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BPAS comment on the sad news of the death of the Hon Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody MP

Published 18 April 2008

Please see below for BPAS’ comment on the sad passing of the Hon Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, who was well known for her longstanding support for women’s rights issues including reproductive choice and abortion rights, as was her late husband Dr John Dunwoody MP. The pair were closely involved in the campaigning that brought about the 1967 Abortion Act. Our thoughts are with their family.

A booklet to mark the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act (which came into effect on 27 April 1968), has recently been published by BPAS including interviews with the Hon Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody MP and Dr John Dunwoody MP.

The Hon Mrs Dunwoody MP said in her interview:

Nowadays people talk as if there are those who like abortion and those who don’t. Nobody likes abortion. But not liking something, and recognising the need for it, are two very different things.

‘I felt very strongly about the need for an Abortion Act because, as a young doctor’s wife, I used to see what happened before the Act. People sometimes talk as if no abortions took place in this country, but they did and it was pretty horrifying. […] there were people who were doing appalling things to themselves, because for financial or perhaps health-related reasons they could not afford other children. And women died of illegal abortions, or made themselves sterile for life.

It was essential that abortion should be legal and properly organised, not least because it was working-class women who suffered, I think, more than anyone. There were always ways around the law if you had a lot of cash.’

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the sexual and reproductive healthcare charity BPAS said:

'Gwyneth was a forthright, outspoken champion of women's equality who fought for legal abortion because she believed it was morally right, in times long before it was seen as politically acceptable to do so. She was a true conviction politician and we could use a few more.' 



Please contact the BPAS press office on 07788 725 185 to request more information.

The interviews with Gwyneth Dunwoody MP and her husband Dr John Dunwoody MP are available in the booklet ‘Abortion Law Reformers: Pioneers of Change- Interviews with people who made the 1967 Act possible’ on request from BPAS, and online at

BPAS is the UK’s leading not-for-profit sexual healthcare provider, over 87% of which care is provided free of charge on behalf of the NHS. Typical non-NHS funded clients may have travelled to BPAS from the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland or Italy, locations where access to safe, legal abortion remains restricted by law.                                                     

As well as contraceptive advice and treatment, BPAS carried out around 60,000 terminations of pregnancy in 2007. BPAS has centres across England, Wales and Scotland and is a specialist provider of early and late abortions. The charity provides around 80% of the abortions between 20 weeks and up to the 24 week limit. Only five independent abortion clinics in the UK are approved by the Secretary of State to undertake abortions over 20 weeks gestation, four of which are run by the charity BPAS.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) states that ‘At least one-third of British women will have had an abortion by the time they reach the age of 45’ (see p1, ‘Care of women requesting induced abortion’, Evidence-based Guideline Number 7, Sept 2004).

Please contact the BPAS press office on 07788 725 185 to request more information.


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