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Abortion Act 1967

The Abortion Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom legalising abortions by registered practitioners, and regulating the tax-paid provision of such medical practices through the National Health Service (NHS).

The Abortion Act 1967[1]
Long title An Act to amend and clarify the law relating to termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioners.
Citation 1967 c. 87
Introduced by David Steel
Territorial extent England and Wales; Scotland
Royal assent 27 October 1967
Commencement 27 April 1968
Other legislation
Amended by The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

It was introduced by David Steel as a Private Member's Bill, but was backed by the government, who appointed the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Sir John Peel, to chair a medical advisory committee that reported in favour of passing the bill.[2]

After a further heated political and moral debate, under a free vote, it was passed on 27 October 1967, coming into effect on 27 April 1968.

The Act made abortion legal in all of Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) up to 28 weeks' gestation. In 1990, the law was amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act so that abortion was no longer legal after 24 weeks, except in cases where it was necessary to save the life of the woman, there was evidence of extreme fetal abnormality, or there was a grave risk of physical or mental injury to the woman.

Abortion laws in the United Kingdom remain stricter than in Canada and the United States in that the government does not permit abortion simply on demand. As the UK's health care system is completely government-run, abortion remains officially restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, rape, fetal defects, and/or socioeconomic factors.

In May 2008, there was a parliamentary debate over whether the limit for legal abortions should be reduced from 24 to either 22 or 20 weeks, but no changes were made.[3]

The Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal unless the doctor acts "only to save the life of the mother" or if continuing the pregnancy would result in the pregnant woman becoming a "physical or mental wreck". The situation is the same as it was in England before the introduction of the Abortion Act 1967. The Offences against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 remain in full force.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 7(1) of this Act.
  2. ^ "Obituary" Sir John Peel". Daily Telegraph. 2 January 2006. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "MPs back 24-week abortion limit". BBC News. 20 May 2008. Archived from the original on 30 March 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 

External linksEdit