The Catholic Church in Scotland, pro-life organizations, and disability rights campaigners have expressed dismay after statistics released by Public Health Scotland on June 1 revealed that the number of abortions recorded in Scotland in 2022 was the highest number ever on record.

The national statistics on abortion revealed an increase of 2,659 abortions — equal to 19.08% — in one year, with the number of abortions increasing from 13,937 in 2021 to 16,596 in 2022.

The statistics also revealed that there has been an 84% increase in the number of abortions where a baby has Down syndrome, from 32 in 2021 to 59 in 2022.

These latest statistics come following a commitment from Scotland’s new first minister, Humza Yousaf, to decriminalize abortion in Scotland, which campaigners warn will mean the availability of abortion on demand.

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said that the Scottish government should focus on promoting human dignity.

“Every abortion is a tragedy,“ he said. “Each statistic presented in this report represents a unique, unrepeatable life extinguished.“

“Instead of creating ways to increase the number of abortions in Scotland, the Scottish government should be promoting and defending human dignity through its laws, including the right of the child to develop in his or her mother’s womb from the moment of conception,” he added.

Meanwhile, disability rights campaigners are calling for a public inquiry following the highly controversial revelations, because the rise in abortions for babies with Down syndrome follows the introduction of new NIPT (Non-Invasive Pre-Natal) tests by National Health Service Scotland. 

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign and mother of Rachel, who has Down syndrome, said: “As a mother of a 23-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her.”

More in Europe

Murray said it was “deeply upsetting” to see such a high increase in the number of abortions of babies with Down syndrome.

“Already so many babies with Down syndrome are screened out by termination each year in Scotland and now the situation appears to be getting worse,” she said. “The rollout of new Non-Invasive Pre-Natal tests on the NHS in Scotland appears to be having an impact on the number of terminations.”

Murray called on the government to urgently review the impact of NIPT tests on the number of babies screened out for termination due to Down syndrome.

“They then need to urgently introduce medical reforms to our screening program to ensure that this deeply disturbing increase in the number of abortions for Down syndrome is reversed,” she said.

“We are calling on the Scottish government to urgently update Scottish abortion legislation to ensure that babies with Down syndrome cannot be aborted right up to birth, as is permitted under current legislation,” she added.

Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, called the record number of abortions last year “a great tragedy.”

“Every one of these abortions represents a failure of our society to protect the lives of babies in the womb and a failure to offer full support to women with unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

(Story continues below)

Robinson pointed to First Minister Yousaf’s commitment to decriminalize abortion, which she said would introduce abortion on demand up to birth in Scotland as well as legalize sex-selective abortion.

“This would likely lead to further increases in abortion numbers,” she said. A similar change in law was introduced in New Zealand in 2020, she noted, which resulted in a 43% increase in late-term abortions in 2020.

“We are calling on the Scottish government to scrap plans to introduce abortion up to birth and instead bring forward sensible new restrictions along with increased support for women with unplanned pregnancies,” Robinson said.

“Polling shows these changes are backed by the public in Scotland and this would ensure we were working together as a society to reduce the tragic number of lives that are lost to abortion each year.”