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The number of women facing criminal investigation under Great Britain’s cruel and outdated abortion law is increasing. It is Time To Act.
Under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, it is a crime for a woman to end her own pregnancy outside a hospital or clinic at any gestation. The crime carries a maximum life sentence, the harshest in the world, and was passed more than 50 years before women even had the vote. This type of criminal offence doesn’t exist around most of the world – even in places like Texas and Poland.
It’s a travesty of justice that in 2023, desperate women who are unable to access care within the formal system are criminalised for their actions.
On Monday 12th June, a woman in England was sentenced to 28 months in prison after using abortion pills to end her own pregnancy.
We believe the law needs to change to bring the rest of the UK into line with recent law changes in Northern Ireland, and with many countries across the world including Ireland, Canada, France, and New Zealand.
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Reproductive choice is not just about starting or ending a pregnancy – it’s also about protecting women’s reproductive autonomy across their lifetimes. We live in a culture where women of childbearing age are increasingly treated as “pre-pregnant” – warned against alcohol use, denied medication – on the basis of protecting a hypothetical fetus. Pregnant women find themselves increasingly monitored and their choices restricted.
Information is not always presented in a way that enables women to make their own decisions based on the available evidence because they are not always trusted to make the “right” choice. We will work to ensure women’s voices are heard and that they do not experience restrictions and discrimination based on their capacity for pregnancy.
The two-child limit severely restricts the amount of financial support for low-income families with three or more children by removing welfare support for third or subsequent born children. This additional support is worth nearly £2,900 per child, per year.
BPAS research has found that the two-child limit can be a significant factor in some women’s decisions to end a pregnancy. Women told BPAS that financial pressures, sudden loss of employment, and economic uncertainty, combined with the two-child limit policy, left them feeling “forced” to end wanted pregnancies.
The two-child limit assumes that decisions about family size can be neatly planned, yet no method of contraception is 100% reliable, and indeed the majority of women we care for who are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy were using contraception when they conceived. The policy expects parents to be able to plan their finances for their child’s lifetime, yet changes in circumstances can render the most carefully planned families susceptible to sudden and devastating poverty.
BPAS is a member of the All Kids Count coalition, which is led by the Child Poverty Action Group.
We believe that emergency contraception should be available, affordable, and accessible for everyone who needs it.
We are still fighting for the government to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics. A buffer zone would mean that certain activities could not take place within 150 meters of abortion clinics – effectively ending the harassment of women outside clinics.
There are many problems today with how people are able to access NHS funded fertility care. A postcode lottery of restrictions across the UK means that many people are refused the 3 funded cycles that are recommended by NICE. This can leave those who want a child but require assistance conceiving with no other option but to privately fund their own care. This can be extremely expensive.
BPAS advocate to improve care for all whether they are seeking treatment from the NHS or the private sector.