THE BLOG

The UK Is Pro-choice - Time for a Law That Reflects That

01/03/2016 07:56 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 10:12 GMT

all women everywhere

Modern societies like ours are built on a values of freedom, equality and liberty‎. Our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers battled hard for our equality - the right to vote, the right to equal education and equal pay not just because they felt insulted at being treated like children, as second class citizens, but because they knew women's inclusion made society better. In Marie Curie's kitchen she could bakes cakes. In her laboratory she could discover radium.

‎It should come as no surprise that the British public is one of the most 'pro-choice' in the world when it comes to abortion. We expect women to study, to work, to decide and plan whether, when and with whom to have babies. The NHS funds contraception to help us do this - and when it fails we expect to be able to make a choice about whether to continue or end that pregnancy.

Women's lives changed immeasurably over the 20th Century - so why do we still have a law dating back to 1861 that says that abortion is illegal - unless two doctors agree we fit the legal, not medical, requirements.

Why in 2016 can a woman be sent to prison for trying to end her own pregnancy‎, and a nurse or midwife for helping her?

Britain's abortion laws are a problem because they deny women the freedom and liberty to decide what they do when they're pregnant. They are a problem because they stigmatise and exceptionalise safe and straightforward medical treatment. The threat of prosecution - which does not apply to any comparable healthcare procedure - can even make doctors reluctant to practice‎.

These laws do not reflect our values. Modern society wants and expects women to be part of it, but having laws that deny women freedom of reproductive choice denies them their freedom to be part of that very society.

In practice our laws have worked for women because healthcare professionals committed to women's choice have made it so. But women should not have to rely on their good will. It's high time to rid Britain of a Victorian law that insists our bodies are not our own. Public opinion supports choice in pregnancy. And in the end, it's a matter of who we trust most to make an intimate, moral decision. Should those choices lie with politicians, or the women themselves who must bear the consequences of them?

Many groups and activists committed to women's rights have joined the campaign to decriminalise abortion because they recognise - as the celebrated US feminist Gloria Steinem said on a trip to the UK last week - that "the state stops at our skins". Without the ability to make reproductive choices, we lose the ability to make decisions about our lives.

Join us on 15 March to hear more from women's campaigners on why it's time to remove abortion from the criminal law, and sign up to We Trust Women now.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere to discuss and share the female experience in 2016. We'll be talking about bringing up young girls, femininity, modern motherhood, equality and gender parity, the challenges affecting women in the criminal justice system, body positive movements and the lesbian, bisexual and trans experience. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about