A recent article in The Scotsman said that—

... thanks to archaic Victorian laws means [abortion] is still technically punishable by jail sentences ...

What is the legislation that has this effect?


Like a lot of Scottish criminal law, there's no specific legislation, but it is illegal through common law. This was also true in the rest of the UK until the 1800s, when statutes were passed with the aim of making abortion law clearer (generally forbidding it). This didn't extend to Scotland leaving much of its abortion law unclear.

The 24 weeks limit that the Scotsman article references is from Section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 (as amended). This act did apply to Scotland. The act specifies conditions under which abortion within the first 24 weeks is legal, and that it is always legal when there is grave risk to the woman's health. When the circumstances of the pregnancy fall outside the provisions of the act, the existing Scottish common law prevails.

For further information, this UN document provides a good summary of abortion law in the UK.

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