Reproductive Freedom: The UK’s stance.

26th July 2022 Business Crime

The reversal of the USA landmark case, Roe v Wade 1973, has sparked conversation across the globe with restrictions to women’s reproductive health now being the main topic of discussion in most political settings.

Current Position on Abortion  

The Abortion Act 1967 currently gives permission for doctors to provide an abortion if two clinicians decide that the pregnancy would hurt the pregnant person, or their family’s, physical or mental health more than if the pregnancy were terminated. Otherwise, abortion remains a crime in Britain.

This framework is different to other European countries, where abortion is available upon request of the female and not the doctor’s opinion. 

Criminalisation of Abortion  

Abortion still remains a crime, under the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA), where an individual has procured abortion medication and induces an abortion by any means. This charge carries a maximum life sentence if convicted.

During the pandemic, it became the norm to send the abortion pill via post due to social distancing protocols. Therefore these pills could be used at a later date or passed on to another which would be a criminal offence.

Medical professionals are also affected by the criminalisation of abortion as only doctors can provide abortions. Some midwives may be able to provide the abortion medication in the case of miscarriage only. Even Doctors who are authorised to permit abortions, are reluctant to authorise procedures due to criminalisation being associated with the act. 

United Kingdom’s response

As seen in our own House of Parliament, it was brought forward to Dominic Raab to consider amending the current Human Rights Bill to enshrine the act of Abortion. This was rejected on the basis that Mr Raab believed the matter was ‘settled in UK law’ and it is a ‘conscience issue’ which does not need to be relitigated.

Many MPs disagreed with the Justice Secretary including Stella Cracey MP who is said to be tabling an amendment to the Bill to give women the fundamental right to an abortion in time for the second reading which is currently in progress.

How we can help 

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This blog was co-authored by Mike Rainford and Elisha Kaur.

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Mike Rainford is a Partner located in Manchester in our Business Crime & Regulation department

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