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Extreme self-abortion up to birth amendment retabled

Pro-abortion MP Diana Johnson has retabled her extreme abortion amendment which would remove offences that make it illegal for a woman to perform a self-abortion at any point right through to birth.

Last week, during the Committee stage of the Government’s flagship Criminal Justice Bill, Johnson’s original amendment, which intended to make it legal for a woman to perform a self-abortion at any point right through to birth, was withdrawn and not voted on. However, earlier this week, Johnson retabled an almost identical amendment.

Johnson’s amendment would create a situation whereby women can perform self-abortions with no deterrent regardless of any regulations that may be introduced for abortion providers. Her amendment would therefore mean abortion is de facto deregulated for women who acquire abortion pills either by misleading abortion providers or through other means, since they would be free to take the pills at any gestation, rendering regulations worthless.

The abortion limit is currently set at 24 weeks (around 6 months gestation) but abortion is permitted up until birth if the child is thought to have a disability.

The abortion time limit needs to be reduced

The introduction of a 24-week gestational limit in 1990 was significantly motivated by the results of a Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) working party report on neonatal survival rates before 28 weeks of gestation.

During the debates ahead of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 becoming law, a number of MPs specifically tied the abortion limit to the point at which a child is “capable of being born alive” and noted that this was the rationale for setting the 28-week limit in the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929.

Similarly, when the question of abortion time limits was revisited in 2008, the lowering of the abortion time limit in 1990 was again linked to the increased survival rates for babies born before 28 weeks gestation.

The current gestational limit for abortion of 24 weeks is already very late compared with other countries, and is at a point when the baby has already been fully formed for 12 weeks.

The most common abortion time limit across Europe is half that of the UK

In most European Union (EU) countries, abortion is only legal on demand or on broad social grounds up to 12 weeks gestation, making legislation in the United Kingdom double the median among EU countries.

When compared to almost every European Union country, it is clear that the United Kingdom is an outlier.

Even “liberal” Nordic countries like Denmark and Finland have an abortion limit half of that in the UK. Among the 27 countries that are member states of the European Union, two countries only allow abortion in very limited circumstances, three have a time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds at 10 weeks, one country at 11 weeks, 15 countries at 12 weeks and 3 countries at 14 weeks.

Countries with 12-week limits for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds include Germany and Belgium as well as the more “liberal” Nordic countries Denmark and Finland. Even Sweden has a time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds that is much lower than the United Kingdom at 18 weeks.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said “The retabling of this extreme amendment is alarming though not unexpected. Johnson’s amendment will ensure there is no deterrent from having abortions past the current 10-week cut off for at-home abortions”.

“A recent Government review of abortion complications in England between 2017 and 2021 has revealed that the complication rate for medical abortions is 160.33 times higher for abortions at 20 weeks and over when compared to medical abortions that occurred at 2 to 9 weeks. The complication rate is likely to be much higher for women performing their own abortions at home without medical supervision well beyond the current 24-week time limit”.

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