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Nearly 90% of Britons support abortion in the UK

Press releases  •  12 October 2023  •  6 min read

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Press Release

London, 12th October 2023

Representatives from across the reproductive rights sector welcome the results of a new YouGov UK poll today that demonstrate once again that Britain is a pro-choice nation. Almost 90% of Britons support abortion being allowed in the UK.

Whilst in many places around the world tension remains around abortion laws, this survey shows a very different situation in Britain where the continued provision of abortion is resoundingly supported. It follows the recent publication of results of polling from the National Centre for Social Research that also found support for a woman’s right to choose is at a record high in the UK.

This year, multiple women have been prosecuted for seeking abortion. However, this survey shows the majority of the population believe women who have abortions outside set rules (for example, having an abortion without the consent of a doctor, or beyond the legal time limits) should not face criminal prosecution.

We are calling on MPs to listen to the public and to take immediate action to reform and modernise our country’s outdated abortion laws. The message from this survey is clear – the British public think that nobody should be sent to prison for having an abortion, and people should be allowed to choose an abortion regardless of their reason for doing so.

Key statistics from the report include:

  • 87% of Britons say abortion should be allowed in the UK.
  • More than half (52%) of Britons say that women who have abortions outside of the rules should not face criminal prosecution – with just 21% saying they should.
  • Three quarters of Britons (74%) support changing the law to enshrine a legal right to abortion.
  • More than six in ten Britons (63%) would support allowing abortions to be approved by a nurse or another medical practitioner, rather than the two doctors needed now.
  • Three quarters of Britons (77%) support a ban on anti-abortion protests outside clinics.

Jonathan Lord, Medical Director of MSI Reproductive Choices UK, commented:

“It’s unsurprising to see such a high level of support for abortion in the UK. Whilst vocal anti-choice groups continue to target women and health providers, they are a small minority in this country and these results have proven that.

“Abortion is one of the most common and safe healthcare procedures in the UK and should be regulated like every other healthcare procedure. We are in complete agreement with the six in ten Britons who support allowing abortions to be approved by a nurse or another medical practitioner, rather than the two doctors needed now which is an overly bureaucratic, expensive and paternalistic policy which puts an unnecessary strain on an already overstretched NHS.

“Those who choose to end their pregnancy should be supported by our legal system and not intimidated and stigmatised for their decision.”

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

“We welcome this polling which once again shows that nearly 90% of Britons support women’s access to safe abortion services. One in three British women will have an abortion in their lifetime, yet the abortion law in England and Wales is one of the oldest healthcare laws in existence at more than 50 years old. It’s time that this is updated. We believe abortion should be regulated in line with other medical procedures, and not be treated as a criminal matter.”

Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said:

“In a year where five women have appeared in court charged with illegal abortion under laws dating back to 1861, it is heartening to see that only 1 in 5 Britons believe this is right. These women are often in hugely difficult circumstances, vulnerable, and may be experiencing domestic abuse or sexual exploitation. The answer can never be criminalising them.

“Across the sector we have seen an escalation in police interest in women – where they have previously determined prosecution is not in the public interest, there is now an increasing drive towards the criminalisation of the most vulnerable of women.

“These women desperately need urgent reform of the law, so today, recognising the overwhelming public support for abortion law reform, we are reiterating the call of 35 healthcare and women’s rights organisations for MPs to urgently act to stop the criminalisation of women.”

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

“We are thrilled to see such overwhelming support from the public for everyone’s right to access abortion services in the UK.

“We welcome the public’s support for removing abortion from criminal law. Abortion care is highly regulated and should solely be subject to appropriate professional standards in line with any other healthcare procedures, not criminal sanctions. Prosecuting a woman for ending her pregnancy will never be in the public interest, it merely causes harm to women (many of whom will be in vulnerable circumstances), their families and wider society.

“We call on the Government and politicians to urgently look to reform our current out-dated abortion laws, recognising that abortion is an essential form of healthcare. It’s time to listen to what the public want.

Ends

Notes to Editors

The YouGov UK poll on the views of British people on abortion is available here. This surveyed the views of 2,098 adults in Great Britain. The survey asked questions around a variety of issues including, the gestation limit of abortions, how accessible abortion care is in the UK, the circumstances that people should be able to get an abortion, the criminalisation of abortion care, who should be able to approve an abortion and whether anti-abortion groups should be allowed outside clinics.

Recent polling from the National Centre for Social Research can be read here. This polling explores the support for a woman’s right to reproductive choice.

For further information or interviews with MSI spokespeople please contact:

Name: Kylie Harrison and Grace Dunne

Email: press@msichoices.org 

Telephone: 07769 166 516


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