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Comment on the prosecution of women charged with ending their own pregnancies

In relation to press reports that two women are currently facing prosecution in England charged with ending their own pregnancies, BPAS Chief Executive, Clare Murphy, said:

"Two women, who endured years of police investigations, are being dragged before the courts and facing up to life imprisonment for seeking to end a pregnancy. Data suggests that this is only the beginning of an increase in the criminalisation of women in the most complex and difficult of circumstances. What kind of society treats women in this way? There was global outrage when the last US president suggested women be punished for abortion, yet here in the UK, our arcane 19th Century abortion laws enable just that. It is abhorrent that 160 years later vulnerable women should suffer from legislation drawn up in a world which is unrecognisable to us now, and punished for making decisions about their own bodies.

"These prosecutions may well deter women experiencing miscarriages and incomplete abortions from seeking treatment when needed. For some migrant women who are ineligible for NHS-funded abortion care, they may feel that accessing abortion pills illegally is their only option. If these women attend hospital needing help, should the police be called, or should these women receive medical care and support without fear of prosecution?

"There is no public interest in pursuing these cases. We urge the DPP to issue guidance to stop the prosecution of women ending their own pregnancies as a matter of urgency."

ENDS

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Brien, BPAS Associate Director of Campaigns and Communications, on katherine.o’brien@bpas.org or 07881 265276.

About BPAS

BPAS is a charity that sees over 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/

In 2021, BPAS launched BPAS Fertility, England’s first not-for-profit fertility service, to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service, without profiteering from patients. Our service gives those ineligible for NHS funding an affordable option to access the care they need.