UK parliamentary group takes strong stance on abortion

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On March 8, International Women’s Day, the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Population, Development and Reproductive Health released a report calling for the UK government to support safe abortion at home and abroad.

In November, the APPG held a series of hearings in the British Parliament to gather evidence for the report. Ipas’s Gillian Kane, senior policy advisor, provided expert testimony: “It is no longer politically or morally acceptable for governments or international bodies to use arguments of culture or religion to avoid creating a supportive policy and legal framework for safe abortion that would eliminate a major cause of maternal death and injury.” Kane was one of more than 20 representatives from civil society organizations called on to testify.

The resulting report addresses abortion in the UK and globally, law reform, service delivery, criminalization of abortion, barriers to access and the future of abortion care:

Young women, poor women, and women in conflict situations are particularly vulnerable. There are many obstacles to safe abortion care including religion, stigma, lack of access, lack of information and trained personnel and anti-choice activity.

Medical abortion is making huge inroads globally and making more abortions safer. While this is good news, there is considerable work to do to train health providers and pharmacists and to ensure women know their options. While some developing countries have liberalised their abortion laws, this careful policy work continues to need support.

Among many recommendations, the AAPG called for:

  • More support from DFID, the UK Department for International Development, to countries to increase access to safe and legal abortion
  • Global expansion of medical abortion
  • Legal reform to allow community health workers, pharmacists, nurses and midwives to provide abortion
  • Increased access to abortion in conflict settings
  • Decriminalization of abortion
  • Support for comprehensive sexuality education that includes contraception and abortion

DFID reinforced the report recommendations, reiterating that safe abortion is a crucial element of the full range of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights services.