Posted in Uncategorized

Abortion: FAQs


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 6 out of 10 unintended pregnancies and 3 in 10 of all pregnancies worldwide end in abortion. Lots of people choose to get abortions and it is a very common experience.


Pregnant people seek abortions even where it is difficult and/or illegal to access them. Amnesty International points out that abortion rates are 37 per 1000 people in countries where they are prohibited (for example illegal or only available in rare circumstances) and 34 per 1000 where abortions are broadly allowed by law. These rates are very similar, suggesting that making abortions illegal does not stop people from needing, seeking and having them. Criminalising abortion can however, make it more dangerous. The WHO lists unsafe abortion (e.g. where it is illegal and not available from a healthcare facility) as the leading cause of (preventable) maternal death.


One is medical – where someone takes medication to end a pregnancy. The other is surgical, which involves a procedure to remove the pregnancy from the womb.


All types of healthcare and lots of the things we do everyday involve some sort of risk. People have pointed out that having a (legal) abortion is safer than giving birth, running a marathon, having your tonsils out or taking viagra.


We have already seen that abortion is common worldwide. We also know that people of many religious faiths choose to have abortions. Many people oppose abortion on religious and/or moral grounds. But having access to legal abortioncare does not take away an individual pregnant person’s right to decide if abortion is spiritually or ethically okay for them.


Having an abortion is sometimes equated to ‘killing a baby’. Up to 24 weeks of development, a foetus may have some features which can look human-like. But up to this point, a foetus cannot feel pain. These collections of tissue also do not function as organs in a fully developed human would – to the point where a foetus at this stage would not be able to sustain itself outside of the womb.


Criminalising abortion disproportionately affects people who have been socially marginalised – for example by reason of race or income. Access to good, safe and legal healthcare – including access to abortioncare – is needed by everyone who can get pregnant and is an important part of reproductive rights.

Further Information:

  • Abortion Rights – organisation campaigning for access to safe, legal abortion in the UK.
  • We Trust Women – Campaign from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to decriminalise abortion in the UK.
  • Planned Parenthood – US based organisation that provides and campaigns for reproductive rights.
  • Women on Web – an online based, international abortion service.
  • Centre for Reproductive Rights – (annual report) organisation that uses the law to advance reproductive rights around the world.
  • FSHR-RCOG – abortion factsheet.

Many thanks for support and advice on producing this information from friends and colleagues, including Maria Lewandowska (Researcher in Reproductive and Sexual Health), M and L.

Posted in reproductive rights

Bound and Gagged

As a new President has been elected in the US, you might hear campaigners in sexual health talk about ‘The Global Gag Rule’. But what is it and why does it matter to people working in sex and relationship education?

The Global Gag Rule is US policy which forbids NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations – for example, health charities) from taking part in certain activities if they receive US funding.

These activities include providing abortion care directly. But it also includes referring pregnant people to abortion services, simply providing them with information about abortion, or campaigning around legal reform in this area.

So NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) that want to receive US funding are effectively ‘gagged’ from working in abortion care – hence the name.

This policy was originally called The Mexico City Policy and was first introduced by the then President Reagan in 1984. Under the Mexico City Policy, the ‘gag’ applies to all of the work that an NGO does. For example, an organisation cannot use funds from another source to fund work in abortion care.

How big a deal is this? Well the US provides a huge amount funding to overseas NGOs. The US can be a major source of funding for NGOs. The Global Gag forces them to balance the importance of abortion care with the need for financial stability.

In addition to this, US culture and political ideology is hugely influential around the world. This is true, even if you are living in a high income country which doesn’t rely on overseas funding from foreign powers, like the UK.

The US position on abortion care is really important right now, at a time when some countries are rolling back on abortion laws – for example in Poland.

Remember, the WHO (World Health Organisation) recognises that abortions are both incredibly common and also continue to take place where they are not legally allowed – but in unsafe conditions.

So why are we talking about the Global Gag Rule at this particular time? Well, since it was first introduced this policy has been removed and reintroduced several times. There has been a pattern of Presidents from the Democratic Party to overturn the Global Gag Rule, and for it to be reinstated the next time a Republican President gets in to power.

The outgoing US (Republican) President – Donald Trump – is noted to have reinstated the Global Gag Rule. In fact, some people say that his version of the Mexico City Policy made it even more restrictive – for example by making it apply to all of the global health assistance funding, not just that set aside for family planning.

Many people hope that new US President will, as the pattern has been, remove the Global Gag Rule and allow NGOs to be supported in providing essential health care. At the time of writing this, there is an international petition to call on him to do just this.

Posted in reproductive rights

Come on Ireland, #RepealThe8th

On Friday, The Republic of Ireland will vote on whether or not to repeal the 8th amendment.  This is a piece of legislation from the1980s which acknowledges the ‘right to life of the unborn’, guaranteeing a fetus ‘equal rights’ to the pregnant person carrying it.  This means that terminating a pregnancy in the island of Ireland is effectively illegal in all circumstances.  Many travel to the England and Wales for termination with more illegally obtaining pills online (IFPA).

Abortions are requested for many reasons. To me the individual reasons are not important. Your body, your choice.

Broadly speaking, terminations are either medical (tablets are given to make entrance to the womb open and the uterus contract) or surgical (instruments are used to remove the products of conception from the womb).

The body that regulates doctors in the UK who perform such procedures has this to say:

Abortion is a safe procedure for which major complications and mortality are rare.’


‘Women with an unintended pregnancy… are no more or less likely to suffer adverse psychological sequelae whether they have an abortion or continue with the pregnancy and have the baby.’ 

-RCOG, 2011

Nevertheless, the abortion act of 1967 does not extend to Northern Ireland.  Even within it’s borders, these citizens of the United Kingdom must travel to England or Wales to access abortion care.

From my home in England I’ve been watching the ‘Yes’ campaign, mainly through the medium of twitter.  I wish all of those who want greater freedom and reproductive rights luck on Friday and hope that their hard work is rewarded.




Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The Care of Women Requesting Induced Abortion. Evidence-based Clinical Guideline 7. London: RCOG Press; 2011

Posted in reproductive rights




In the UK, the Abortion Act 1967 made termination of pregnancy up to 28 weeks’ gestation legal. There has been tinkering around the edges with this, and of course Northern Ireland is currently exempt, which sees many women still obtain abortions, but privately in the mainland.



To the Teenager who thinks

She’s just not ready to be a parent.

To the thirty-something year old who knows

They never will be.


To the Mum of three who feels

That she is already so stretched,

That she just doesn’t have it in her

To keep another whole.


To the nulliparous (childless) woman,

With a freshly painted nursery on standby,

As she lies back and begins to comprehend

The ultrasound image and the heartbreak it conveys.


To those who can’t.

Don’t want to.

Not right now or maybe ever.

To each and every one of you.


You have



They are yours alone to make.