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Joint release on amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill

Press releases  •  28 November 2023  • 4 min read

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Joint press release by Dame Diana Johnson, MSI Reproductive Choices, BPAS, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare and The Fawcett Society.

London, 28th November 2023

  • Dame Diana Johnson has tonight put forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to remove women from the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 in relation to their own pregnancies
  • The amendment would ensure that no woman faces prosecution or jail time for ending her pregnancy
  • Existing abortion laws and regulation remain intact, including the 24 week time limit, the requirement for two doctors’ signatures, and the grounds for abortion provision
  • In the past year in England, five women have appeared in court charged with ending or attempting to end their own pregnancy outside abortion law. This is up from four in total over the previous 55 years
  • The amendment has the support of cross-party MPs, as well as leading medical bodies and abortion providers

Dame Diana Johnson, Member for Kingston Upon Hull North, said:

“Women who are ending their pregnancies outside of the existing law are often immensely vulnerable and doing so under desperate circumstances. It is in nobody’s best interests to threaten these women with outdated Victorian criminal laws that are now 161 years old. My amendment is designed to assert the fundamental principle that no woman should ever face going to jail for ending her pregnancy. In the 21st Century, abortion should be most effectively regulated as a healthcare matter.”

Clare Murphy, Chief Executive at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

“We are seeing an alarming increase in police investigations and prosecutions of women for ending their pregnancies. For every woman who ends up in court, many others are subjected to prolonged police investigations. Now, more than ever, we owe it to women to put an end to the threat of distressing police investigations, prosecution, and jail time for ending their pregnancies.”

Louise McCudden, UK Head of External Affairs at MSI Reproductive Choices, said:

“Our Victorian abortion laws are in urgent need of reform. It can never be in the public interest for anyone to face prosecution for ending their own pregnancy.

“We welcome action from Parliament on this. We have seen growing numbers of women face investigation following unexplained pregnancy losses, often while in extremely difficult circumstances. They should be treated with compassion and given the support they need, not threatened with jail.”

Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“Abortion care is an essential part of sexual and reproductive healthcare and the decision to have an abortion should be entirely up to the individual, without fear of prosecution.

“Abortion, like any other healthcare procedure, should be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures, rather than criminal sanctions.

“It is our belief that prosecuting a woman for ending their pregnancy will never be in the public interest.”

Dr Janet Barter, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, said:

“Abortion care is an essential part of healthcare. It is highly regulated and should be subject solely to appropriate professional standards, in line with any other areas of healthcare.

We fully support the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion, which will help to remove stigma and fear and reiterate to women that they have the right to control their own sexual and reproductive health choices.”

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

“It’s beyond belief that our legal system allows women to be prosecuted or imprisoned for ending their pregnancy. The law that allows this to happen is so old it predates women’s suffrage and it’s in no way fit for purpose in modern-day Britain. It wasn’t written by us, and it doesn’t work for us. We need the system to be changed to better protect all women and we stand with Dame Johnson and welcome her amendment.”

Ends

For further information, please contact:

Name: Kylie Harrison and Grace Dunne

Email: press@msichoices.org 

Telephone: 07769 166 516


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