Ethics

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Abortion

BMA policy on abortion

The BMA has a range of policy on abortion, for example: on the decriminalisation of abortion, time limits for abortion, the establishment of 'buffer zones' around abortion clinics, the provision of counselling services and on the Abortion Act 1967. A detailed outline of the BMA’s policy with respect to abortion can be found in 'The Law and Ethics of Abortion: BMA Views'.

 

BMA policy on the decriminalisation of abortion

In 2017, the BMA agreed policy that abortion should be regulated in the same way as other medical treatments. This policy states that abortion:

  • should be decriminalised in respect of health professionals administering abortions within the context of their clinical practice;
  • should be decriminalised in respect of women procuring and administering the means of their own abortion.

This policy was reaffirmed in 2019. To facilitate the debate on this policy, the BMA published a neutral discussion paper 'Decriminalisation of abortion: a discussion paper from the BMA'. This paper, and the update to this discussion paper, provides a guide to some of the key legal and ethical issues raised by the debate around decriminalisation.

The BMA has been clear that decriminalisation does not mean deregulation. Abortion is subject to specific regulations and to professional and clinical standards. In addition, the professional standards, regulations and criminal and civil laws that apply to all other areas of clinical practice also apply to abortion. For example, if abortion is decriminalised, it will continue to be an offence to sell, supply, or make a false representation to procure abortifacients without a valid prescription given by an appropriate practitioner.

The BMA has published a position paper that explains the organisation’s position on this issue in greater detail. In addition, to facilitate better understanding of how abortion will be regulated in the United Kingdom if it were to be decriminalised, the BMA has published the resource 'How will abortion be regulated in the United Kingdom if the criminal sanctions for abortion are removed?'

The BMA recognises the diversity of opinion among its membership on the issue of abortion. Although representing members with a wide range of views, the BMA has clear democratic and representative mechanisms for formally establishing policy on such issues, through its RB (representative body). 

 

Downloads:

How will abortion be regulated in the United Kingdom if the criminal sanctions for abortion are removed? (June 2019)

BMA position on the decriminalisation of abortion (July 2019) 

Decriminalisation of abortion: a discussion paper from the BMA (February 2017)

Update on the decriminalisation of abortion (March 2017)

The law and ethics of abortion: BMA views (updated October 2018)