Abortion

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We believe that human life begins at conception and therefore the human embryo must be protected and cared for at all stages of its development.

We believe that both the mother and the unborn baby have inherent value and dignity, and we advocate for the health and wellbeing of both persons.

Abortion Statistics

Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2017- Department of Health & Social Care

  • 194,668 abortions took place in England and Wales in 2017. That’s 533 abortions carried out every day.

  • 98% of all legal abortions were carried out for social reasons.

  • Less than 3% of abortions in the UK were performed because of handicap or serious injury to the mother.

  • 9 out of 10 abortions were carried out under 13 weeks in 2017.

  • 39% of women who had an abortion had undergone one or more previous abortions

The Law

The law in England, Scotland and Wales is governed by the Abortion Act 1967, amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Under the Abortion Act 1967, women in England, Wales and Scotland can have an abortion up to 24 weeks, providing the abortion has been authorised by two medical practitioners who believe in good faith, that the woman fulfils one of the 7 grounds that exist for having an abortion (Grounds A-G). The Grounds are:

a. The continuation of the pregnancy would lead to risk of injury to the pregnant woman (section 1(1)(c)).

b. The termination is needed in order to prevent permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section 1(1)(b)).

c. The pregnancy has not exceeded twenty four weeks and the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk greater to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section 1(1)(a)).

d. The pregnancy has not exceeded twenty four weeks and the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk greater to the physical or mental health of any existing children of the pregnant woman’s family (section 1(1)(a)).

e. That there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped (section 1(1)(d)).

f. To save of the pregnant woman (section (1)(4))

g. To prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman (section (1)(4))

Abortion is currently a criminal offence under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929, if it is obtained after 24 weeks and falls outside the Grounds of the Abortion Act 1967. The 24 week upper limit is fairly high when compared with European averages which limit abortions to roughly 12 weeks.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is currently exempted from the Abortion Act 1967 and is governed by sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945. An abortion can only be legally permissible in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. These laws protect the lives of unborn babies, whilst striking a balance with the interests of the mother. 100,000 people are alive today in Northern Ireland because the Abortion Act 1967 was not extended there. 

There is currently considerable pressure to change the law in Northern Ireland. CARE has spoken out publicly about the need to respect Northern Ireland’s life-affirming laws and we argue that this is clearly a devolved issue that is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

Abortion in practice

The most common Ground for an abortion is Ground C. This allows for an abortion to be carried out where “The pregnancy has not exceeded twenty four weeks and the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk greater to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

Though the letter of the law would seem to indicate that continuation with pregnancy poses greater harm, in reality, this Ground is interpreted very loosely despite compelling evidence that abortion itself is more harmful than normal childbirth. The effect of the law is that abortion is, in practice, available on demand for up to 24 weeks.  

Our recent Work

From its beginnings, CARE has advocated for the right to life for the unborn. We are delighted to have been a founding partner of the Both Lives Matter campaign together with the Evangelical Alliance and Life NI. It launched in early 2017 with a report and billboard campaign, highlighting the fact that not introducing the 1967 Abortion Act in Northern Ireland means 100,000 people are alive today who would not have been born had the 1967 Act been applied to the Province. We believe that the existing law in Northern Ireland protects both the unborn child and the interests of the mother.

This claim was vigorously investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), following a complaint. The ASA consulted evidence from a health economist and other experts and concluded that the 100,000 figure was a reasonable estimate of the impact of Northern Ireland’s abortion policy. The campaign then won a prestigious Public Affairs Award for Northern Ireland Campaign of the Year in late 2017.

CARE then intervened, alongside ADF International, in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s challenge to the Northern Ireland abortion legislation. We were represented by Prof Mark Hill QC, a leading Barrister, who argued on our behalf that the existing law complies with human rights requirements and should be upheld.

The Supreme Court found that the existing law in Northern Ireland breached articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, it was held that the Commission did not have sufficient standing to bring the case forward, and the court could therefore not make a declaration that the existing law was incompatible with human rights law, a move that would have essentially bound the Government to review the legislation to make it compatible. Currently the Government is maintaining the stance that abortion is a devolved issue and, despite calls for decriminalisation across the UK, it is declining to move on this position. 

What needs to be done

More needs to be done to:

  • Reduce the abortion limit from 24 weeks to less than 12 weeks, which is more in line with European averages.

  • Clarify the law so that there is no doubt that sex-selective abortion is illegal in the UK.

  • Remove the financial incentives that exist for abortion providers by mandating that women who are presenting for an abortion receive independent counselling and advice before undergoing an abortion.

  • Reduce abortion limits for disabled children so that they are in line with limits on abortion for non-disabled children.

  • Proper access to genuinely independent counselling so that women are made fully aware of the options available to them

Read our latest news on abortion here.

' Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. '

Jeremiah 1:5