WOMEN who are up to 24 weeks pregnant could undergo an abortion on the NHS in Scotland for the first time following a push to make late-stage terminations available.

Currently, women in Scotland who want a termination beyond 18-20 weeks for non-medical reasons, such as a delay in realising they are pregnant or due to a change in life circumstances, must travel to England to receive the procedure, with NHS Scotland covering the cost of referrals.

Although abortion is legal up to 24 weeks, so-called late-stage abortions are only carried out on the NHS in Scotland if they are required for urgent medical reasons such as the pregnancy putting the mother's life at risk or the baby suffering a fatal condition.

However, it has emerged that members of the Abortion Care Providers Group are due to meet with Health Secretary Shona Robison to discuss developing "a potential model for providing a termination service at up to 24 weeks".

It comes after abortion law was devolved to Holyrood last year.

The reluctance of medical staff in Scotland to perform terminations later than 20 weeks for non-medical reasons has been suggested as a reason why they are not available in Scotland, and there had previously been speculation that the Scottish Government might move to reduce the legal cut-off to less than 24 weeks.

Jillian Merchant, of pro-choice campaign group Abortion Rights Committee Scotland, said abortion provision in Scotland should be brought into line with England.

She said: "It is unacceptable that women seeking an abortion, within legal time limits, currently require to travel outwith Scotland for this healthcare procedure."

However, Michael J Robinson, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Scotland, said the move was "damaging and retrograde".

He added: "Tight NHS resources should be paying for healthcare not for ending human lives."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government stressed that the issue was constantly under review and there were no concrete plans in place at this stage.

She added: "We are continuing to work with NHS boards to look at how improvements can be made to abortion services in Scotland.

"This includes considering the complex area of later gestation abortion services. Abortion is provided to all women who require it within legal limits."