Abortion is a fact of life whether people like it or not. So perhaps the most surprising part of this news is not the fact that abortions are increasing but who is having them.
The rising demand for abortions comes from women aged over 35, which is driving up the total number, while the number of under-18s accessing abortion services has fallen.
So what’s going on? The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) told Refinery29 that this could have something to do with a controversial government policy known as ‘the two child limit’ which means that anyone receiving child tax credits or universal credit can only claim support for a maximum of two children unless those children were born before 6th April 2017.
The charity Turn2us estimates that 23% of parents affected by this are struggling to cover their basic living costs as a result.
They say that they have been contacted by women who have been seriously affected by the policy, and find themselves considering terminations because they know that they will not be able to afford to have another child.
It sounds like something straight out of Gilead but this is very much happening right now. The Child Poverty Action Group warned that the policy could push tens of thousands of children into poverty by 2023-24 when the policy is fully implemented. So far, they say, 150,000 families are feeling the impact.
When approached for comment, a Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman told Refinery29:
“This policy ensures fairness by asking parents in receipt of benefits to face the same financial choices as those in work.
“We have always been clear that we will deliver this in the most compassionate way, and we have put the appropriate exceptions and safeguards in place.”
However, speaking about the figures, Clare Murphy, the director of external affairs at BPAS, said there was no doubt that that there is an inherent hypocrisy to the policy which is supported by some politicians “who oppose abortion” but are happy to restrict benefits for women who, for whatever reason, have more than two children.
Anyone who supports the benefit cap, she said, “should be clear that it forces women to end pregnancies they might otherwise continue. The absolute lack of understanding about unplanned pregnancy is shocking. Not all pregnancies can be carefully planned and prepared for. Contraception frequently fails women, and obtaining some of the most effective long acting methods is not always straightforward.”
“The situation is particularly unjust for women in Northern Ireland, who are subject to the same restrictions on benefits but do not even have access to lawful abortion at home if faced with an unplanned, third pregnancy that they cannot afford. We call on ministers to scrap this unfair cap that punishes both women and their children,” she added.
Abortion in Britain has made headlines more than once this week. Again, for the wrong reasons.
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