91 per cent telling pollsters that gender-based abortions should be banned; Around 70 per cent of women in the UK want periods to be shortened to below the current 24 weeks.

While the decriminalization campaign is based in part on the assumption that women will be criminalized for having an abortion, this is far from the case. In 2021, 13,758 abortions were performed in Scotland. Meanwhile, Scottish police told the Guardian in July 2022 that there had been no recent incidents of women being prosecuted for having an abortion.

It is high time the SNP acknowledged the grim reality of the decriminalization lobby and the concerns of women themselves, before sanctioning the dissolution of the country’s approach to human life and dignity as we know it.