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BPAS reveals new figures showing scores of women each year are forced to travel from Scotland for abortion care

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22 July 2023

New figures released today by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) show that in 2022, 65 women travelled from Scotland to England to access abortion care that is not provided within Scotland. This is an increase of 55% on 2021 and the highest number since before the pandemic.

Between January and May 2023, BPAS saw 35 clients from Scotland. If this trend continues, it is expected the charity will treat 85 women this year.

Today, BPAS is calling on the government to bring forward as a matter of urgency proposals for a centrally-commissioned service for the provision of abortion care up to the legal limit in Scotland – ensuring no more women are forced to travel for care. This must include the ability for women to access surgical abortion care, and to receive medical terminations within their own Health Board area.

BPAS is the largest abortion provider in the UK and has arrangements with all Scottish Health Boards to care for women who cannot receive care locally. These are predominantly women between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy which fall between an artificially-placed ‘local limit’ and the legal abortion time limit. BPAS also treats women who are seeking surgical abortions which, owing to a shortage of skills in Scotland, are not provided by most Health Boards.

Between 2019 and 2023 the local ‘time limit’ across different health boards has varied from under 16 weeks to 20 weeks. The week limit is now said to be 20 weeks across all mainland health boards, but BPAS continues to receive referrals from boards who don’t have capacity in the service to treat women before they reach 20 weeks, so may in practice be as early as 17 weeks. Of the 282 women who have travelled for treatment since 2019, 240 were over 20 weeks’ gestation when they were forced to travel.

BPAS Chief of Staff, Rachael Clarke said:

“Every year, Scotland forces women to travel to England to access legal, essential healthcare. These are women and girls who may be under the age of 16, who may have been raped, who may have severe learning disabilities, or who have never left Scotland before. As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, we expect to see the numbers of women forced to travel continue to rise.

“These are Scottish women in acute medical need, and despite years of campaigning, there has been no discernible progress from government or health boards in recognising their most basic moral responsibilities to their patients.

“BPAS will always be here for the women who need us – but as care professionals we know that the best possible thing for women is to receive the care they need at home, not hundreds of miles away.”

Back Off Scotland Co-Founder, Lucy Grieve said:

“It is unacceptable that after years of virtue signalling in the Scottish Parliament and media, we have seen a 55% increase in women having to travel to England to access abortion care. The government said that interventions made by them last summer would mean less women having to make the journey, but the opposite has happened, and the numbers are on the increase again.

“We have countless women getting in touch with us to share their stories of having to travel so far to get such basic care, and we are at a loss as to what the government are actually doing to rectify this issue. How is it possible that they have only just started putting together a national service spec almost a decade after research they commissioned that found the establishment of a mid-trimester service was “a necessity”.


For more information, please contact BPAS Chief of Staff, Rachael Clarke, on 07985 351751 or press@bpas.org

Notes to editors
Breakdown of the numbers of abortion procedures carried out on Scottish women who have travelled to England for treatment:













*Jan-May 2023


Breakdown of the numbers forced to travel to England for treatment by Scottish health board:


Clients 2019 – May 2023

Privately funded


Ayrshire & Arran HB


Borders HB


Dumfries & Galloway HB


Fife HB


Forth Valley


Grampian LHB


Greater Glasgow & Clyde HB


Highland LHB


Lanarkshire HB


Lothian HB


Tayside HB


Grand Total


About BPAS

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, is a charity that sees over 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain.

BPAS exists to further women’s reproductive choices. We believe all women should have the right to make their own decisions in and around pregnancy, from the contraception they use to avoid pregnancy right the way through to how they decide to feed their newborn baby, with access to evidence-based information to underpin their choices and high-quality services and support to exercise them.

BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, CRRC. Through rigorous multidisciplinary research and impactful communication, the CRRC aims to inform policy, practice, and public discourse. You can find out more here.