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Abortion (Foetus Protection) Bill

The Abortion (Foetus Protection) Bill will bring England and Wales in-line with our EU neighbours, with the gestational time limit for most abortions brought down to 12 weeks, leaving abortions beyond this point to be performed under limited circumstances.

  • The Bill has been brought forward by Baroness Nicholson, former Director of the Save the Children Foundation, and a former member of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights. It received a first reading on Wednesday 5 July.
  • This Bill will bring the gestational time limit for most abortions, which are performed under section 1(1)(a) of the Abortion Act, down to 12 weeks, bringing it in line with the majority of EU countries that have a time limit for most abortions of 12 weeks or lower (see bottom of page for details).
  • The Bill would not affect the time limits for other grounds of the Abortion Act.
    • 1(1)(b) – that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
    • 1(1)(c) – that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;
    • 1(1)(d) – that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
  • There is a large amount of public support for reducing the gestational time limit for abortion.
    • A recent ComRes poll found that 70% of women are in favour of reducing the time limit from 24 weeks.
    • Of those that wanted to see the time limit reduced the largest group wanted to see it reduced to 12 weeks or below.
    • The polling also showed that only 1% of women wanted to see an increase in the time limit to birth, demonstrating that there is very little real public support for the abortion lobby’s stated goal to introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, right through to birth.
  • At 12 weeks a unborn child is fully formed, has a heartbeat and all the organs, muscles, limbs and bones are in place. The baby’s fingers will soon begin to open and close, her toes will curl, her eye muscles will clench, and her mouth will make sucking movements.
  • The latest abortion statistics for England and Wales show that 82.27% of the 180,794 terminations performed under section 1(1)(a) occurred at 9 weeks gestation or earlier.

The BBC have put together details on European time limits in this resource here. We have recently reviewed the time limits stated there to update changes in legislation and put them in the table below.

Country name Time limit for most abortions References
Austria 12 Penal Code (1974), sections 96-98: English / German
Belgium 12 Code Pénal (Penal Code), articles 348-360 (French)
Bulgaria 12 Decree No. 2 (1990) on the conditions and procedures for the artificial termination of pregnancy (English).
Croatia 11 Law No. 1252-1978 (1978), Act concerning the medical measures for materialisation of the right to freely decide on the birth of children (English) Note: This law is the same for Slovenia, as both were part of Yugoslavia when it was passed.
Cyprus No upper limit. Criminal Code of Cyprus (sections 167-169 and 169A) as amended by Law No 59 (1974) and Law No 186 (1986) (no retrievable and entirely up-to-date version online)
Czech Republic 12 Law 66 and Regulation 75 (1986) (English)
Czech Criminal Code, Sections 159-163
Denmark (Mainland) 12 Act No. 350 (1973), Section VII as amended by Law No. 389 (1995) and LBK No. 95 (2008).
Estonia 11 ‘Termination of Pregnancy and Sterilisation Act’ (1998) (Estonian)
Criminal Code of the Republic of Estonia, sections 125-128
Finland 20 Law 239 (‘Abortion Act’) (1970) as amended Law No 564 (1978), Law No 572 (1985), and Law No 328 (2001) (Finnish)
France 12 Loi No. 75-17 du 17 janvier 1975 relative à l’interruption volontaire de la grossesse (Law No. 75-17 of January 1975 Regarding Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy)(French)
Code Pénal (Penal Code) Articles 223-10 & 223-11 (French)
Code de la Santé Publique (Public Health Code) Articles L2222-1 to L2222-4, and L2223-1 to L2223-2 (French)
Germany 22 Strafgesetzbuch (Penal Code), sections 218-219 (English)
Greece 12 Law No 821 (1978), as amended by Law No 1609 (1986), and the Greek Criminal Code, Article 304 (no online access).
Hungary 12 Act LXXIX (1992) on ‘the Protection of the Life of the Fetus’ as amended by Act LXXXVII (2000)
Criminal Code (2012), Section 163
Ireland Available is available in very limited circumstances. Eighth Amendment to (Article 40.3.3 of) the Irish Constitution, modified in practice by ‘X’ Case and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013)
Italy 12 Law 194 (1978) (Italian)
Latvia 12 Sexual and Reproductive Health Law (2002) (English)
Criminal Law of the Republic of Latvia, section 135-136
Lithuania 12 Decree of the Lithuanian Minister of Health (which replaced the former Soviet law) (Lithuanian)
Criminal Code of Lithuania, article 142
Luxembourg 12 Penal Code Articles 348-353, as amended by Law on sexual information, illegal abortion and termination of pregnancies (1978) (French)
Malta None: abortion is totally illegal. Criminal Code, Articles 241-243
Netherlands 24 de facto Criminal Code, Articles 82a and 296 (Dutch)
Directions on the Non-Prosecution of Cases of Euthanasia and Late Abortions (2007) (Dutch)
Law on termination of pregnancy (1981): EnglishDutch
Poland 12 Act on Family Planning, Protection of the Human Fetus, and Conditions for Pregnancy Termination (1993), and Penal Code (1997) (English and Polish)
Portugal 12 Código Penal (Penal Code), Articles 140-142 (Portuguese)
Romania 14 Noul Cod Penal (Penal Code), Article 201 (2014) (Romanian)
Slovakia 12 Law 73 (1986), as amended by Law No 419/1991 (English)
See also Act No. 576/2004 Coll. of Laws on Health Care, Health Care-Related Services, and Amending and Supplementing Certain Acts as Amended by Act No. 345/2009.
Criminal Code of Slovakia, Articles 150-153
Further context (U.N.)
Slovenia 11 Law No. 1252-1978 (1978), Act concerning the medical measures for materialisation of the right to freely decide on the birth of children (English)

Note: This law is the same for Croatia, as both were part of Yugoslavia when it was passed.

Spain 14 Ley 2/2010 Orgánica de Salud Sexual y Reproductiva y de la Interrupción Voluntaria del Embarazo (Organic Law 2/2010 on Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy) (Spanish)
Sweden 18 Lag om abort (Abortlagen) (1974): (Swedish)