Current law out of step with public opinion
Control over whether, when and how many children to have is crucial to control over every other aspect of a woman’s life. An overwhelming three quarters of people in Britain support a woman’s right to make her own abortion decision.
Current law gives doctors a veto over women’s decisions
In Britain, abortion is not legally available at the request of the woman. After a woman has decided that she wants to end her pregnancy, she has to persuade two doctors to agree to her decision on the basis of restrictive legal criteria.
This requirement is not only paternalistic, but more damagingly, it allows the approximately one in ten doctors who are opposed to all abortion the opportunity to delay, obstruct or even veto women’s decisions.
There is no legal requirement for doctors to declare their conscientious objection to abortion but professional guidelines require that they do refer a woman on to another doctor immediately. Abortion Rights hears from women who’s anti-choice doctors, instead of declaring their objection and referring them on, have wrongly told them that they are too late, that they have lost their pregnancy test results, that they are not entitled to an NHS abortion, that abortion is murder or who have refused to refer them to another GP. This is unacceptable. It is time for a modern law – where women not doctors made the abortion decision, like every other medical procedure.
Rights for the women of Northern Ireland
The British abortion law was never extended to Northern Ireland and women there still don’t have access to safe legal abortion.
With the developments in the peace process in Northern Ireland and the re-establishment of the institutions, it is time women there had their own rights to abortion.
Unacceptable delays in service provision
There is no law requiring the NHS to provide abortion services. Levels of funding for NHS service provision have increased over the past 10 years, but waiting lists still vary across Britain resulting in a ‘postcode lottery’ of delays.
The Department of Health has set a target for delays of no longer than three weeks. No government figures are published on waiting times but research conducted by the All Party Pro-choice and Sexual Health group showed that 27 per cent of Primary Care Trusts delayed women beyond three weeks.
In Abortion Rights’ March 2007 opinion poll, 72 per cent said it was not acceptable for a woman who had been referred for an abortion to have to wait beyond three weeks for the procedure. Its time these delays ended.