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The Abortion Act 1967 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdommarker legalizing abortion 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, and after a heated debate and a free vote 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: abortion became legal only up to 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.

By 2005, abortions after 24 weeks were extremely rare, fewer than 200 a year, accounting for 0.1% of all abortions.

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. The Offences against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act 1945 remain in full force, except where they are overridden by Rex v. Bourne.

In May 2008, there was debate over whether the limit should be reduced further to just 12 weeks but no changes were made.

References

  1. House of Commons
  2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7409696.stm MPs back 24-week abortion limit


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