What does the end of Roe v Wade mean for UK abortion rights?

The Supreme Court has announced its decision this week to overturn Roe v Wade.

The landmark law from 1973 gave women the right to abortion care, and the decision to overturn the ruling is predicted to have stripped 36 million US women of their right to choose.

It will now be up to each state to determine whether abortion is legal, with anti-abortion laws expected to be triggered in 26 states across the country.

The overturning of Roe v Wade relates to US law, but its effects will be felt by women all over the world.

In fact, campaigners have even warned that it could have a devastating impact on UK abortion rights.

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While women in the UK have access to free and safe abortions, it is still considered a criminal act – permitted if two clinicians confirm that the pregnancy would be harmful to the mother’s physical or mental health. This is far from where UK abortion rights should be in 2022.

And now, due to the extreme wave of restrictive reproductive rights in the US, women’s organisations have warned that our access to abortion could too come under threat.

“The 1967 Abortion Act, and our ability to end a pregnancy, lie in the hands of politicians, and over the past 10 years we have seen a number of parliamentary bids to restrict abortion safely and legally,” explained Katherine O’Brien, associate director at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. “These groups have strong links with their US counterparts, and we would be concerned that they will escalate activity if Roe v Wade is overturned.”

“At any given time, parliament could attempt to restrict women’s access,” another spokesperson for BPAS added, via the Independent. “Over recent years, a number of anti-choice MPs have sought to do just that, and we must be constantly vigilant.”

“You think what you see in America couldn’t happen here?”, tweeted Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow. “Then you don’t understand who is organising in UK politics. No one thought American Supreme Court would ever overturn a right previously granted either… These attacks on women’s rights won’t stop. Be prepared.”

So what can we do about it on an individual level? Speak up and take a public stand against the overturning of Roe v Wade, say campaigners.

“The most important thing people in the UK can do to support abortion rights is to be loudly, unashamedly pro-choice,” Abortion Support Network founder Mara Clarke told the Independent.

“The anti-abortion population is less than 10 per cent of the UK’s population. We are the pro-choice majority, and we should speak often about not only abortion but about all reproductive health issues.”

We will continue to update this story.

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