‘Abortion is essential health care’
Proposing the motion, medical student and women’s rights campaigner Marina Politis described the situation in the US as an “emergency”, saying: “Abortion is essential health care… In [some] cases, the US Supreme Court decision is a death sentence. In other, less risky, pregnancies, this decision still removes an essential right of the individual to choose what happens to their own body.”
She added: “In the context of a hostile environment, we have seen increased migrant charging. We also need to provide safe abortion care to all nationals seeking this in the UK, without subjecting them to overseas patient upfront tariffs – and this must be regardless of borders going far beyond the US.”
She urged delegates to “make a statement here today showing that we do not support this dangerous erosion of reproductive rights, which is also an erosion of human rights”.
Dr Lisa Egbert, speaking on behalf of the American Medical Association, thanked British doctors for their support on the topic.
She said: “The AMA is thankful to the British Association for adding your voice recognising access to essential medical care as a fundamental human right.”
Doctors passed the motion overall but only 57 per cent voted in favour of the clause calling for the UK to offer free abortions to all nationalities, with 36 per cent against and seven per cent abstaining.
‘A knee-jerk reaction’
Speaking against the move, Dr Melody Redman, a clinical genetics registrar who also describes herself as a Christian, said: “This motion risks being a knee-jerk reaction and further inflames tensions within our association and the wider UK medical community.”
Zoe Greaves, chair of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said the move would be a “substantive step forward beyond our existing policy”.
She also raised concerns that overlooking all criminal convictions for abortions carried out overseas risked including incidents where doctors had performed unsafe procedures or abortions which were illegal in the UK, such as those in late pregnancy or carried out for sex selection reasons.
‘A big step backwards’
The US Supreme Court last week ended constitutional protections for abortion that have been in place for nearly 50 years by deciding to overturn the Roe v Wade ruling.
The moves were fast in many of the 13 US states which have previously passed “trigger laws” designed to ban abortion as soon as the federal right to it was removed.