Early medical abortion at home open consultation details: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

To ask the Health Protection Division at the Scottish Government for the full list of stakeholders that were consulted before, during, and after the open consultation on the home use of both abortion pills for early medical abortion up to 12 weeks gestation, and for minutes from any relevant meetings with such stakeholders.


I attach a list of the stakeholders we sent the consultation paper to. The Scottish Government also issued a News Release on 30 September 2020 to raise awareness of the consultation more widely.

The Scottish Government did not have any meetings with these stakeholders specifically about early medical abortion at home. However, it was raised during a meeting with the Scottish Abortion Care Providers meeting on 26 January 2021. I have provided below relevant extracts from the minutes of this meeting:

  • ‘Round up’ from Boards
    Each board gave an update of how their services are running including telemedicine, staffing and waiting times.
  • SG Government Public Consultation
    [redacted] announced that the consultation had closed on 5th January and over 5000 responses had been received. It is hoped that a report will be ready in March.

Please note that an exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to the redacted text above because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the name of a staff member, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

While our aim is to provide information wherever possible, an exemption under section 30(c) of FOISA (substantial prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs) applies to some of the information requested in relation to other extracts from the notes of the meeting above. This exemption applies because disclosure would, or would be likely to, inhibit substantially the effective conduct of public affairs. The exemption recognises the need for officials and stakeholders to have a private space within which to seek advice and exchange views before reaching a settled public position. Disclosing the content of a private discussion with NHS Boards would be likely to impact on their willingness to provide frank views and advice to officials in future on sensitive topics, such as abortion policy.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials and stakeholders can discuss matters relating to abortion frankly to help develop future policy. Officials need full and candid advice from stakeholders to enable them to do so. Disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such discussions in the future, which would not be in the public interest.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

FOI - 202100210664 - Information Released - Annex


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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