Boris Johnson: Make Abortion A Medical Issue Not A Criminal Offence #ImACriminal

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Most people don’t realise that in 2019 abortion is still technically a criminal offence in England and Wales because of a Victorian law: the 1861 Offences Against The Person Act

If you didn’t know that, you are in good company because a recent poll of over 1,000 Refinery29 UK readers showed that 90% of them had no idea. 

This is personal for me. 

Back in the early ‘60s, I was married and in my late 20s with three children under the age of four. I became pregnant and knew I couldn’t have another one so I paid a doctor for an abortion. Coming round from the anaesthetic I vividly remembered an acquaintance who, in a similar situation – only without a chequebook to wave in Harley Street – went to a backstreet abortionist. She died.

As a result, I started campaigning for abortion rights. This resulted in the 1967 Abortion Act, which made it legal to access abortion under certain circumstances. 

While this law was groundbreaking and has helped millions of women, it didn’t decriminalise abortion. The law still states that unless two doctors decide a woman meets legal criteria for an abortion, it is a criminal offence. Medical experts all say there is no reason for this and agree that it’s time for abortion to be treated as a medical and not a criminal issue. 

This is not a theoretical discussion, it has real-world implications: women have received criminal records for buying abortion pills online in the UK because waiting times for the procedure are too long. 

As I sat outside parliament, celebrating with fellow campaigners the day after the 1967 Act was passed in the House of Commons, I couldn’t help but feel there was more to be done. Champagne was poured and I said: “I only want half a glass because the job is only half done.” 

That’s why I’m campaigning with Refinery29 on their #ImACriminal campaign.

Together, we’re calling on the Prime Minister to act. The 1967 Abortion Act no longer meets women’s needs and prevents women from getting the best possible medical care. 

We want the Prime Minister to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales once and for all. 

The 1967 Abortion Act has served millions of women well and prevented thousands of deaths from dangerous backstreet and self-performed abortions. But its time is up. Abortion is a medical and not a legal issue, and it’s time the law reflected that.

This week, abortion is made legal and decriminalised in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland will go from having the most restrictive abortion law in the UK to the most progressive. The rest of the UK now lags behind. 

Join with me in supporting the #ImACriminal campaign by signing this petition. Together, we’re saying that abortion is not a criminal offence. There is no need for shame or stigma. Women must be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives. 

Let’s change the law together. Then, I can drink my other half glass of champagne. 

Diane Munday & Refinery29

Photo by Poppy Thorpe for Refinery29