BMA supports decriminalisation of abortion and NI women not to pay for abortions in rest of UK

It was a bit like dominos

  1. British Medical Association supports decriminalisation of abortion

First, on 27 June 2017, the British Medical Association (BMA) passed a resolution tabled by members of Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion and supported by a number of local BMA chapters that supports decriminalisation of abortion. The resolution that passed was as follows:

That this meeting:-

  1. i) supports the principles set out in part three of the February 2017 BMA discussion paper on decriminalisation of abortion; (see Footnotes below*)
  2. ii) believes that abortion should be decriminalised in respect of health professionals administering abortions within the context of their clinical practice;

iii) believes that abortion should be decriminalised in respect of women procuring and administering the means of their own abortion;

  1. iv) believes that decriminalisation should apply only up to viability in respect of health professionals;
  2. v) believes that decriminalisation should apply only up to viability in respect of women procuring and administering the means of their own abortion;
  3. vi) believes that abortion should be regulated in the same way as other medical treatments.

* Footnotes

  1. Abortion must only be permitted in cases where the woman gives informed consent, or in cases where the woman lacks capacity and an abortion is determined to be in her best interests.
  2. Health professionals must have a statutory right to conscientiously object to participating in abortion.
  3. There should be a central collection of abortion data (subject to agreed appropriate confidentiality protections) to ensure future services are fit for purpose.
  4. There must be clarity about what is, and what is not, lawfully permitted, so that health professionals are clear about the scope of their clinical discretion.
  5. There should be robust clinical governance in settings where abortion care is provided.
  6. There should be the continuation of some degree of regulation and the setting of professional standards in the provision of abortion services.

SOURCES: British Medical Association View the Agenda (PDF), p. 33, and Final Motions Passed (PDF), p.7 ; PHOTO: @BMA_NI

  1. Northern Irish women need no longer pay for abortions in England, Scotland or Wales

Then, following years of advocacy efforts to get women in Northern Ireland treated the same as every other woman in the United Kingdom as regards the law on abortion and access to abortion on the National Health Service, suddenly it was granted without a vote. As part of the fall-out of the recent national elections in the UK, which are too complicated to explain here, the UK Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening, said the Government will ensure that women from Northern Ireland who have to travel to obtain abortions in England will no longer have to pay private fees to access abortions. They will be paid for by the National Health Service.

On 30 June, a spokesperson for the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “The First Minister has already made clear that the Scottish Government would look into the provision of abortion in Scotland to women from Northern Ireland. The Scottish Government’s view is that abortion should be part of standard healthcare for all women, and available free from stigma. The Scottish Government believes that a woman from Northern Ireland, in Scotland, should be able to access an abortion for free on the same basis as women in Scotland and we will set out shortly how that can be achieved.”

Then Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, told the Welsh assembly on 30 June that the Labour administration would match the government’s promise to fund abortions for women travelling from Northern Ireland.

Chairperson for NI Alliance for Choice, Emma Campbell, said “We are delighted at the prospect of beginning to be viewed on equal terms with other UK taxpayers. The cost to NI women to travel due to the archaic abortion laws here are astronomical and put a greater burden on women from lower incomes. However, today’s statement from Westminster does not allow our lawmakers off the hook as every women who needs access to abortion should be able to do so free, safe and legally close to her support networks. It is yet to be clarified exactly how funding will be implemented for people from Northern Ireland accessing abortion on the mainland and today’s declaration means nothing for those who are unable to travel. The most vulnerable and marginalized pregnant people needing access to abortion in Northern Ireland will still be disadvantaged.”

SOURCES: The Guardian, by Elizabeth Nelson, 29 June 2017 ; Northern Ireland Court ruling, 29 June 2017 ; NI Alliance for Choice press release, 29 June 2017 ; E-mail: NI Alliance for Choice, 30 June 2017 ; The Guardian, by Jessica Elgot, 4 July 2017 ; PHOTO