First Minister defends right to choose at FMQs

November 17, 2016

The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended women’s right to access abortion services in Scotland, following questions from Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie about restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Patrick Harvie MSP raised the fact that many women in Northern Ireland ‘find themselves with no option but to travel elsewhere in the UK to access legal and safe abortion’ and asked the First Minister what the ‘national health service in Scotland should be exploring what can be done to ensure that those women are able to access abortion in Scotland’?

The First Minister said that she was ‘happy to explore with the NHS what the situation is now in terms of the ability of women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortion in NHS Scotland and whether any improvements can be made.’

The First Minister added later that ‘no woman should ever be stigmatised for having an abortion. No woman ever wants to have an abortion; there will be a variety of circumstances in which a woman finds herself in that position, and I absolutely agree that safe abortion is of paramount importance.’

This comes only a few weeks since the British Humanist Association intervened in a Supreme Court action to overturn restrictions on access to NHS abortion services in England by women from Northern Ireland.

Humanist Society Scotland has long supported and defended safe and legal access to abortion services for women. Earlier this year Humanist campaigners took part in a range of demonstrations in defence of abortion services ahead of the devolution of the law to Scotland, and after a coordinated demonstration outside of Scottish hospitals was organised by religious groups.

Humanist Society spokesperson Claire Digance speaks at a rally in Glasgow. Society members hold a banner reading 'Every mother a willing mother, every child a wanted child'
HSS spokesperson Claire Digance speaks at a rally in Glasgow

Speaking in February this year, HSS spokesperson Claire Digance said:

Religious fringe groups attempting to impose their ideology outside hospitals is frightening to both patients and staff and unrepresentative of Scotland’s progressive view on women’s rights.

I urge the Scottish parliament to ensure the continued provision of existing services and to ensure the successful and timely devolution of the Abortion act as it stands, as demanded by the majority of the Scottish population.

Humanist Society Scotland stands with all women across Scotland and we support their right to choose.


For further comment please contact Gary McLelland on 07813060713 or gary@humanism.scot.

You can read the full exchange in the official report.

About HSS: Humanist Society Scotland seeks to represent the views of people in Scotland who wish to lead ethical and fulfilling lives guided by reason, empathy and compassion. We provide a range of non-religious ceremonies and campaign for a secular state. HSS has over 14,000 members across Scotland.

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