MPs hope to make abortion a real right for women

MPs hope to make abortion a real right for women

A British opposition MP has tabled a text calling for the decriminalization of abortion in England and Wales. Because abortion is not legal there, it is only tolerated, a legacy of the Victorian era, under certain conditions interpreted very broadly by the medical profession.

2 mins

With our correspondent in London, Émeline Vin

If the amendment passes, it will decriminalize abortion in England and Wales. And will put in place legislative barriers to prevent further restrictions. Because until now, abortion is still criminalized for women and for the health professionals who assist them. It is a legacy of the Victorian era. Abortion is only tolerated under certain conditions, including in cases of danger to the life of the mother. Generally speaking, doctors consider an unwanted pregnancy to be dangerous, and therefore, in fact, most of the time it is possible to abort up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

For Labor member Stella Creasy, signatory of the amendment, it is about ensuring that a government cannot restrict abortion, considered a fundamental right by the UN, for political purposes.

Prosecution for illegal abortion

Especially since this “tolerance” in practice does not prevent a real criminalization of this intervention. Between 2012 and 2022, 67 people were prosecuted for illegal abortion. Last year, a mother went to prison for terminating her pregnancy after the limit during lockdown. Every year, dozens of women and girls are investigated for having had an abortion, which, according to the signatories of the amendment, represents an invasion of privacy and a fairly traumatic process. Hence the desire of the signatories to put an end to criminalization, in particular to allow women to have an abortion without having to justify themselves.

The amendment is expected to be considered next week in Parliament. As is often the case on these very divisive subjects, the parties will not give voting instructions and deputies will be able to vote “in conscience”. But not everyone supports the initiative. Moreover, other elected officials, conservatives, have tabled amendments, there to reduce the duration of access to abortion, from 24 to 22 weeks. This amendment is supported by 36 signatories, one more than for decriminalization.

Note that the right to abortion is not uniform across the entire British territory: if, in Scotland, it is similar to the situation which prevails in England and Wales, it is, by against, decriminalized in Northern Ireland.

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