First trimester abortion
A briefing paper by the BMA’s medical ethics committee
Annual Representative Meeting 2007
There are motions at the 2007 ARM (to be held June 25th-28th) calling on the BMA to support amendments to the Abortion Act 1967 in relation to first trimester abortions.
The BMA’s medical ethics committee (MEC) has considered this issue and this briefing paper summarises the main proposals for change and the views of the MEC.
The MEC supports the revision of the Abortion Act 1967 so that, in the first trimester:
• women are not required to meet medical criteria for abortion
• the requirement for two doctors is removed
• suitably trained and experienced nurses and midwives may carry out both medical and surgical abortions
• as long as safety is ensured, premises do not need to be approved to carry out first trimester abortions.
The MEC believes:
• that changes in relation to first trimester abortion should not adversely impact upon the availability of later abortions
Existing BMA policy on abortion
Doctors hold a wide and diverse range of views on abortion. Despite these disparate views, the BMA has, since the 1970s, repeatedly endorsed policy statements supporting the current Abortion Act as a "practical and humane piece of legislation" and called for the legislation to be extended to Northern Ireland. The ARM voted overwhelmingly against a reduction in the 24-week time limit in 2005. The ARM does not currently have policy that explicitly refers to first trimester abortions.
The full briefing paper is available at: