British women, please rally to support decriminalisation of abortion

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Letter to the Guardian
Tuesday 11 October 2016 19.09 BST

In Poland mass protests have forced the government to drop plans to tighten its already draconian abortion laws. Yet here in Britain most people are unaware that women still live under the threat of being sentenced to life imprisonment if they end their own pregnancies by buying pills on the internet. Doctors also face harsh penalties if they do not fill in the correct forms before terminating a pregnancy.

Back in 1967 our law was changed to allow the legal ending of pregnancies if certain conditions were met. Otherwise the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act remained in place; and so it still is today – nearly half a century later.

Soon, a ten-minute rule bill is to be introduced to the House of Commons proposing that abortion in Britain is decriminalised. To do so would not only allow speedier and much less bureaucratic use of modern medical procedures, but would save a huge amount of NHS money while bringing us into line with countries such as Canada where medical abortion was decriminalised nearly three decades ago.

In Britain one in three women will have an abortion. Yet the views of the small but vociferous anti-abortion lobby garner most of the publicity and continue to dominate public argument. If only a small proportion of the millions of women who have benefited from the 1967 Act were to write to their MPs now asking them to be in the Commons on 24 October and to give support to this proposal, perhaps this punitive Victorian legislation would have a chance of being brought up to date.

Back in the 1960s when I was an abortion law reform activist, the Guardian and its readers did much to facilitate the liberalisation of the law. They now need to mobilise again so that their children and grandchildren can benefit in the same way that they already have from the activities of my generation.

Diane Munday
Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire

Source: The Guardian