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27 June 2013

June digest: Britain’s Abortion Law - What it says, and why

This month's top stories on Reproductive Review.

- 1. NEW BPAS PUBLICATION - BRITAIN’S ABORTION LAW: WHAT IT SAYS, AND WHY

‘Britain’s Abortion Law: What it says, and why’ is based on a briefing organised by Pro-Choice Forum in June 2012, when those working in the abortion service were bearing the full force of the impact of the Daily Telegraph’s sex selection ‘sting’, and the Health Secretary’s decision to launch a wave of shock inspections on abortion clinics.

One year on, we are disturbed to find that the confusion and suspicion introduced by these events persist. Some doctors are still awaiting the outcome of these politically-motivated investigations, and those charged with regulating, or making policy in relation to, the abortion service often hold unclear or contradictory ideas about what the law, and the regulations, actually say.

This pamphlet, published by British Pregnancy Advisory Service, explains that the 1967 Abortion Act was very carefully worded to provide doctors with the discretion to manage the abortion question, according to their own professional judgement. The abortion regulations, similarly, are designed to support the law, which has at its heart the discretion of the doctor.

There is no ambiguity to the law, nor has there been any failure in its ability to act as Parliament intended when it was passed in 1967. Where there has been a failure is in the ability of many to understand the law correctly. This new publication aims to correct this failure of understanding, and reassure medical professionals where they stand in relation to the authorisation of abortions in Britain today.

Contents:

- Key questions and answers about the abortion law
- Recent myths and misunderstandings about the abortion law. By Dr Ellie Lee, Reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent;
- The letter and spirit of the Abortion Act. By Sally Sheldon, Professor of Law, University of Kent;
- The legality of abortion for fetal sex. By Emily Jackson, Professor of Law, London School of Economics;
- Certifying abortions: the signing of HSA1 forms. By Dorothy Flower, Partner, RPC;
- Abortion for fetal anomaly: The legacy of the Jepson case. By Jane Fisher, Director, Antenatal Results and Choices.

- 2. UK: DAVID STEEL ATTACKS ‘REPEAT’ ABORTIONS

A key architect of the Abortion Act has spoken out to warn of the growing ‘problem’ of women having repeat terminations as an alternative to contraception, the Daily Mail reports.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, said:

‘It is unfair to women and wrong for politicians to assume that women can live a modern life and not have the option of accessing abortion services. Too many politicians - particularly as they get older- forget that abortion is a part of life.

‘Women are not using abortion simply as another method of birth control. What is happening is that contraception fails, or sometimes we fail to use it properly. When abortion is legal and easily available, it is not surprising if women use it - and that is not a bad thing.’

- 3. HIGHLY CITED ARTICLE ON HOME ABORTION

The article ‘Women’s opinions on the home management of early medical abortion in the UK’, by Patricia A Lohr, Josephine Wade, Laura Riley, Abigail Fitzgibbon, and Ann Furedi, is one of the five most highly cited articles in 2012 from the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. To celebrate this achievement, the journal has made the article free to read for the next 30 days.

- 4. UK: INTEREST IN NEW PRENATAL SCREENING TECHNIQUES

A new study of non-invasive prenatal screening techniques for Down’s syndrome attracted widespread media coverage.

- 5. EVENT: DIAGNOSES AND DILEMMAS

London, Monday 9 September 2013

In the fast-moving world of prenatal testing, we need to ensure we retain the goal of providing high quality woman-centred services. This one-day conference brings together experts working in the field to explore latest developments and the challenges they present to practice. The day will cover both clinical advances and psychosocial implications for parents.

Organised by Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) and British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), this conference will have something to offer all professionals involved in providing antenatal care and those with an interest in this ethically-charged area of healthcare.

- 6. UK: SUPREME COURT TO HEAR CASE OF ‘CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION’ MIDWIVES

The case of two Catholic midwives fighting for the legal right to avoid any involvement in abortion procedures will be heard at the UK’s highest court, it has been announced.

- 7. USA: TEN-HOUR FILIBUSTER BLOCKS ANTI-ABORTION BILL

Helped by a marathon speech, Texas Democrats have managed to block a bill that would shut most of the abortion clinics in the state.

- 8. USA: BILL PASSED TO RESTRICT TERMINATIONS TO UNDER 20 WEEKS’ GESTATION

The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would introduce strict abortion limits.

- 9. US: ‘MASTURBATING FETUSES’ CLAIM USED TO JUSTIFY ABORTION RESTRICTIONS

An anti-abortion US Congressman has argued that the time limit for abortion should be reduced because male fetuses masturbate.

- 10. ‘AFTER TILLER’ - FILM COMES TO THE UK

In 2009, Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, was murdered at his church in Wichita Kansas.  The film, ‘After Tiller’,  captures the stories of women who need later abortions and the handful of doctors who openly provide this care, and has received excellent reviews. 

‘After Tiller’ will be screened at London’s Barbican on 6 July, followed by a a ScreenTalk with Manuelle Hurwitz of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Patricia Lohr of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

- 11. EVENT REPORT: ABORTION, MOTHERHOOD AND THE MEDICAL PROFESSION

This highly successful conference, jointly organised by BPAS and the Royal Society of Medicine’s Sexuality and Sexual Health Section on 12 June 2013, aimed to move the discussion of abortion care forward by situating it within the range of reproductive issues and experiences that women may have. Read a summary of the presentations here:

- 12. EVENT REPORT: ABORTION IN IRELAND: WHAT THE LAW MEANS FOR WOMEN AND PRO-CHOICE CAMPAIGNERS

This public meeting on 20 June heard from experts working with Irish women and fighting for their right to choose about the current legal situation, the impact this has on Irish women, prospects for change - and how pro-choice campaigners can get involved.

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