MPs debate decriminalising abortion in England and Wales

MPs are due to debate whether to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales.

In 1967, the Abortion Act was passed which made terminations legal subject to doctors’ approval and if a pregnant person can prove they meet predetermined criteria.

However, critics say the law does not go far enough as people who do not meet these conditions who have an abortion are committing a criminal offence. It is thought the growing availability of online abortion pills is increasing the number of terminations women have in the UK, outside of official, licensed clinics. In addition, women are committing an offence if they have a termination after the 24 week limit.

Labour MP Diana Johnson has introduced the debate to the House of Commons, known as a Ten-Minute rule bill, which calls for full decriminalisation.

The bill is backed by the Royal College of Midwives and the British Pregnancy Advisory service.

However, anti-abortion groups say the move could result in more abortions taking place.

The bill only applies to England and Wales.

In Northern Ireland, abortion remains illegal under almost all circumstances, including rape and incest. A number of women have recently been prosecuted for having terminations or helping others to do so. A woman is currently awaiting trial accused of helping her 15-year-old daughter ‘commit’ an abortion by enabling her to access abortion pills.

Last week, Northern Irish police carried out raids on women’s homes looking for abortion pills.

In Scotland, abortion is a devolved issue falling within Holyrood’s remit.

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