Open Letter to Members of Parliament
House of Commons
London SW1A 1AA
16 May 2008
Dear Member of Parliament,
I write on behalf of the members of Voice for Choice and the
undersigned organizations with an urgent request for your support on
an issue of great importance to women, especially young women.
As you may know, some Members of Parliament and the anti-abortion
lobby groups have announced their intentions to put amendments to the
1967 Abortion Act so as to make abortion harder for women to access.
These efforts, to be made via the Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Bill, are particularly aimed at lowering the abortion time limit to
under 24 weeks of pregnancy, for all grounds for abortion.
Only 1.45% of all abortions in this country take place at 20–24 weeks
of pregnancy. Why are these abortions late? Some women experience
delays in referral. Some learn of serious fetal abnormality. For most,
the reasons are: not realising they are pregnant, uncertainty about
what to do, continuing bleeding that they think is their period, fear
of parents' or partner's reaction, denial that they are pregnant,
serious changes in personal circumstances, problems such as domestic
violence, and not knowing where to seek help. These women are
disproportionately likely to be adolescents or other vulnerable women.
Lowering the legal time limit for abortion would certainly punish the
women who could no longer access a safe abortion at 20–24 weeks of
pregnancy, but it would not reduce the need for late abortions, a need
which has been shown to exist across Europe and in almost every
country in the world. In countries where the upper time limit for
abortion is lower than in Britain, women are forced to travel abroad
for abortion care or seek illegal services at great emotional and
financial cost. We call on you to prevent this hardship being imposed
on women here.
The proposed anti-abortion amendment is largely based on claims of
changes to fetal viability. However, even for those who believe that
women's rights to abortion should be linked to the gestational age at
which extremely premature babies can survive, the medical and
scientific evidence from the recently published Epicure II study and
other research is unequivocal. The findings show that survival rates
below 24 weeks of pregnancy have not improved since the Abortion Act
was last amended in 1990.
The UK Government, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee,
and medical, nursing and scientific professional bodies have examined
the evidence, and all agree that there is no compelling evidence to
support lowering the abortion time limit.
Please support women in the UK by voting in support of the current
legal time limit on abortion.