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BMA votes to decriminalise abortion

summer 2017

From triple helix - summer 2017 - BMA votes to decriminalise abortion

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The profession betrays its ethics

On Tuesday 27 June the British Medical Association (BMA) voted to support the decriminalisation of abortion throughout the UK. Delegates at the Annual Representative Meeting (ARM)in Bournemouth passed a six part motion by a two thirds majority. 1

1,500 doctors and medical students signed an open letter 2 urging the BMA not to go ahead and five female doctors, including CMF members, spoke courageously against the measure at the ARM, but to no avail. Currently, abortion is illegal in Britain under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA). 3 But under the Abortion Act 1967 4 doctors can authorise abortions on several grounds relating to the health of mother or baby.

Although the Abortion Act was intended to be restrictive, its provisions are liberally interpreted. One in every five pregnancies ends in abortion (190,406 in 2016) 5 and 98% of these are carried out on 'mental health' grounds. Repealing sections 58 and 59 of the OAPA would render the Abortion Act null and void, dismantling its entire regulatory framework - including the need for two doctors' signatures, the 24 week upper limit, the need for approved premises, licensed drugs, conscientious objection, reporting and accountability. Abortions could then be done by anyone, for any reason, in any way and any where at any gestation up to 28 weeks. 6

If the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, 7 which makes it illegal to destroy a child'capable of being born alive', also fell (the act defines this as 28 weeks although many babies born as early as 23-24 weeks now survive) abortion would be legal up to term.

At the time of writing a new private member's bill is expected to be tabled in parliament to this effect. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the country's leading abortion provider, and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) have campaigned heavily for a change in the law in recent months and have been specific that they are campaigning for the removal of all gestational time limits. 8

The Hippocratic Oath forbids abortion and ironically the BMA in 1947 called abortion 'the greatest crime'. 9 Sadly doctors have now become its most ardent promoters and facilitators.

A recent ComRes poll showed that only 1%of women want the upper limit raised and 70% want it lowered to 20 weeks or below. 10 Let's pray that parliament shows more respect for women and unborn babies than the BMA.

Review by Peter Saunders CMF Chief Executive


1. Bodkin H. Doctors call for abortion on demand as BMA votes to decriminalise terminations for first time ever. Telegraph 27 June 2017


3. Offences Against the Person Act 1861

4. Abortion Act 1967

5. Report on abortion statistics in England and Wales for 2016. Department of Health; June 2017

6. Saunders P. Over 1,000 doctors reject decriminalisation of abortion. Christian Medical Comment 25 June

7. Infant Life Preservation Act 1929

8. We Trust Women

9. Saunders P. Christian Medical Comment 24 July 2011

10. ComRes. Where do they stand abortion survey. ComRes; May 2017

Article written by Peter Saunders

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