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RCOG urges Peers to support amendment to retain the 72-hour limit on detention of pregnant women seeking asylum in the UK

3 Jul 2023

Today, the RCOG calls for changes to the Illegal Migration Bill as it passes through report stage in the House of Lords. The Bill proposes significant changes to the UK’s immigration system, including the detention of people arriving in the UK via ‘irregular’ means. The lack of exemption for those who are pregnant removes the vital 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women, a protection that was introduced in 2016.

Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“We are deeply concerned that the Illegal Migration Bill will be extraordinarily disruptive to asylum seeking women’s access to safe antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care, ultimately leading to poorer outcomes for women and their babies.

“The Bill’s proposal to end the 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women is a worrying step backwards in how the UK Government treats women, and would undo vital protections introduced in 2016.

“The medical community has raised concerns about the health impacts of the policies within this Bill on pregnant women. These policies contravene the UK Government’s stated ambitions to address ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in maternity care and halve rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths by 2025. We are urging Peers to consider this bill in light of this ambition, and vote in support of Baroness Lister's amendment to preserve the 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women.”

Notes to editors

  • Policy and governance
  • Pregnancy and birth