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Liberal Democrats

F6: Establishing Real Freedom of Choice

Submitted by Liberal Democrat Women

Mover: Katy Gordon | Summator: Christine Jardine MP

This motion applies to    󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

This motion creates party policy on abortion. It focuses on the reality of the experience of abortion for many women, and aims to improve this.

Specifically, it seeks to achieve the following measures:

  • Make abortion legal unless it doesn't have the agreement of 2 doctors.  At the moment, it is illegal unless it has the agreement of 2 doctors. This will ensure that abortion is treated as a healthcare issue rather than a criminal one, so that penalties are imposed by regulators or professional bodies rather than the criminal justice system.
  • Ensure that impartial sources of advice are properly funded so that those in need can get full advice on the implications of their decision without being pressurised to take a particular form of action.
  • Make access less stressful, by creating safe zones around clinics.
  • Allow women in Northern Ireland, refugees and asylum seekers to access such advice without having to pay.
  • Improve the overall situation for women in Northern Ireland. As this is a devolved issue, this motion does not call for specific measures, but indicates that Northern Ireland should not be left behind. It encourages the UK government to take action to achieve the same results within the province itself to those called for in the motion.

Please note that this is not a motion about term limits and no reference is made to this issue anywhere in the motion.


Liberal Democrat Women

Mover: Katy Gordon.

Summation: Christine Jardine MP.

Conference believes that:

  1. Everyone regardless of gender identity has a right to make independent decisions over their reproductive health without interference by the state.
  2. Access to reproductive healthcare is a human right, as recently confirmed by the Supreme Court in relation to Northern Ireland.
  3. Liberal Democrats champion the freedom, dignity and wellbeing of individuals, acknowledging and respecting their right to freedom of conscience.
  4. Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries.

Conference notes:

  1. The huge success of the recent referendum to liberalise abortion in the Republic of Ireland.
  2. That induced abortion is currently a crime throughout the UK, although the Abortion Act 1967 provides exceptions to the crime of administering or procuring an abortion in England, Wales and Scotland, and the common law allows some exceptions in Northern Ireland.
  3. That in 2017, several professional medical organisations backed calls from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service to remove abortion from criminal law:
  1. The Royal College of Midwives' position statement on abortion says: "Abortion procedures should be regulated in the same way as all other procedures relating to women's healthcare".
  2. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists voted strongly in favour of updating their position to say that abortion "should be treated as a medical, rather than a criminal issue".
  3. The British Medical Association's annual representative meeting voted that regulation and limits on abortion should be subject to professional and regulatory, rather than criminal, sanctions.
  4. The Aston University study A Hard Enough Decision to Make identifies the presence of anti-abortion protesters as a cause of stress, distress, anxiety, and intimidation to those providing and seeking reproductive healthcare - women and clinic staff across the country report being followed, filmed, and harassed when trying to access or provide services - and it concludes that limiting the presence of anti-abortion activists outside clinics would uphold the right of healthcare privacy.

Conference calls for the UK Government to:

  1. Repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, while retaining the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929 and the framework for exemptions laid out in the Abortion Act 1967, thus removing criminal sanctions both for receiving an abortion of a non-viable foetus, and for appropriately registered and regulated medical professionals providing a safe abortion.
  2. Provide funding so that users of reproductive healthcare services are provided with enough specialist advice to make fully informed decisions.
  3. Enforce safe zones around abortion service providers so that those visiting can travel to them free of any harassment or pressure on their decision, and to make intimidation or harassment of abortion service users outside clinics, or on common transport routes to these services, illegal.
  4. Provide funding to enable abortion clinics to provide their services free of charge to service users regardless of country of nationality or residency, using standard NHS provision criteria.
  5. Do all they can to support the people of Northern Ireland to have access to abortion facilities within their own province.

Applicability: England, Wales and Northern Ireland.