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MPs asked to remove legal protections against late-term abortion

  • Stella Creasy MP seeks to remove legal prohibitions on abortion; risks legalising abortion up till birth
  • New government data exposes high rate of health complications resulting from abortions post-20 weeks 
  • “Pills by post” scheme now reduces medical oversight, leading to dangerous “DIY abortions” 


LONDON (1st December 2023) – Amendments being introduced to the Crime and Justice Bill this week seek to remove protections against late-term abortions in the UK. 

The proposal by Stella Creasy MP seeks to repeal sections 58, 59 and 60 of the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA) 1861, asking to remove most, if not all, of the remaining prohibitions on late term abortion. 

“The Secretary of State must by regulations make whatever changes appear to the Secretary of State to be necessary or appropriate for the decriminalisation of abortion,” reads the amendment. 

Lois McLatchie Miller, Senior Legal Communications Officer for ADF UK, said: 

“Our laws should protect women and their babies from harmful and traumatic abortion outcomes. 70% of UK women would like to see the UK’s 24-week limit on abortion lowered to something more humane. At 24 weeks (almost 6 months), a child in the womb is fully formed, can feel pain, and is increasingly able to survive in the outside world. UK abortion laws are already more extreme than most countries in the EU, where the median time limit on abortion on most grounds is 12 weeks.  

In 2023, we can recognise that abortion is far from a win for women. No little girl dreams of having an abortion when she grows up – yet year on year, more and more women feel that they must undergo this ordeal, which is linked to increased risk of anxiety, alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts. Women – and their babies – deserve far better than this.” 

Counter-calls for improved medical care 

Creasy admitted in a recent parliamentary debate that the “pills by post” abortion scheme could be partly responsible for a recent rise in court cases regarding late term, illegal abortions in the UK. 

A bill introduced in the House of Lords this month seeks a review into the risks posed to women due to the scheme, which removes the need for in-person appointments for medical examinations and counselling, leaving women to self-perform abortions at home. In particular, the review would assess the risks in regards to health complications, and undetected cases of abortion coercion. 

 15% of women who have had abortions in the UK say they felt pressured into the decision. 

Carla Lockhart MP has launched an Early Day Motion this week calling for the government to reject the removal of legal safeguards as proposed by Creasy, and instead embrace efforts to re-introduce medical supervision for abortions that will ensure better protection for women and their babies. 

Abortion could become available beyond 6 months gestation 

It is as yet unclear whether Creasy’s amendment, which asks the government to make whatever changesnecessary or appropriate for the decriminalisation of abortion”, also would repeal the Infant Life (Preservation) Act (1929), which protects children’s lives post-viability (which in 1929 was identified at 28 weeks gestation, though is now earlier due to medical advancements). If it does, this could see the UK permitting abortion through all 9 months of pregnancy.  

A second proposal to remove prohibitions on abortion has been tabled by Diana Johnson MP.  

Johnson’s amendment seeks to remove women from the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929; which would remove an important legal deterrent which prevents women from self-performing dangerous late-term abortions. There is no indication at this point that the amendment would allow abortion providers to carry out the procedure beyond the current legal limit.  

The amendments could be voted upon in early 2024. 

Dangers of abortion in the UK 

The move comes despite new government data this month exposing the risks that later-term abortions pose to women’s health. The government data states that medical abortion performed at 20+ weeks has a complication rate 160x higher than that of abortion under 10 weeks.  

As well as being causally linked to anxiety, suicidality, and drug and alcohol misuse, immediate and common complications of abortion can, according to the NHS, include hemorrhaging, sepsis, damage to the womb, and infection. 

A recent government review noted that complications may be less likely to be recorded for abortions where either both or one of the abortion medications is administered at home. Abortions where both abortion medications were administered at home account for 52% of all abortions in 2021. 

A recent investigation found that 1 in 17 women – around 20 a day – who used the pills by post service in 2020 to administer their own abortions at home, had to present at hospital as a result.

A GB News investigation found that ambulance dispatches and 999 calls responding to abortion pill concerns rose by 64% between 2019 and 2022. 

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