France makes significant modification to abortion laws, could the UK do the exact same?|World News

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    A group of women holding up signs saying 'It's a choice'.

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    Could advancements throughout the channel stimulate comparable modification in the UK? (Picture: Getty/Rex/ AP)

    ‘I say to all women within our borders and beyond, that today, the era of a world of hope begins.’

    These are the words that called out inFrance’s parliament after a historic vote to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution.

    French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told lawmakers owed a ‘moral debt’ to women who suffered before abortion was legalised.

    The mantra ‘My Body My Choice’ was beamed onto the Eiffel Tower and women spilled onto the streets of Paris to celebrate.

    Abortion has been decriminalised in France since 1975, but this new amendment gives women the ‘guaranteed freedom’ to have an abortion – marking the first time that France has made a change to its constitution since 2008.

    The news comes at a time when access to abortion elsewhere in the world is under increasing threat.

    Members of the public react as the French abortion vote results are announced. French lawmakers make abortion a constitutional right.

    Members of the French public cheered when the vote was passed (Picture: Tom Nicholson/Shutterstock)

    In Poland, a 2020 ruling banned abortion in almost all instances. Two years later, the US Supreme Court overturned a woman’s right to an abortion in a landmark case that sent shockwaves across the nation.

    Meanwhile in the UK, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has long been warning that England and Wales is ‘on the wrong side of history’ when it comes to abortion policy.

    Could developments in France spark similar change here, across the channel? Or, is the right to choice more at risk on our shores than ever before?

    Is abortion legal in the UK?

    The Abortion Act, which was passed in 1967, gives women in England, Scotland and Wales access to abortions through a doctor.

    Two medical professionals are required to sign off the procedure before it can go ahead.

    Around 200,000 abortion procedures take place each year in England and Wales.

    However, a Victorian law means that a woman who procures her own abortion or helps another woman terminate a pregnancy could face criminal charges, including life in prison.

    The 1861 law has been used to prosecute six women in the last 18 months –more than ever before.

    In one case last year, mother-of-three Carla Foster, 45, was jailed for 28 months after she terminated her pregnancy after the legal time limit.

    She was released in July 2023 following an appeal.

    In another case, Bethany Cox, 22, was prosecuted after she used a drug to induce an abortion when she was 19.

     Bethany Cox, 22, pictured leaving Teesside Crown Court this morning in Middlesbrough after pleading NOT GUILTY to charges of child destruction and trying to force a miscarriage unlawfully by illegally carrying out her own abortion during the first Covid lockdown.

    Bethany Cox, 22, from Teeside, faced criminal charges for carrying out her own abortion during the first Covid lockdown (Picture: Terry Blackburn/Backgrid)

    She took the drug at the end of the first Covid lockdown, when access to in-person healthcare was restricted.

    Bethany’s barrister said she was interrogated by police while she was in the ‘throes of grief’.

    She was under investigation for three years while awaiting a trial, which had a ‘profound’ impact on her wellbeing. The charges against her were dropped in January.

    Rachael Clarke, BPAS Chief of Staff, has described the 1861 law as ‘a cruel, outdated law that passed before women had the right to vote’.

    ‘As it stands, England and Wales have the most severe punishment for an illegal abortion in the world – up to life imprisonment,’ she said.

    ‘This is worse than countries and states with severe anti-abortion laws such as Texas, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.’

    Campaigners was abortion to be decriminalised (Picture: Guy Smallman/Getty Images)

    According to Home Office data, there were 40 recorded crimes for abortion in 2021, up from just eight in 2012.

    The co-chair of the British Society of Abortion Care Providers, Dr Jonathan Lord, told the Independent that he is aware of a least 60 criminal inquiries into suspected illegal abortions in England and Wales since 2018.

    Experts say the rise in criminal cases could be partly explained by greater awareness of abortion pills, which can be obtained online.

    If an abortion pill is taken without authorisation from two doctors, a woman could face charges.

    Could the UK enshrine the right to abortion like France?

    Unlike France, the UK does not have a single written constitution. Instead, the UK’s constitution is made up of a series of statutes, conventions and treaties.

    That means the UK could not enshrine a women’s right to abortion in the same way as France, by amending a constitution.

    However, there have been moves to liberalise abortion law in England and Wales.

    MP Dame Diana Johnson is campaigning for an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill to decriminalise abortions in England and Wales.

    Dame Johnson told The Times that ‘the vast majority of people accept that abortion is a healthcare issue between a woman and her doctor.’

    She added that many other countries had already decriminalised abortion, and said she was ‘hopeful’ the amendment would pass.

    Abortion Rights Campaign protests at the US Embassy on May 3, 2022 in London, England (Picture: Getty Images)

    When Johnson announced that her amendment would be voted on in Parliament, some members of the public admitted non X that they didn’t realise that abortion was still criminalised in the UK.

    According to YouGov, 87% of Britons think abortion should be allowed in the UK, and three quarters support changing the law to enshrine a legal right to abortion.

    If the change succeeds, no female would deal with prosecution for looking for an abortion. MPs will vote on the change in March.

    Some pro-life groups have actually stated that the change would make would increase the variety of abortions previous 24 weeks, which is the existing legal limitation.

    Conservative MP Nick Fletcher stated: ‘Decriminalisation of abortion will no doubt end with abortions happening much later, even up until full term.’

    How numerous nations is abortion legal in?

    60% of ladies around the world reside in a nation where abortion is broadly legal. In the last 30 years, significant actions have actually been required to liberalise abortion laws in more than 60 nations.

    However, 4 nations– the United States, Poland, Nicaragua and El Salvador– have all rolled back their abortion rights.

    El Salvador has a few of the strictest abortion laws on the planet. Terminating a pregnancy in all situations is criminalised.

    Joe Biden stands in front of a sign that reads 'Restore Roe'.

    Joe Biden has actually dealt with pressure to bring back abortion rights in the United States (Picture: Rex)

    In 2022, the United States Supreme Court reversed Roe v Wade, which eliminated the right to abortion in the nation.

    That implies that the right to abortion in the United States now differs from one state to another.

    There are near-total restrictions on abortion in 14 states, and 10 additional states have a restriction on abortion before practicality.

    The variety of clients taking a trip to other states to get an abortion has actually doubled given that 2020, according to the pro-reproductive rights Guttmacher Institute.

    Some mentions states, like California, Michigan and Vermont, have specific rights to abortion in their state constitution.


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