The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) welcome Diana Johnson MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill on the decriminalisation of abortion, which will be introduced in Parliament today.
The RCOG and FSRH believe that abortion should no longer be treated as a criminal offence. Both organisations believe that women should be able to access safe and legal abortion care wherever they live in the UK, including Northern Ireland, and that the procedure should be treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal matter and regulated in the same way as all other healthcare procedures.
In September 2017, the RCOG’s Council voted in support of removing criminal sanctions associated with abortion to improve women’s health by ensuring access to this essential healthcare service. FSRH’s position on decriminalisation of abortion was reached following in depth discussions and a vote at FSRH Council in October 2017.
The Bill proposes to decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Bill will not remove regulatory frameworks that guide abortion care. Abortion care would continue to be provided in line with current medical guidance and only by qualified healthcare professionals.
Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:
“It is absolutely crucial that women should be able to access high quality, safe, legal and compassionate abortion care services, regardless of where they live. The RCOG fully supports the removal of criminal sanctions associated with abortion care in the UK.
“We urge Members of Parliament to use this unique opportunity to address the inconsistent and unequal access to abortion care services across the UK, including in Northern Ireland, and to provide the best possible care for women.
“It is important to note that decriminalisation does not mean deregulation. Abortion care services should continue to be subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures.”
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“Diana Johnson’s cross-party bill is a very significant step to secure women’s reproductive health rights and guarantee equal access to healthcare across the UK.
“Because of an outdated legislative framework, hundreds of women resident in Northern Ireland have to endure long journeys, sometimes in pain, to access abortion care in England. They also face enormous challenges when they travel back to their home country in need of post-abortion care.
“All women should be able to access safe, legal, high-quality abortion wherever they live in the UK. These services should include good pregnancy decision-making support, contraceptive services and access to post-abortion counselling if needed.
“We urge Members of Parliament to put an end to the harassment and stigma for women who consult for abortion care and healthcare professionals who provide this service in the UK.”
Note to Editors
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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.
About the RCOG Taskforce
The RCOG has identified the urgent need to ensure abortion services are safe, readily available and sustainable. Changes to the way abortion care is commissioned and delivered is having an impact on doctors’ access to training and women’s access to services. In order to address these issues, the RCOG has established an Abortion Task Force, led by President Professor Lesley Regan. The College has agreed to work collaboratively with the main independent-sector providers to seek system-wide solutions to ensure that women have access to safe, sustainable, high-quality care. The RCOG supports decriminalisation of abortion in the UK.
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ. For more information please visit: www.fsrh.org