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Large majority in UK wants abortion time limit reduced

By Susan Gately - 26 May, 2017

16-week-old unborn baby in the womb.

In the run-up to the British General Election on 8 June a major pre-election poll on abortion shows that 7 out of 10 women in the UK support reducing the abortion time limit to 20 weeks or below.

Currently under the 1967 Abortion Act, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks once two doctors are satisfied that a woman’s mental or physical health is in danger. Beyond 24 weeks, abortion is legal in cases of severe foetal abnormality. The Act does not apply in Northern Ireland.

The poll by ComRes for ‘Where do they Stand’ reveals that 70% of women want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or less and only 1% want the time limit extended to birth.

“The figures from the poll fly in the face of a campaign which seeks to remove time limits altogether from abortion law,” said a spokesperson for ‘Where do they Stand’, a pro-life movement seeking to inform voters of the intentions or record of election candidates.

“The campaign, headed by abortion provider BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service), bears the title ‘We Trust Women’ – but it appears that most women in the UK do not share the campaign’s goal of introducing abortion for any reason up to birth.”

ComRes, a market research consultancy and one of the UK’s best-known polling companies, interviewed 2,008 British adults online between 12 and 14 May 2017. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults.

The survey found:

  • 91% of women believe that gender-selective abortion should be made specifically illegal.
  • 93% believe that a pregnant woman should have a legal right to independent counselling before making a final decision.
  • 77% believe that a doctor should be required to verify that a woman is not under pressure from a third party before having an abortion.
  • 59% of women would like the abortion time limit lowered to 16 weeks or lower.
  • 84% of women believe that pregnant women who want to continue with their pregnancies, but who are under financial constraint, should be given additional and appropriate support.
  • 1% want the abortion time limit raised to birth.

The polling also showed strong support from both men and women on a number of other changes to abortion law.

  • 65% of people said they were opposed to UK aid money being spent on abortions overseas.
  • 79% said that they were in favour of introducing a five-day consideration period between the time that a woman seeks an abortion and the abortion appointment itself.
  • 70% of parents want the introduction of parental consent for girls aged 15 and under to get an abortion.

According to the most recent statistics available for the UK, 185,824 abortions took place in England and Wales in 2015. A further 12,082 abortions were performed in Scotland.

The 1967 Abortion Act does not apply in Northern Ireland, but the Labour manifesto for the 2017 General Election commits the party to extending the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland, if Labour is elected to government.

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