Dr Pam Lowe, a women’s reproductive health expert from Aston University, said: “When Trump suggested that women having abortions should be punished, many people in the UK felt that this was an outrageous and extreme position. Yet abortion remains a crime in all parts of the UK, punishable by up to life imprisonment. The 1967 Abortion Act, which remains the legal framework governing abortion in in England, Scotland and Wales, did not repeal the 1861 Offences against the Person Act which remains in force. This was written before women even had the vote.
“On Monday 13th March, the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill will be introduced by Diane Johnson seeking to remove this anachronistic piece of legislation. It will not change the basis on which abortions are currently available, but will mean that abortion will be treated like other health-care issues. The current legislative framework was designed at a time when doctors routinely made decisions about a patient’s treatment without consultation with them. Today we expect patients to be at the heart of decision-making, and that should be the same for abortion. Whilst this may happen in practice, in law a paternalistic model is at the heart of the legislation.
“The laws also predate the development of the abortion pill. The majority of abortions in the UK are now carried medical abortions, and there has been a rise of women buying abortion pills over the internet. Clearly it would be better if all women sought medical advice, but holding the threat of prison over women who feel unable to seek medical advice is unfair and unjust.
“This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act. This was an important piece of legislation in securing the rights of women. In this anniversary year, it is time that we took abortion out of the criminal law and end the threat of punishment. Decriminalisation would not mean a return to dangerous backstreet abortions, instead it would give greater scope for abortion services to improve services to women.”
Notes to the editor
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