RCGP to support decriminalisation of abortion

Publication date: 22 February 2019

The Royal College of General Practitioners' UK Council has passed a motion to support the decriminalisation of abortion, saying that the procedure should be governed by medical regulatory frameworks, not the criminal justice system.

The decision was based on a poll of members and consultation with local Faculties.

More than 4,400 members from across the UK responded to the consultation*. They were asked whether the RCGP should have a position on the decriminalisation of abortion and what position they thought the College should take: 62% said that the RCGP should support the decriminalisation of abortion; 19% said that the RCGP should oppose the decriminalisation of abortion; 15% said that the RCGP should have a neutral position on decriminalisation, and 4% abstained.

Of the 21 College Faculties that responded to the consultation, none said that the RCGP should oppose the decriminalisation of abortion, 11 supported the motion for the RCGP to support the decriminalisation of abortion, two said that the College should be neutral on the issue, and eight abstained.

The College did not ask members about the term limits on, or the morality of, abortion.

The College will now work with partners across the health sector, including the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health, the Royal College of Midwives and others, to call for the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "This is an incredibly sensitive topic, but it's essential that we engage in debate and hear what our members have to say on all issues facing modern healthcare. 

"It speaks to the strength of feeling of our members that we had such a good response rate to our consultation. The quality of the feedback has been hugely valuable in helping us form an official position on the decriminalisation of abortion.

"Ultimately, this is about providing non-judgemental care to our patients so that women who face the difficult decision to proceed with an abortion are not disadvantaged by the legal system."

Further Information

*The surveys were conducted by ComRes on behalf of the Royal College of General Practioners. ComRes interviewed 4,429 RCGP members online between 16 November – 31 December 2018. Data were weighted to be representative of RCGP membership by Membership Grade.

ComRes also received responses from 21 Faculty Boards online between 15 November – 31 December 2018. Data were not weighted.

ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables are available at www.comresglobal.com.

The survey was sent to 53,724 members who had not 'opted out' of all email communications. A total of 4,429 members responded from across the UK.

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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