Abortion should be treated solely as a medical issue, and not as a crime, the UK's leading pregnancy doctors have said.
Under the current law in England, Wales, and Scotland, it is illegal for a woman to have an abortion without securing approval from two doctors. Shockingly, a woman who fails to do so can still be punished with a life prison sentence.
In Northern Ireland, abortions are only legal if a woman's life is at risk or there is a serious threat to her physical or mental health. However, since June women in Northern Ireland have been eligible to receive free abortions on the NHS in England.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), which represents the group of doctors who carry out the majority of the UK's abortion services, announced on its website yesterday that it has "voted strongly in favour of supporting the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion in the UK."
"Abortion services should be regulated; however, abortion - for women, doctors and other healthcare professionals - should be treated as a medical, rather than a criminal issue," the RCOG said in a statement. The RCOG also said it is not calling for any change to the current 24-week gestational limit on abortions in the UK.
"I want to be clear that decriminalisation does not mean deregulation and abortion services should be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures," the RCOG's President, Professor Lesley Regan, said. "I strongly believe that the College has a responsibility to protect women’s health by ensuring access to this key healthcare service."
In March of this year, MPs voted in favour of a bill calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in England and Wales. A second reading of the bill in the House of Commons was scheduled, but later postponed after the Prime Minister called a general election.