Abortion laws in the UK are more restrictive than in almost every other European country, where abortion on request is legal in the first trimester of pregnancy.
In England, Scotland and Wales, the Abortion Act 1967 makes it possible to have an abortion up to 23 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy (gestation). In Northern Ireland, Abortion was only legalised in 2019, but remains broadly unavailable.
As a result of the pandemic, the governments in England, Scotland and Wales temporarily relaxed abortion rules in March 2020.
This means that, in every part of the UK except for Northern Ireland, people early in pregnancy can to take abortion pills at home following a telephone consultation. But with COVID restrictions largely eased across the UK, there’s uncertainty over whether this will still be allowed.
Abortion is very safe in Britain and is one of the most commonly performed gynaecological procedures. Ten per cent of GPs consider themselves to be conscientious objectors and refuse to grant women an abortion. Whereas in Italy, 69% of gynaecologists, 46% of anesthetists and 42% of the medical staff are conscientious objectors. The average number of gynaecological units that carry out abortions in Italy is 69% and in the south of Italy, this data lowers to less than 45%. In the region, Molise, there was only one doctor who wasn’t a conscientious objector and a few months ago he couldn’t retire, as there would be no one else to carry out abortions in the region.
We approved the abortion pill RU486, but some regions don’t permit its use and go against the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.
Many women (1 out of 4) are victims of reproductive coercion; they are not free to make their own decisions concerning their bodies, because they are heavily influenced by partners and/or families.
If you google “voluntary termination of pregnancy”, you wouldn’t be able to find a list of facilities that could help you or carry out the procedure. And while in France, from next year contraception will be free for all women under 25, in Italy coitus interruptus is still the most used method (used by 1 in 4 people) - a method that does not protect you from unwanted pregnancies or STIs.
In the 19th century and early part of the 20th century, a succession of laws was brought in to reduce access to legal abortion. These laws effectively controlled women’s lives until 1967. During the 1960s, fertility control became more widespread with the growth of the women’s movement and availability of the contraceptive pill. However, illegal abortion was still killing, or ruining the health of many women.
Each year, 20 million abortions take place in unsafe conditions and as a consequence, an estimated 80,000 women die.
Even today, the right to make a free and safe decision on abortion cannot be taken for granted everywhere; not even in the most “progressive” countries.
1.25 billion people cannot access abortion services. The current crisis is amplifying long-standing challenges in accessing medical abortions.
Texas has approved a ban on abortion, and the same is happening in Poland. And even though Mexico and Argentina just approved laws to legalise abortion, we still have to fight for the right to choose freely to safeguard women’s health, their access to education and contraception.