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RCOG backs decriminalisation of abortion

News 22 September 2017

The Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has voted strongly in favour of supporting the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion in the UK. The College sought a position on this matter as it represents the group of doctors who provide the majority of abortion services across the UK.

The College will now adopt the following statement as its formal position:

The RCOG supports the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion in the UK.

We believe that the procedure should be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures, rather than criminal sanctions.

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 College is not calling for any change in gestational limits for abortion which should remain in place through the appropriate regulatory and legislative process.

We have come to this consensus following a discussion at the RCOG Council, where council members voiced a broad range of views during an informed and considered debate on the needs of the women and girls for whom we provide this very necessary service.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“I am pleased that the Council of our College has voted in support of removing criminal sanctions associated with abortion. Having a formal position on decriminalisation will enable the College to usefully contribute to the debate surrounding what a post decriminalisation landscape might look like.

“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. I strongly believe that the College has a responsibility to protect women’s health by ensuring access to this key healthcare service.

“In 2015 the RCOG Council identified the urgent need to ensure today’s abortion services are safe, readily available and sustainable. This led to the College establishing an Abortion Task Force to help to address issues in training, education and commissioning. The adoption of this position statement is another example of the RCOG standing up for the rights of women and girls on the issue of abortion.”

Kate Brian, Chair of the RCOG’s Women’s Network and member of the RCOG Council, said:

“The Women’s Network were consulted on this vote and we fully support the College’s position on the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion in the UK. The Network appreciates the range of views women hold on this matter, but believes this important step will help improve access to this essential area of women’s healthcare.”

ENDS

Note to Editors

For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on 020 7045 6773 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk. Out of hours, please call 07986 183167.

About the RCOG

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.