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Largest study on abortion in the UK finds there is no need for two doctors’ signatures

Abortion  •  7 March 2023  • 4 min read

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Largest study on abortion in the UK finds there is no need for two doctors’ signatures

Media statement

Tuesday, 7th March 2023

On 7th March, SACHA (Shaping Abortion for Change), a consortium of 20 researchers from seven countries, published the largest study on abortion to be carried out in the UK. The pioneering study highlighted support for the decriminalisation of abortion in the UK amongst healthcare professionals.

The study includes a survey of healthcare practitioners, in-depth interviews with women, as well as an assessment of the lessons that can be learned from case studies from around the world. The key findings of the pioneering study highlight the lack of understanding on the law around abortion, the support for the decriminalisation of abortion in the UK and the need to prioritise abortion provision within healthcare training. 

Of those interviewed, a third of women were unaware that abortion was a criminal offence unless signed off by two doctors, whilst 90% of health professionals were in support of abortions being a decision made entirely by that of the person accessing care – and that this should not be a legal issue. 

The study also reflects the changes created by the pandemic, which saw an increase in the use of abortion services through telemedicine. Medical abortions now account for 87% of abortions in England and Wales, and 93% in Scotland. 

These findings, along with the researchers’ recommendations were presented to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the House of Commons on 7th March. Whilst the study is currently being peer-reviewed and is not yet available to read, more information on the study’s findings can be read here

Louise McCudden MSI Reproductive Choices’ UK Advocacy and Public Affairs Advisor said: 

“We have long advocated that the decision to have an abortion should be entirely up to the person who is pregnant. It is heartening to see such strong support for this among health professionals. At this moment of renewed global focus on the importance of reproductive choice, now is the time to act. 

“Abortion is a common, essential healthcare service and it is unacceptable that today, women are still at risk of criminalisation under a Victorian law created in 1861. There is no reason it should require two doctors signing off every procedure and no reason it should sit within criminal law. 

“We welcome the recommendation that those seeking abortion should be offered a choice about where and how they receive care. That’s why abortion should be fairly funded to make sure that the choice of surgical care continues to be available. 

“We agree that abortion should be part of mandatory training for all health practitioners. At MSI, we are sharing our knowledge on providing abortion up to and including the legal limit. However, abortion should be a core part of the curriculum.” 

Notes to Editors  

For interviews and further information please contact:   

Email: press@msichoices.org

Tel: (+44) 07769 166 516  

The Shaping Abortion for Change (SACHA) study charts significant changes in abortion healthcare practice. The study’s recommendations are based on evidence from a survey of 772 healthcare professionals, interviews with 48 women with recent experience of abortion, and consultations with 15 key stakeholders.


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