Monday briefing: Abortion is safe, supported, and available in the UK. Why is the law so complicated? | Abortion


Good morning. The US supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade ten days ago was vastly consequential for the millions of American women who will now be denied the right to an abortion – but it also reverberated around the world.

One consequence of the UK’s renewed attention to a confusing legal picture has been a renewed focus. Most women in the UK have access to abortion without restrictions and without controversy, thanks to widespread public support.Boris Johnson is currently facing backlash due to the promotion of Chris Pincher, his ally. Pincher was accused by two party staffers of having groped two men and resigned as deputy chief whip. And yet the blunt fact remains that abortion is still, technically, a criminal offence – and persistent exceptions and complications can be a real barrier for the women who need help the most.

For today’s newsletter, I spoke to Kaye Wellings, a professor of sexual and reproductive health research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who – at a moment of heightened anxiety – gave an incredibly helpful guide to how all of this plays out in principle and in practice. That’s right after the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. Conservatives | Boris Johnson is facing a backlash over the promotion of his ally Chris Pincher, who resigned as deputy chief whip over allegations that he groped two men. A group of party staffers accused Johnson of a “failure to act on warnings”His MPs were guilty of sexual misconduct.

  2. Cost of livingExclusive research with the Guardian found that half of children in single-parent families live in relative poverty. | Half of children in lone-parent families are now living in relative poverty, exclusive research shared with the Guardian said. The relative poverty rate for children in single-parent families has increased at a faster pace than other households.Three people were killed and one suspect was arrested and charged with manslaughter following gunfire at a busy Copenhagen shopping center. Emergency services were quick to arrive on the scene on Sunday evening.After taking control of the last Ukrainian-controlled city, Russia claims it now controls Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk.

  3. Denmark | Three people were shot dead and one suspect has been arrested and charged with manslaughter after gunfire at a busy Copenhagen shopping centre, with emergency services rushing to the scene on Sunday evening.

  4. Ukraine | Russia has said it is in control of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region after taking over the last Ukrainian-controlled city there. Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said “full control”Founded over Lysychansk.

  5. Theatre The groundbreaking British director Peter Brook, whose huge influence reached around the world, has died at the age of 97. | The groundbreaking British director Peter Brook, whose huge influence reached around the world, has died at the age of 97. The Guardian was informed by Ben Kingsley, actor. “His genius continues to guide us.”

In depth: The theory of abortion in the UK

Placards in support of a Public Space Protection Order are placed outside the Marie Stopes Abortion Clinic by a pro-choice group on October 27, 2017 in London, England.
Placards supporting a Public Space Protection Order were placed outside Marie Stopes Abortion Center by a pro-choice group in London, England, on October 27, 2017.Photograph by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Dominic Raab insisted that the UK bill had already included the right to abortion when he was asked by a journalist to do so. “settled in UK law”.

At least 17 women are required have been investigatedMore illegal abortions since 2014. Abortion pills have been seizedWomen are on their way to becoming women in the UK. still have limited accessSome people in Northern Ireland are forced to travel hundreds of kilometers for treatment.

99 MPs voted against Northern Ireland decriminalization. A woman was also included in the vote. is due to go on trial in Oxford next weekRaab was convicted of illegally procuring her own abortion pills. Raab’s image of benevolent clarity is not supported by any of this.

Kaye Wellings has a broad view of the state and future of abortion care. She runs LSHTM the SACHA studyThe National Institute for Health and Care Research supported the largest ever UK research project in this area. She says it’s important to start by saying clearly that the overall picture is good for supporters of reproductive rights.

“I’ve been working in this field for 30 years, and it’s striking to me just how satisfactory most services are most of the time,”She said. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues.

What is the law on abortion?

In the UK, apart from Northern Ireland, the law is … extremely weird. The basis for the provision and use of abortion is the 1967 Abortion Act – which does not declare that abortion is legal, but instead sets out circumstances under which women and healthcare professionals will not be prosecuted. If an abortion doesn’t meet these criteria, it is a crime.

Although the language of the act may seem a bit complicated, it is not. The act states that abortion is legal after 24 weeks if there is a severe risk to the life or health of the woman or if there are serious fetal abnormalities. The standard is a risk to the woman’s physical or mental health that is greater than the risk of termination. Any such decision must be approved by two doctors.

In practice, the law should not prevent women from having an unplanned pregnancy if they are less than 24 weeks. (The 2021 statistics show90% of abortions occur before 10 weeks, compared to 1% after 20 and 0.1% after 24 weeks under very unusual circumstances.

“The criteria are viewed flexibly and leniently,”Wellings. “And taking abortion pills [which now account for 87% of abortions] is safer than childbirth, so the framework is almost redundant.”

While the idea of two doctors agreeing to treat a patient may seem intimidating, they don’t have to actually see the patient. Instead, they can rely upon information provided by their team.

Are there other barriers to abortion access?


It is still taboo for some communities to have abortion.It is a problem that is only made worse when women hear it has been decriminalized. “Women are shocked to think they could be doing something which could be seen as a crime,”Wellings said that interviews with women who have had an abortion heavily inform her work. “A lot of them were terrified that they wouldn’t get through the gatekeeping system.”

Sometimes, fear can be more difficult than the practice. “In general women seeking abortions are of the view that they’ve been supported, sympathised with, that there’s been no frowning or judgmental attitudes,” Wellings said.

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These are the personal opinions of some doctors. “There are practitioners in this country who don’t believe in abortion,”Wellings. “There is a risk that they won’t then quickly refer a woman to another GP. But most women are very savvy whatever their educational level. They told us, my GP seemed a bit hesitant so I went online.”

Others doctors feel they cannot provide proper care. “It’s not the law that makes them resistant,”Wellings. “The question that seems to worry them is resources – payment for the service – and time.”

The intimidation and harassment of anti-abortion protesters outside clinics – although this is much less widespread an issue than in the US, and “buffer zones”As a way to limit this effect, clinics are becoming more common.

Living in Northern Ireland, where the law is ahead of the rest of the UK after abortion was fully decriminalised in 2019 – but practice has not caught up. The region’s health minister Robin Swann is against abortion, and has refused to publish information about it on the department of health website, the i newspaper recently reported. Even though some women in Northern Ireland are still being required to cross the Irish Sea, it is much less than a few decades ago.

These concerns aside, there has been some progress: the rules that allowed both abortion pills to remain at home were extended during the pandemic. at least until the end of AugustEngland is home to indefinitely in Wales. Wellings stated that this is good news: “Women we spoke to love having control over their own procedure, and in terms of convenience.”

What is the solution?

Although the UK’s awkward legal framework for abortion is not ideal, Wellings warns that there are risks associated with fixing it. She points out the intensity of the Right to Life movement in response to a consultation about extending the coronavirus rules. “They got mobilised, they got thousands of signatures. There is a risk in waking sleeping dogs up.”

However, advocates and MPs seeking reform are looking for a worthwhile goal, she says, provided they are alert and ready to make their case. “It would stop abortion being a special case and it would put it on a par with other health issues,” Wellings said. “There are many areas of medical practice that cope perfectly well without a law, using the very good systems of medical governance. But a strong theme of our work is that decriminalisation is not enough. There’s still a great deal of work to be done.”

What else we’ve been reading

  • Saturday magazine’s History of protest photography, in the UK & around the world, is absorbing and moving, and sometimes electrifying. “I still find it tragic that we don’t see as many images of these events in the media any more,”Don McCullin writes. “I worry we are being denied the truth.” Archie

  • With LabourExpected to state that it will never make a deal with The SNPNeal Lawson writes that if you want to go into government, the decision is yours. “morally dubious and tactically inept”. He added: “What it won’t do is stop the charge from the Tories that voting Labour means a coalition of chaos”. Archie

  • Smartphones have been linked to a range of society’s ills in the last decade. The latest concern is the impact technology has on our memory. Rebecca Seal speaks to experts about their concerns about digital amnesia. Nimo

  • Stamps are getting a digital barcode, and enthusiasts aren’t happy. Simon Usborne encourages mild sedition. He also outlines a rich past that may be reaching its last chapter. Archie

  • Sarah Butler identifies the larger trends behind the fall in fast fashion titans Missguided, asking what’s next for the other online fast-fashion retailers. Nimo


TennisCameron Norrie won his first grand final with a 6-4 7-5, 6-4 victory over Tommy Paul at Wimbledon. | Cameron Norrie reached his first grand slam quarter-final with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 win over Tommy Paul at Wimbledon. Heather Watson’s excellent run ended with a straight sets defeat by Jule Niemeier. Novak Djokovic advanced to the last eight, beating Van Rijthoven, 6-2,4-6, 6-1., 6-2.

CricketJonny Bairstow scored a remarkable century for England, but India seemed to be ahead at Edgbaston’s third day with a lead of 257 runs and seven wickets remaining.Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz won his first British Grand Prix victory, which Lewis Hamilton described in this article. | Jonny Bairstow scored another remarkable century for England but India appeared to be ahead at the end of the third day at Edgbaston, with a lead of 257 and seven wickets still in hand.

Formula One | Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took his first victory in a classic British Grand Prix which Lewis Hamilton described as “Formula One at its best”. Hamilton secured an impressive third for Mercedes behind the Red Bull of Sergio Pérez in second.

The front pages

Guardian 4 July 2022
Photograph: Guardian/:Guardian

Several papers lead with fallout over Boris Johnson’s promotion of Chris Pincher. The TelegraphIt has “PM facing Cabinet backlash over Pincher”While the Times Reports “Sex scandal revitalises rebel plot to topple PM”. The i newspaper says “Poll blow to Johnson as new Pincher claims made”. The Mirror’s The headline “You don’t know what decent is”Johnson should give an explanation about the situation to Labour, he says.

The GuardianLeads with “Revealed: children of lone parents hardest hit by Tory austerity”While the Mail Reports “Police let 22,000 suspects roam free”. The Sun’sRead splash “Towie stars’ death smash”.

Today in Focus

Journalist Daniel Lavelle poses for a portrait in Oldham, Greater Manchester.
Journalist Daniel Lavelle poses for a portrait in Oldham, Greater Manchester.Photograph by Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Surviving Britain’s homelessness crisis

Reporter Daniel Lavelle talks about his experience with homelessness, and what it taught me about the impact of government cutbacks.

Cartoon of the Day | Nicola Jennings

Nicola Jennings’ cartoon.
Nicola Jennings’ cartoon. Illustration: Nicola Jennings/The Guardian

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

Participants in the 2022 Pride Parade in London.
Participants in the Pride Parade 2022 in London.Photograph by Henry Nicholls/Reuters

London’s 50th anniversary of pride has passed. After a two-year-long pause due to the pandemic, both locals and visitors celebrated. People of all ages, from different ethnicities, genders, and sexualities, came together to protest and party.

“It feels bigger,”One attendee said, “It feels like everyone who’s here is enjoying it and has missed it – it’s nice to be back.” “I’m trying to focus on enjoying it, and seeing it as a coming together of the community where you can be who you want to be,”Another said.

Sign up here to receive The Upside’s weekly roundup, delivered to you every Sunday

Are you bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s crosswords to keep you entertained throughout the day – with plenty more on the Guardian’s Puzzles app for iOS Android. Until tomorrow.

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