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Crucial abortion vote expected in Parliament next month

23 February 2024
Newborn hospital baby medical

Next month, a crucial vote in the UK Parliament could see abortion decriminalised.

The law as it stands limits terminations to before 24 weeks of pregnancy and requires the consent of two doctors under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

The proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill aims to exempt women who terminate their own pregnancies from being prosecuted this law.

Polling conducted by the abortion provider BPAS and reported by The Times indicates a majority of MPs support ending prosecutions of women who have abortions past the legal limit.

MPs will vote according to their conscience on this issue, which is not bound by party policy – known as a ‘free vote’. Abortion has already been decriminalised in Northern Ireland as of 2019: this was imposed there by the UK government despite abortion being a devolved matter.

Since then, approximately 100 women have been investigated for pregnancy losses, a rise attributed to the increased use of telemedicine for abortion services during the pandemic.

Although the amendment would decriminalise actions by women, it does not alter the 1967 Abortion Act, meaning doctors could still be prosecuted for assisting in abortions past the 24-week limit.

Dame Diana Johnson, the amendment's proponent, argues for treating abortion as a health issue rather than a criminal one, suggesting that the current law is "Victorian".

At CARE, we want to extend love and compassion to all women who are experiencing a crisis pregnancy, and we recognise that in the rare cases where a woman seeks an abortion after the 24-week limit, it is normally amid much emotional pressure and turmoil.

However, we also are highly concerned that amending the Criminal Justice Bill in this way will remove legal safeguards for the unborn. Abortion is not simply another medical procedure. It is a complex matter, which involves two lives, rather than just one, and both should be protected from harm.

If you would like to write to your MP about the proposed changes, you can use our email tool here.

Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash

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In any pregnancy, both the woman and preborn baby have inherent value and dignity, by virtue of being made in the image of God. CARE is passionately pro-woman and pro-life.

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