Statistics for 2012 (unless stated):
Total population of the UK:
Total female population of the UK:
(of whom 26,542,000 are aged 16+)
Total births/year in the UK:
197,570 (Eng, Wales & Scotland)
Pregnancies ending in abortion:
Approximately 1 in 5
Note: Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland
Totals since 1967
Total abortions since 1967: 7,906,000 (Eng, Wales & Scotland)
Abortions among all women aged 15+: Approximately 1 in 3 of all adult women in the UK will have at least one abortion during their lifetime.
Legal situation in the UK
Abortion was legalised in the United Kingdom (excluding N.I) in 1967 for babies up to 28 weeks in the womb. A later amendment in 1990 reduced the time limit to 24 weeks, however a new clause added at that time allowed for handicapped babies to be aborted up to birth.
However, many would argue that due to the wording of the abortion act – which states that if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion “formed in good faith” that “continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman” then abortion is not an offence – in the vast majority of cases, abortion is actually still illegal; as no doctor could genuinely justify the above statement truly acting in “good faith”.
Main abortion providers
National Health Service hospitals undertook 35% of all abortions in 2012.
The NHS also funded 62% of all privately contracted abortions in 2012, of which the two main providers are:
– Marie Stopes International
– Original ‘family planning’ clinic founded in 1921 in London by the Eugenicist Marie Stopes (b.1880, d.1958).
– Marie Stopes International founded in 1976.
– Today, 17 ‘clinics’ that undertake abortions across England.
– Cost for an abortion: from £545 to £2,040.
– Annual income (2012) £173million (worldwide)
– British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)
– Founded in 1968, the year the abortion law came into effect.
– Today, 19 ‘clinics’ across England, Wales & Scotland.
– Cost for an abortion: from £545 to £1,695.
– Annual income (2012) £27million
Just 3% of all abortions in the UK in 2012 were privately funded.
Public opinion on abortion
2009 MORI poll Should women have the right of access abortion:
• 57% Strongly agree or tend to agree
• 12% Neither agree nor disagree
• 19% Tend to disagree (7%) or strongly disagree (12%)
• 12% Don’t know or preferred not to answer
2005 YouGov/Daily Telegraph
• 57% in favour of 24 weeks or greater
• 28% in favour of 12 weeks or lower
• 6% responded that abortion should never be allowed
2004 Times/Populus poll • 75% believe it should be mostly or always legal
• 20% believe it should “mostly” be illegal
• 4% believe it should “always” be illegal
Recent Developments (most recent first)
In March 2014 an investigation undertaken for Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ television programme revealed that several hospitals across the UK were incinerating the remains of premature babies, with no dignity shown to the foetuses. In some incidences, the babies were thrown in with ‘industrial waste’ and used to provide power to heat the hospitals. As a result of the programme the practice was banned by the government and the babies must now be dealt with in a more respectful and compassionate manner.
In February 2014 the Daily Telegraph ran another series of undercover investigations; this time going into pro-life counselling centres. Their reports filmed a member of staff in one of these centres advising a woman that abortion will increase her risk of becoming a child abuser. Other advice was given with regard to the abortion-breast cancer link. Overall, the story made a few headlines, but was nowhere near as big as the investigation into sex-selection abortions. A number of pro-life commentators in the UK agreed that the staff in these clinics were wrong to have said what they said.
Towards the end of 2013 the Department of Health announced a consultation on proposed new regulations for abortion clinics; in particular with respect to how women are treated in these clinics and what information is given to them. The consultation process was very controversial, not least because it was not publicly announced in the normal way that all government consultations are announced. Additionally the revision of the procedures tried to sneak in certain provisions, including taking away the need for two doctors to have actually met or examined a woman seeking an abortion. The government will issue its final proposals in response to the recommendations later in 2014.
In July 2013 an independent Parliamentary Inquiry into abortion on the grounds of disability was published. The vast majority of those who gave written evidence for the report believed that allowing abortion up to birth on the grounds of disability was discriminatory, contrary to the spirit of the Equality Act, and does affect wider public attitudes towards discrimination. The Commission that published the report recommended a review of the disability provision in the Abortion Act 1967. However to date (April 2014) no such action has been taken. The report was published one year after Britain hosted what was agreed to have been a very successful Paralympics games in London.
In September 2013, The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it will not pursue a prosecution of two doctors who agreed to arrange illegal abortions; in effect making it legal to abort babies based upon their gender. The announcement by the CPS caused much controversy, with many observers stating that the body was in effect defining laws which only parliament has the authority to make. 50 MPs called for a review of the CPS’s decision.
In June 2013, BPAS announced that they would stop performing abortions at their Bedford Square (central London) clinic. This clinic was where 40 Days for Life had just finished holding its fifth vigil outside the clinic, and several other pro-life groups had been praying outside the clinic for many years previously. It was initially announced that the clinic would continue to provide other services, however in February 2014 a 40 Days for Life volunteer saw that the premises were available to rent; making this the first permanent closure of an abortion facility outside of the United States after a 40 Days for Life campaign.
In March 2012 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) undertook a series of unannounced inspections at abortion clinics across the country. They found that 1 in 5 clinics were in some way not following proper standards. The biggest problem they found was the mass ‘pre-signing’ of consent forms by doctors, i.e. authorising women to have abortions without even reviewing their cases. The incident caused much consternation among abortion industry leaders!
In February 2012 the Daily Telegraph ran a series of articles based upon an undercover investigation into sex-selection abortion that they had undertaken. Several doctors at abortion facilities were filmed authorising abortions based upon the fact that the patient didn’t want to have a baby girl. The investigation made headlines for several days and sparked much debate. The doctors caught sanctioning the abortions were removed from their positions at the clinics and the incidents reported to the police.