With thanks to the newsletter from International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion…
Care not criminalisation: reform of British abortion law is long overdue
BMJ, J Med Ethics, August 2023, Vol 49 No 8
Sally Sheldon, Jonathan Lord
Megan is a young teenage patient who suffered a stillbirth at 28 weeks, leading to a year long police investigation dropped only after postmortem tests found that her pregnancy was lost due to natural causes. The stress of the investigation and her isolation from friends and support network following the seizure of her mobile and laptop compounded the trauma of the stillbirth, leaving her requiring emergency psychiatric care.
Aisha is a vulnerable patient who suffered a premature delivery, having experienced similar problems in earlier pregnancies. Things happened so quickly that Aisha delivered on her own at home, only then seeking medical care. She told hospital staff that earlier in her pregnancy she had considered an abortion. As a result, she found herself interviewed under police caution and was required to surrender her phone and tablet, limiting access to friend and family support just when most needed. Aisha was denied unsupervised access to
her baby in the intensive care unit, needing to hand over expressed breast milk to a receptionist.
June 13, 2023
By Jasmine Andersson & Sean Seddon, BBC News
Parliament should debate overhauling abortion rules after a woman was jailed, the chair of the Commons equalities committee has said. Caroline Nokes MP told the BBC the 1861 law used to prosecute mother-of-three Carla Foster was "out of date".
The 44-year-old was convicted of inducing an abortion outside the legal limit using pills at home. Campaigners urged reform after she received a sentence of 28 months, 14 of which will be spent in custody.
Following the US Supreme Court’s controversial reversal of Roe v Wade, aspiring barrister Jade Rae explains the importance of the Abortion Act 1967 in England and Wales
By Jade Rae
Jul 18 2022
The US Supreme Court has just overturned the decision of Roe v Wade, a landmark case regarding abortion rights from over 50 years ago, completely destroying the reproductive rights of people with uteruses in America. With at least 26 States expected to ban abortion immediately, this terrifying reversal will have disastrous effects on the physical and mental health of people expected to carry a foetus. This naturally leads one to reflect on the law surrounding abortion in England and Wales and why it is one of the most important pieces of law to date.
First, without the Abortion Act 1967, abortion still remains a criminal offence. Under section 58 of the Offences Against a Person Act 1861, any woman with child who attempts to procure a miscarriage and any person who aids a woman in an attempt to procure a miscarriage will be guilty of felony and being convicted thereof shall be liable to be kept in penal servitude for life.
July 3, 2022
A Tory MP criticised for remarks about abortion says he was misunderstood. Wiltshire MP Danny Kruger was speaking in a Parliamentary debate about the US' abortion ban when he said he disagreed that pregnant women had an 'absolute right to bodily autonomy'.
In a new statement he said: "I do not wish to dictate what a woman should do with her own body, as has been claimed."
Government will be forced to abandon its plan to end a two-year trial of the scheme in August
Denis Campbell Health policy editor
Wed 30 Mar 2022
Women in England will be able to access a “pills by post” abortion service indefinitely after MPs voted today to compel ministers to make it permanent instead of scrapping the scheme in September.
The decision will benefit tens of thousands of women every year who want to take the two tablets needed to end a pregnancy in the privacy of their own home rather than having to take the first at a clinic or hospital. They have to be taken within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Change in law during Covid pandemic has allowed women to take pills without visiting clinic or hospital
Denis Campbell Health policy editor
Thu 24 Feb 2022
Women in England will be able to access abortion pills more easily for the next six months, but the temporary “pills by post” scheme brought in because of Covid will then be scrapped in September.
Maggie Throup, the public health minister, confirmed on Thursday that women seeking to terminate a pregnancy by taking the two pills involved at home would lose that right at the end of August.
Doctors say a return to pre-Covid rules, where women had to get a clinic appointment, will leave thousands waiting too long
Thu 10 Feb 2022
How long ago the Abortion Act of 1967 seems now, and yet the struggle for a woman’s right to control her own body never ends. Time and again this basic principle comes under attack from rightwing and religious lobbies forever seeking to limit and reverse it.
Now they are at it yet again. As the prime minister dashes to roll back all coronavirus legislation a month early to mollify his rebels, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, and his junior minister, Maggie Throup, will decide whether to maintain the abortion laws that were introduced as part of emergency Covid laws, allowing women to request earlier and easier terminations at home. If Javid and Throup instead return to the old abortion laws that were in place before Covid, where women had to have an in-person clinic visit in order to get an abortion, thousands of women will have to chase scarce clinical appointments, forcing many to wait beyond the time limit for medical abortions.
Mara Malagodi, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Law
November 10, 2021
Recent legal changes in a number of jurisdictions that have entirely decriminalised abortion are steeped in the language of gender constitutionalism and human rights – whether these changes have taken place via constitutional litigation or statutory reform. As a result, the campaigns for complete decriminalisation in other jurisdictions have now begun to engage in a pragmatic comparative law exercise to advance their cause. Activists deploy the legal arguments and strategies marshalled in those jurisdictions that have completely removed abortion from the purview of their criminal laws alongside domestic constitutional principles and international human rights standards. As such, we are witnessing a global cross-pollination of legal ideas anchored in substantive notions of gender equality and human dignity to challenge legal restrictions to women’s bodily autonomy.
Abortion is the only medical procedure that continues to be consistently treated as a crime around the world. Even those jurisdictions that have partially liberalised their legal regimes continue to criminalise abortion outside of the terms explicitly provided by law. Only a handful of jurisdictions such as China (1979 – excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Canada (1988), Northern Ireland (2019), New Zealand (2020), and Australia (2021), have entirely removed abortion from the purview of their penal laws. Canada did so via constitutional litigation, while the other jurisdictions via statutory reform.
Heidi Crowter has argued allowing terminations up to birth if foetus has Down’s syndrome is discriminatory
Alexandra Topping and agencies – The Guardian
Thu 23 Sep 2021
A woman with Down’s syndrome who took Sajid Javid to court over the UK’s abortion law has lost her case in the high court.
Heidi Crowter, who brought the case alongside Máire Lea-Wilson, whose son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, and a child with Down’s syndrome identified only as A, had argued that allowing pregnancy terminations up to birth if the foetus has Down’s syndrome is discriminatory and stigmatises disabled people.
MPs bring bill to ban late abortions for cleft lip, cleft palate and clubfoot
Cross-party group proposes ending UK abortions after 24 weeks for minor disabilities
Published on Thu 28 May 2020
A cross-party group of MPs are seeking to change Britain’s abortion laws to ban late terminations that are carried out on the grounds of minor physical abnormalities.
The abortion (cleft lip, cleft palate and clubfoot) bill, which is led by the Conservative MP Fiona Bruce and supported by 13 MPs, will be presented in parliament on 3 June.