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Domestic Abortion Law in its Current Context: Fit for Purpose 50 Years on or a Statute Ripe for Refo

It has been widely perceived that the Abortion Act 1967 served to legalise abortion in the United Kingdom. However, this was not the case. The Act, passed in direct response to a growing number of unsafe ‘back-street abortions’, served instead to protect doctors from prosecution when performing terminations for a prescribed medico-social objective. The Act’s fiftieth anniversary in 2017 was marked by the recognition that legislation could now go much further in guaranteeing women’s reproductive freedom and liberating these rights from a technologically and socially outdated model. These voices of criticism have been amplified by the emergence of a distinct pro-choice movement in the Republic of Ireland where abortion was banned by the country’s constitution. The repeal of the Irish Constitution’s eighth amendment was signed into law in September 2018. The success of this campaign and subsequent removal of the constitutional ban on abortion invited further criticism of existing legislation in England and Wales and the extent to which it actually affords women their full entitlement to reproductive freedom.

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