Is the 1967 Abortion Act about to get an overhaul?

In our GCSE Religious Studies classes we learn that in England and Wales women have to prove to a doctor that carrying on with the pregnancy is likely to cause harm to health or wellbeing to get permission for a termination. Without this permission, abortion is a criminal offence. There might be changes coming the way of the Abortion law because doctors at the British Medical Association’s annual conference have just voted to scrap that rule.

At the doctor’s annual conference in Bournemouth they decided to stick with the 24 week limit on abortion, but thought the law making abortion illegal should be changed: the majority of doctors were clear that abortion should be treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal one. It will be interesting in the coming years whether the doctors are able to influence the politicians into the same mindset. Resisting such thinking is Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, who said “This decision defies common sense and will dismay thousands of ordinary doctors and nurses with their unprecedented decision.”

Abortion Law debated in Parliament

I was reluctant to report on this in case it confused students doing GCSE Religious Studies, but I think I can keep this simple enough.

In class we learn about the 1967 Abortion Act:


This law basically says that abortion is illegal unless it meets the specific criteria.

Well what we sometimes skip on mentioning in class (sorry guys but time is of the essence) is that another law can affect women’s rights to have an abortion. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 makes it an offence, with the punishment a possible life sentence, if you terminate your own pregnancy. This sentence would also go to a doctor who helped you terminate your own pregnancy. A group of MPs have today won the right to introduce a bill to Parliament to change this law because they say that in today’s age when women can buy abortion pills online and get them delivered in the post they should be able to terminate their own pregnancies in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

Numerous news outlets are reporting the story, such as the Catholic Herald,  and this all comes less than a week since Tory peer Lord Shinkwin failed in his efforts at making all abortions illegal in the UK.

Why are people protesting against abortion in the UK?

Notice: Graphic abortion images ahead. That is what the notice might say just before you walk past a Pro-Life protest outside places like the Department of Health’s headquarters. The protestors are expressing their strong beliefs that abortion is wrong and that the 1967 Abortion Act should be overturned to make abortion completely illegal again in the UK.


A number of pro-life protestors have spoken to a Guardian journalist to explain why they feel the need to protest.

“It was never a choice that I turned from [pro-choice] to [anti-abortion]. I’m a Christian and God got me involved.”

“I found out that we were losing 800 human lives per working day in this country to abortion,” she recalls. “It galvanised me to try to help as many more women as I could, and try to save as many more little lives as I could.”

…”being engaged in Christian ministry, having met a number of folks who’ve experienced the trauma of abortion, I believe abortion is far more traumatic than [going through with an unplanned pregnancy] to a woman later in life reflecting back on the choice she’s made.”

Pope Francis “Abortion is a Grave Sin”

For most of 2016 the Vatican has had a Jubilee year which has been known as the Holy Year of Mercy. Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, has done lots of different things to spread forgiveness. One big events has been that he’s allowed all priests to forgive women for having abortions. Well today in an apostolic letter he extended this ability to forgive.

The 79-year-old Argentine said he wanted to “restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life”, but “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with [God]”.

In our GCSE classes we’ve learnt about repentance – when you fully ask for forgiveness and promise to do everything in your power to not make the same mistake again.

Abortion to be completely banned in Poland

In the Religious Studies GCSE students are able to study whether having an abortion should be a choice open to all women who have an unwanted pregnancy; only available to those whose lives would be at risk if the pregnancy continued; or not available to anyone as abortion is equated to killing a human life. This is a bit simplistic, there are plenty more variations on this theme, but it generally is an argument of allowing a lot of freedom, allowing abortion under very restricted circumstances and not allowing it at all.

In Poland abortion laws were already stricter than in Britain. In Poland abortions are only legally permitted when the life of the foetus is under threat, when there is a grave threat to the health of the mother (the Double Effect), and in the instance that the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. These reasons mostly tie in with Catholic opinions on abortion, though some Catholics say that all abortion is equivalent to murder and is against the Decalogue (10 Commandments).

Well now the law on abortion is about to get even stricter in Poland and some women are so annoyed about the loss of choice that they are saying they’ll go on strike to show their disagreement. Abortion is basically going to be completed banned with all terminations becoming a criminal act, with women punishable with up to five years in prison. Doctors found to have assisted with a termination would also be liable for prosecution and a prison term. There has obviously been some support for this in Poland too, parts of the Catholic church, a left wing political party and an organisation keen to stop all abortions.

According to a poll for Newsweek Polska, 74% of Poles support the retention of the existing legislation, while research by polling company Ipsos indicates 50% of Poles support the strike, with 15% saying they would like to take part. A further 15% expressed opposition.

“My mother is very Catholic, goes to church every Sunday, and is against abortion just because you might not want the child,” says Małgorzata Łodyga, a junior doctor who supports the strike. “But she is against this law, because if a woman is raped, she will be treated worse than the man who raped her.”

In England abortion is legal up to 24 weeks under the Abortion Act 1967. However, if there is a substantial risk to the woman’s life or foetal abnormalities, there is no time limit. There is also no age limit for treatment but it strongly advise that under 16s have counselling before they make any decision to go ahead with treatment.  It is required under law that when someone requests an abortion you will be asked  for your reasons. This is because before an abortion can proceed, two doctors must ensure that the requirements of the Abortion Act are fulfilled, and they must both sign the relevant certificate.