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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
Dates
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Text of statute as originally enacted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.

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.

Contents

Later lawsEdit

Since 1967, members of Parliament have introduced a number of private member's bills to change the abortion law. Four resulted in substantive debate (1975,[3] 1976,[4] 1979,[5] 1988,[6] and 1990[7]) but all failed. The Lane Committee investigated the workings of the Act in 1974 and declared its support.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990Edit

Changes to the Abortion Act 1967 were introduced in Parliament through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. The time limits were lowered from 28 to 24 weeks for most cases on the grounds that medical technology had advanced sufficiently to justify the change. Restrictions were removed for late abortions in cases of risk to life, fetal abnormality, or grave physical and mental injury to the woman. Some Members of Parliament claimed not to have been aware of the vast change the decoupling of the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929 would have on the Abortion Act 1967, particularly in relation to the unborn disabled child.[citation needed]

Politicians from the unionist and nationalist parties in Northern Ireland joined forces on 20 June 2000 to block any extension of the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland where terminations are only allowed on a restricted basis.[8]

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008Edit

There was widespread action across the country to oppose any attempts to restrict choice[9] [10] [11] via the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act) in Parliament (Report Stage and Third Reading 22nd October 2008[12]). MPs voted to retain the current legal limit of 24 weeks. Amendments proposing reductions to 22 weeks and 20 weeks were defeated by 304 to 233 votes and 332 to 190 votes respectively.[13]

A number of pro-choice amendments were proposed Diane Abbot MP[14], Katy Clark MP and John McDonnell MP[15] - including NC30 Amendment of the Abortion Act 1967: Application to Northern Ireland.[16] However, it was reported that the Labour Government at the time asked MPs not to table these pro-choice amendments (and at least until Third Reading) and then allegedly used parliamentary mechanisms in order to prevent a vote.[17] Harriet Harman, in particular, was reported to have blocked the series votes to liberalise Britain's abortion laws. [18] [19] [20] [21]

50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967 (UK)Edit

In May 2017, the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership made a commitment to extend the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland.[22] [23] In June 2017, the UK Government revealed plans to provide some type of free abortion services in England for women from Northern Ireland in an attempt to head off a Conservative rebellion in a vote on the Queen’s speech.[24]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  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. ^ "Abortion (Amendment) Bill (Select Committee)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. 26 February 1975. col. 503–542. 
  4. ^ "Abortion (Amendment) Bill (Select Committee)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. 9 February 1976. col. 100–170. 
  5. ^ "Abortion (Amendment) Bill". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. 13 July 1979. col. 891–983. 
  6. ^ "Abortion (Amendment) Bill". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. 22 January 1988. col. 1228–1296. 
  7. ^ "Clause 34: Amendment of law relating to termination of pregnancy". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Commons. 21 June 1990. col. 1178–1209. 
  8. ^ Birchard, Karen (2000). "Northern Ireland resists extending abortion Act". The Lancet. 356 (9223): 52. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)73390-0. 
  9. ^ "Last chance – Abortion Rights protest tonight - The F-Word". www.thefword.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  10. ^ "Abortion Rights". Abortion Rights. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  11. ^ "Stand up for the Pro-Choice Majority!". pennyred.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  12. ^ Westminster, Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons,. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 22 Oct 2008 (pt 0006)". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  13. ^ "MPs reject cut in abortion limit". BBC News. 21 May 2008. 
  14. ^ Abbott, Diane (2008-07-23). "Diane Abbott: A right to choose? Not in Northern Ireland". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  15. ^ "MPs pushing abortion rights in NI". 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  16. ^ Commons, Table Office, House of. "House of Commons Amendments". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  17. ^ "Harriet Harman shouldn't be blogging on International Women's Day – she's suppressed women's rights for 12 years | LabourList". LabourList | Labour's biggest independent grassroots e-network. 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  18. ^ Watt, Nicholas (2008-10-20). "Harman to block Commons votes on liberalising abortion laws". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  19. ^ Editorial (2008-10-21). "Editorial: Abortion law have fallen victim to political expediency". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  20. ^ Editor, Patrick Hennessy, Political (2008-07-12). "Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman in abortion bust-up". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  21. ^ Elliott, Cath (2008-10-17). "Cath Elliott: Gordon Brown seems determined to stifle even progressive amendments to the HFE bill". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  22. ^ "Manifesto - The Labour Party". The Labour Party. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  23. ^ "Labour would change the law to stop women in Northern Ireland being sent to prison for abortions". The Independent. 2017-05-11. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 
  24. ^ Elgot, Jessica (2017-10-23). "Northern Irish women offered free abortion services in England". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-16. 

External linksEdit