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Doctors to vote on ending time limit for abortions

 
  • Some 500 doctors will debate decriminalisation at the end of the month
  • It could lead to a call for women to terminate pregnancy up until their due date
  • Currently the time limit stands at 24 weeks from conception
  • Some claim restrictions encourage women to take care of the matter themselves

Sophie Borland Health Editor For The Daily Mail

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Doctors are to vote on whether to abolish the time limit on abortions.

Up to 500 GPs and hospital doctors will debate decriminalisation during a major conference at the end of the month. It could lead to a call for women to be allowed to terminate their pregnancy right up until the due date – and for any reason.

The existing time limit is 24 weeks from conception. Even then, two doctors must agree that continuing the pregnancy would be harmful for either the woman or the unborn child.

Some claim that the restrictions, which date back 50 years, encourage women to take matters into their own hands by buying illegal abortion pills online.

Doctors are to vote on whether to abolish the time limit on abortions (stock image)

Doctors are to vote on whether to abolish the time limit on abortions (stock image)

Doctors are to vote on whether to abolish the time limit on abortions (stock image)

The controversial vote will take place at the British Medical Association’s annual meeting, which begins in Bournemouth this weekend. The fact the issue is being debated at length by such a powerful organisation reflects a shift in opinion among medical professionals and the general public.

Last year the Royal College of Midwives launched a campaign to decriminalise abortions to give women more choice and control over their bodies.

In March the issue was debated in Parliament during a private member’s bill put forward by a Labour MP. The majority of MPs voted in favour of decriminalisation but the bill did not reach the next stage because Parliament was dissolved for the election.

The BMA represents two-thirds of Britain’s 281,000 doctors and acts as their trade union as well as their professional organisation.

The debate is expected to be the most highly charged of the five-day conference. It will take place at the end of a special session to discuss the issue, which is scheduled for June 27.

If the majority of doctors are in favour of decriminalising abortion, the BMA will adopt it as official policy and lobby the Government for a change in the law.

The vote has been put forward by the union’s City and Hackney division in East London, led by GP and Labour activist Dr Coral Jones. It has the backing of several of the BMA’s most senior members including Professor Wendy Savage, who sits on the ethics committee. But others fear a law change will pave the way for abortions on demand.

The vote could lead to a call for women to be allowed to terminate their pregnancy right up until the due date – and for any reason

The vote could lead to a call for women to be allowed to terminate their pregnancy right up until the due date – and for any reason

The vote could lead to a call for women to be allowed to terminate their pregnancy right up until the due date – and for any reason

To prepare for the vote, doctors have been instructed to read a 52-page discussion paper which sets out both sides.

This document claims to be neutral although it has been jointly prepared by several of the doctors in favour of decriminalising abortions including Professor Savage and Professor Emily Jackson, a pro-choice medical lawyer.

It contains no mention of the fact that more and more extremely premature babies are surviving – prompting calls to lower the 24-week limit.

Official figures show that 190,406 abortions were carried out in England and Wales in 2016, a slight fall on the previous year. But there has been a significant rise in abortions among women over 30.

The BMA said the issue had ‘gathered momentum’ following the vote by MPs in March and campaigns to decriminalise abortion.

A BMA spokesman said: ‘The BMA supports the Abortion Act as a practical and humane piece of legislation and does not currently have a policy on the decriminalisation of abortion.

‘We appreciate that this is a sensitive and complex issue, and one on which doctors have a range of views. That’s why there is a special session and two motions on the decriminalisation of abortion for debate at this year’s ARM – in favour and against decriminalisation – ensuring there is an opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard.’

Sturgeon offer on Ulster terminations

Nicola Sturgeon will consider offering Northern Irish women free abortions in Scotland after they were denied the right on the NHS.

The Scottish First Minister said she was exploring the possibility of offering the service to those who risk life imprisonment if they undergo illegal terminations.

Women in Northern Ireland can only legally have an abortion if strict criteria are met, including a serious risk to the mother’s physical or mental wellbeing.

Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish Government is considering offering free abortions to women in Northern Ireland

Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish Government is considering offering free abortions to women in Northern Ireland

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Government is considering offering free abortions to women in Northern Ireland

Last week, the Supreme Court narrowly rejected a claim from hundreds of Northern Irish women, who argued they should be entitled to free abortions on the NHS in England.

Miss Sturgeon’s remarks are likely to anger the DUP, which is in minority government negotiations with the Conservatives.

The party has already unsuccessfully lobbied Miss Sturgeon’s government to try to stop Northern Irish same-sex couples from getting married in Scotland.

Hundreds of Northern Irish women travel to England each year, spending up to £2,000 each to undergo abortion procedures in a private hospital.

 

 

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