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50 years since 1967 Abortion Act passed, majority of MPs now have a more liberal position on abortion

  • Poll finds that majority of MPs – including majority of Conservative MPs – believe that a woman should be able to have an abortion if she does not want to continue with a pregnancy, which would mean a more progressive legal framework than 1967 Act.
  • Majority also believe that abortion services should be regulated by healthcare laws, rather than criminal laws as is currently the case
  • Today (Friday 27th October) marks 50 years since 1967 Abortion Act was passed in the House of Commons
  • British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, says polling demonstrates that, for the majority, abortion is not as divisive or controversial an issue as is often portrayed.

Polling conducted by YouGov has found that, fifty years since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed to permit abortion in certain circumstances in Great Britain, the majority of MPs now support a more liberal position.  Over two-thirds (69%) of those polled – including 58% of Conservative MPs and 84% of Labour MPs - agreed that a woman should be able to have an abortion if she does not want to continue with a pregnancy. Under current law, no woman is legally entitled to an abortion on this basis, but must obtain legal permission from two doctors on the grounds that continuing the pregnancy would have a detrimental effect on her health or that of her family, or if there is a risk of foetal anomaly.

The views of MPs are in keeping with those of members of the public. The latest British Social Attitudes survey found that 70% of the GB adults support allowing abortion if a woman does not wish to have the child – a significant increase from 60% in 2005.

Over the past year, support among medical bodies has grown for abortion to be removed from the criminal law and for services to be subject to the same regulation as all other healthcare procedures. In September, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists joined the Royal College of Midwives and the British Medical Association by voting to support the removal of specific criminal sanctions associated with abortion.

In keeping with this stance, over two-thirds (71%) of MPs - 58% of Conservative MPs and 83% of Labour MPs - polled also stated that laws surrounding abortion services should be covered by laws and regulations used  for healthcare . Only 16% of MPs think the law surrounding abortion services should be covered by criminal law, as is currently the case. 

Today marks 50 years since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed. While abortion is often characterised as “divisive” or “controversial”, there is a clear consensus across the House of Commons, the general public, and healthcare bodies that supports a woman’s right to choose.

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, said:

“50 years since parliament passed the Abortion Act, our MPs – across the party political divide – now back a more liberal framework. This is entirely in keeping with the position of our leading medical bodies and members of the public.

“We are a pro-choice country. Given the clear support for a woman’s right to choose, it’s time to cease and desist from the narrative of abortion as “polarising” and “divisive”. It isn’t. Most people accept that abortion is healthcare that women need in order to live their lives, and our law should reflect this.”

Dilys Cossey, campaigner for the 1967 Abortion Act and secretary of the Abortion Law Reform Association from 1964-68, said:

 “This polling demonstrates an understanding of the place abortion should have in integrated reproductive and sexual health care services and is a recognition that abortion must be the choice of the woman concerned.

 “In 2017 abortion is no longer seen as controversial but as essential for the one in three women who will need abortion during their lifetime. 50 years on from the Act I campaigned for, the time has come to decriminalise abortion and regulate it in the same way as all other women's healthcare procedures.” ‎

ENDS

For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377, 07788 725185 or press@bpas.org

About bpas

bpas is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at bpas.org.

About the survey

YouGov completed online interviews with a representative sample of 105 MPs. The surveys were completed between 5th June and 15th September 2017. All results are based on a sample and are therefore subject to statistical errors normally associated with sample-based information. Results for MPs are weighted by party, gender, electoral cohort, and geography to give a sample that is representative of the House of Commons. Based on a 95% confidence level results are correct to plus or minus 9%. The survey results can be viewed online here