UK – Ex-minister Maria Miller calls for abortion sentencing guidelines

July 19, 2023
By Jennifer McKiernan

A former Conservative minister has called for new sentencing guidelines to prevent women being jailed for taking abortion pills after the legal time limit.

It comes after the imprisonment of a mother-of-three last month under a 162-year-old law. Dame Maria Miller called for "compassion not punishment".


Why UK campaigners fear drive to decriminalise abortion may stall

Carla Foster’s release welcomed but case has done little to settle debate about abortions carried after 24-week limit

Alexandra Topping
Tue 18 Jul 2023

On Tuesday, Carla Foster, who was jailed for terminating her pregnancy after the legal time limit last month, was told by the court of appeal that she would be released from prison after her 28-month sentence was halved and suspended.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) says there are three more women accused of illegally ending their own pregnancies awaiting trial, adding that in the last three years there has been an increase in the number of women and girls facing police investigations and threatened with up to life imprisonment.


5 reasons why abortion must be decriminalised in Britain

July 13, 2023
Ren Aldridge and Janey Starling

Last month, Carla Foster, a mum of three, was sentenced to prison for self-administering an abortion. Her case has brought Great Britain’s arcane abortion laws into public view – along with calls from MPs, health experts and women’s charities to decriminalise abortion.

Decriminalising abortion simply means treating it as the healthcare procedure it is and never as a criminal offence. Here are five reasons why that needs to happen…


Woman jailed over abortion – an expert on what UK law actually says and what needs to change

June 14, 2023
Claire Pierson, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Liverpool

Many people assume that because abortion is relatively accessible in England, it is not a crime. The fact that a woman has now received a 28-month prison sentence for taking abortion pills past the legal time limit shows that this assumption is wrong.

Abortion remains within the criminal law to some extent in almost every country globally, despite the fact that it is a safe and relatively common procedure. Laws can criminalise women and pregnant people, healthcare providers or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. The sentencing in Poland of activist Justyna Wydrzyńska is one example. In March 2023, she received eight months community service for aiding an abortion seeker.


Calls for abortion to be decriminalised amid row over jailing of UK woman

Leading expert warns of ‘sustained attacks’ on reproductive rights after sentence imposed on Monday

Alexandra Topping and Tobi Thomas
Tue 13 Jun 2023

Leading women’s health experts have warned of an attack on women’s reproductive rights and the potential for more prosecutions, following the jailing of a woman for terminating her pregnancy after the legal time limit.

The president of the UK’s leading body for sexual health professionals said that women should be “more worried than they are” following the sentencing, adding that it could lead to sustained attacks on established rights, and efforts to curtail reforms.


Abortion rights: history offers a blueprint for how pro-choice campaigners might usefully respond

BMJ 2022; 378
Published 26 July 2022
Agnes Arnold Forster, research fellow

In October 1971, the New York Times reported a decline in maternal death rate.1 Just 15 months earlier, the state had liberalised its abortion law. David Harris, New York’s deputy commissioner of health, speaking to the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, attributed the decline—by more than half—to the replacement of criminal abortions with safe, legal ones. Previously, abortion had been the single leading cause of maternity related deaths, accounting for around a third. A doctor in the audience who said he was from a state “where the abortion law is still archaic,” thanked New York for its “remarkable job” and expressed his gratitude that there was a place he could send his patients and know they would receive “safe, excellent care.” Harris urged other states to follow the example set by New York and liberalise their abortion laws.


N. Ireland – Free, safe, legal, local

Emma Campbell describes the long fight for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland

March 24, 2021
Emma Campbell

Northern Ireland has finally emerged from the shadow of a British law that wreaked untold misery on the island of Ireland. On 22 October 2019, tired but buoyed, we celebrated that people were no longer at risk of being charged with a criminal offence for accessing an abortion. After a long struggle, the women of Northern Ireland now have the best abortion law in the UK and Ireland.

Sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act criminalised doctors and abortion seekers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with punishment up to ‘penal servitude for life’. This remained in place until the 1967 Abortion Act allowed abortion to carried out legally in certain circumstances, even if it wasn’t fully decriminalised.


UK – Like Everything Else, Abortion Needs To Change After This

Like Everything Else, Abortion Needs To Change After This

Vicky Spratt
16 April 2020

Was the Health Secretary Matt Hancock gaslighting women in Britain when he allowed draft legislation permitting at-home abortions during the pandemic we’re currently living through to be published and unpublished? We will never know.

In the end, because of a cacophonous campaign from abortion experts at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and Marie Stopes, the government did a u-turn and confirmed that, for as long as this crisis rages on, women will be able to take abortion medication in the safety and comfort of their own home after a telephone consultation with a doctor (also known as telemedicine).


Only 2 Political Parties Have Pledged To Decriminalise Abortion In England & Wales

Only 2 Political Parties Have Pledged To Decriminalise Abortion In England & Wales

By Lauren Sharkey
Nov 27, 2019

Manifestos have been released and election campaigns are well underway. But a closer look at each manifesto has revealed that only two major parties are promising to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales.

Although the 1967 Abortion Act permits abortions up to 24 weeks, the Victorian-era 1861 Offences Against The Person Act was never repealed. This means that abortions performed outside of the Abortion Act's parameters are technically punishable by a lengthy prison sentence. (Both the person having the abortion and the people assisting it are at risk of criminal prosecution.)


N. Ireland – How We Won the Right to Choose

How We Won the Right to Choose

By Maev McDaid and Brian Christopher

Coming hot on the heels of Dublin’s repeal of anti-abortion laws, decriminalization in the North is a decisive victory for Irish feminists. The church and the state are losing their control over our bodies — but we still need to make abortion legal, safe, and free.

October 22 marked a decisive victory in the North of Ireland, as abortion was finally decriminalized. This news will surely have passed many people by — after all, in national as in international media, the North is almost only ever “represented” by the bigots in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). But last week, this stridently anti-choice party was finally overruled by the Westminster parliament. Its move to decriminalize abortion in the North came fifty years after a similar step was taken on the British mainland. Yet this success especially owes to decades of heroic struggles waged by Irish feminists.