On the 10th of October, Abortion Rights held a public meeting with a panel discussion in Parliament. We bought together MPs, campaigners and healthcare providers together to the case of why abortion needs to be decriminalised across the UK.
Abortion remains a crime across the UK, with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Abortion Rights called the meeting in response to the mounting pressure on the Government to take action to repeal Sections 59 & 60 and amend Section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which would decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom.
- Diana Johnson MP
- Stella Creasy MP
- Emma Campbell, Co-Chair of Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland
- Professor Lesley Regan, President of the RCOG
- Kemah Breon Bob, Guilty Feminist Podcast co-host
- Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights’ Chair
- Dr. Imogen Stephens, Medical Director, Marie Stopes UK
- Dr. Kate Guthrie, Women on Web
Free, safe and local access to abortion is imperative in modern society where one in three women have an abortion before the age 45.
Abortion must be viewed as a medical procedure like any other medical practice. The enablement of a robust structure for healthcare professionals to provide best practice care for women is a cornerstone of society.
Public opinion polls display broad support across the U.K for decriminalisation as well Abortion Rights believes that abortion must be decriminalised immediately. Ensuring all women in the UK have access to safe and accessible healthcare is a fundamental human right.
Westminster has a responsibility to the women of Northern Ireland – a responsibility that should not be negated because abortion is a polarizing issue. Parliament is doing a disservice to the women of reproductive age in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom. The Government must act now.
The voice of the pro-choice majority must be heard! Abortion Rights is asking our supporters to contact their MPs, tell them that it’s unacceptable that women across the UK are risking prosecution for ending a pregnancy and to support Diana Johnson Ten Minute Rule Bill on the 23rd of October
Key themes discussed;
- What does women-centric legislation and practice look like
- What is decriminalisation? What does it look like? How will it be achieved?
- Abortion as a Human Right – UN’s CEDAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
- Abortion pills and self-administered abortion
- Barriers to access
- Law in Practice: Flawed & confused laws
- Medical advances vs stale legislation
- Public opinion & Abortion
- Recent and ongoing prosecutions of women acting outside the law to procure an abortion
- The current legal situation in NI
- The law as a hindrance, not a help
- Trusting women
- Call for Action
Select of comments and quotes from Why We Need to Decriminalise Abortion 2018 panel
Diana Johnson, MP
“We can’t have the situation in Northern Ireland to carry on,”
Johnson & cross-party co-sponsors will today launch the bill to decriminalise consensual abortion in Northern
Ireland England and Wales.
The new Bill proposes:
· No criminal sanction up to 24 weeks
· Forced abortion would be a criminal offense punishable up to life in prison
· Retains conscientious objection for doctors
· Extends abortion to NI
Emma Campbell, Co-Chair Alliance for Choice
Emma Campbell from said the death of Savita Halappanava was felt all over Ireland and spurred on abortion rights activists. She describes an “Underground network of solidarity in the aftermath of that tragedy.”
‘Decriminalisation will make a huge difference to women who can’t afford to travel for an abortion.’
Campbell says she was contacted by a woman who couldn’t travel because the abusive partner had burnt travel documents.
“we need to follow Sweden and say if you want to practice in the area of women’s health, that includes abortion”
“Do it for your granny!”
Lesley Regan, President of the RCOG
Regan thanked Diana Johnson MP & Stella Creasy calling them massive role models for pushing forward the abortion rights movement.
“Abortion should be treated as any other medical procedures and not as part of criminal law”
“Dwindling number of trained doctors threatens access to abortion. In 1980 50% abortions in private sec and 50% in NHS Now only 30% of NHS gyns do abortion.”
“We really need to improve access to abortion to fundamentally improve women’s lives”
“There has been a huge shift in opinion among the public and parliamentarians”
Dr. Imogen Stephens UK Medical Director,
“Stigma is not aided by the fact that NHS has reduced provision.”
‘90% of surgical abortions are performed on the independent sector because of the lack of capacity in the NHS due to the continuing stigmatization of abortion.’ – Dr Imogen Stephens
“Abortion is perceived as a stigmatized service”
“We need to decriminalise to de-stigmatise & de-stigmatize to decriminalise’
Kate Guthrie, Women on Web
” Increase in requests for abortion pills from GB. There were 52 requests this September: 47 went ahead knowing illegal. Reasons included: Waiting times, multiple appointments, cost of abortion, work and childcare, privacy concerns.”
“Only 30% of gynecologists today provide abortions – not compulsory part of O&G training”
“we do not walk in women’s shoes’ doctors should provide person-centered care. Too many barriers to abortion care.”
Kemah Breon Bob, Co-Host of The Guilty Feminist
‘I’m from Texas, then I came here and saw your abortion laws and they’re ridiculous! A doctor can go to prison for 12 years for providing an abortion? What is that about?!’
‘Seeing other women so fired up about abortion rights is making my heart so warm. This is such a beautiful gathering. Why Decrim? A better question is definitely Why Not?’
Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights Chair
“Being pro-choice means making informed choices!”
“The moral majority is that you shouldn’t force women do be pregnant when they don’t want to be”
“Decriminalisation puts the trust in women to make choices about our own bodies.”
“The power is in women’s hands to make their own choices”
“The abortion legislation we use today dates back to 1861 – that’s before any women could even vote.
No other medical legislation is that out of date.”
Stella Creasy, MP
‘We must use international as well as national legislation because this is a global human rights matter, ‘Around the world there is a war on women’s rights. And it is not accidental.’
‘Men and women will never be equal while 51% of us do not have control over our own bodies.’
‘Diana Johnson has been absolute goddess for us all in pushing ahead abortion reform.’
There’s a consensus of “don’t ask don’t tell” to hang on to current abortion rights in the UK NI has suffered the most as a result of that.”
‘We must use international as well as national legislation because this is a global human rights matter.’
“In 2018 we can win this fight.”
The Bill will be debated on 23 October. Please write to your MP campaign postcards here to support the bill.
FACTS AND FIGURES:
- Roughly 75% of people support a woman’s right to choose in Britain.
- Two thirds of those surveyed in England and Wales did not support imprisoning women who end a pregnancy without a doctor’s authorization (BPAS)
- In 2014, 69% of those in Northern Ireland supported access to abortion in cases of rape or incest, a
- figure that is now at 72%. Similarly, 60% of respondents supported access to abortion in cases of
- fatal foetal abnormality – this has grown to 67%.
- Northern Ireland abortion: 75% of UK public want the government to change the law – new polls: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/northern-ireland-abortion-75-uk-public-want-government-change-law-new-polls
- Ulster University study using data from the 2016 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey: http://www.ark.ac.uk/pdfs/Features/feature7.pdf
- 1 in 3 women in the UK undergo an abortion before age 45
- 50% of pregnancies in the United Kingdom are unplanned
- In 2017 there were there were 189,8591 abortions for women resident in England and Wales in 2017 and 194,6681 abortions including non-residents
- In 2017, 919 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales for termination – a 25% increase since 2016: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/714183/2017_Abortion_Statistics_Commentary.pdf