Abortion Act 1967
Parliament of the United Kingdom
|Long title||An Act to amend and clarify the law relating to termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioners.|
|Chapter||1967 c. 87|
|Introduced by||David Steel|
|Territorial extent||England and Wales; Scotland|
|Royal Assent||27 October 1967|
|Commencement||27 April 1968|
|Amendments||The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
The Abortion Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom legalising abortions by registered practitioners, and regulating the free provision of such medical practices through the National Health Service (NHS).
It was introduced by David Steel as a Private Member's Bill, but was backed by the government, who appointed the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Sir John Peel, to chair a medical advisory committee. Peel accepted the position with the brief to reduce the amount of disease and death associated with illegal abortion. Both the ROCG council and government committee reflected the deep divisions surrounding this issue, including Hugh Maclaren, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at University of Birmingham Medical School and prominent anti-abortionist, as well as several Roman Catholics. On publication of his advisory report, Peel won praise for his diplomatic skills as chairman of the committee, which came out in support of the passing of such a bill.
After a further heated political and moral debate, under a free vote it was passed on 27 October 1967, coming into effect on 27 April 1968.
The Act made abortion legal in the UK up to 28 weeks gestation. In 1990, the law was amended by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act so that abortion was no longer legal after 24 weeks except in cases where it was necessary to save the life of the woman, there was evidence of extreme fetal abnormality, or there was a grave risk of physical or mental injury to the woman.
In May 2008, there was a parliamentary debate over whether the limit should be reduced from 24 to either 22 or 20 weeks but no changes were made.
The Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal unless the doctor acts "only to save the life of the mother" or if continuing the pregnancy would result in the pregnant woman becoming a "physical or mental wreck." The situation is the same as it was in England before the introduction of the Abortion Act 1967. The Offences against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 remain in full force.
- The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 7(1) of this Act.
- "Obituary" Sir John Peel". Daily Telegraph. 2 January 2006. Retrieved 2012-12-22.
- Childs, Peter; Storry, Mike, eds. (2002). "Abortion Acts". Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture. London: Routledge. pp. 1–2.
- "MPs back 24-week abortion limit". BBC News. 2008-05-20. Archived from the original on 8 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
- UK Parliament Inquiry: Scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967, House of Commons Press Notice, 20 June 2007.