Abortion row

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
September 06, 2011, 7:58 PM GMT+0

Two in five Britons oppose the proposal by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries and Labour Frank Field MP that abortion counselling should be provided by organisations other than those providing the abortions, our poll has found. Just under a quarter of Britons agree with the proposal, while a significant 36% don’t know.

This week, MPs will vote on an amendment tabled by Dorries and Field that would give the NHS a duty to provide independent counselling to women seeking an abortion, from organisations that do not themselves provide abortions. In light of this, we asked the British public for their views on the issue, and also found that while most Britons believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, the upper time limit for them is still a cause for contention.

  • A large majority of Britons continue to think that abortion should be legal, with 76% of people thinking it should be legal in most or all cases
  • 11% of people think it should be illegal in most cases
  • While just 2% of people think abortion should always be illegal
  • Around a quarter (26%) of people thinks that it is currently too easy for women to get abortions
  • 48% think the present arrangements are broadly satisfactory
  • Only 3% of people think it is presently too difficult to get an abortion

Britons are more evenly divided on what the time limit for most abortions should be.

  • 38% of people favour the current time limit of 24 weeks
  • 37% would favour a reduction in the time limit (7% to 22 weeks, 14% to 20 weeks and 16% to a figure less than 20 weeks)
  • Only 4% of people would favour a limit later than 24 weeks
  • Women tend to be slightly more in favour of stricter time limits ‒ among men, 41% favour the status quo with 28% in favour of a reduction; among women, 35% favour 24 weeks, but 46% would like to see a lower time limit

Currently most NHS abortions are carried out by two charities ‒ BPAS and Marie Stopes International ‒ who also provide counselling to women seeking an abortion.

Parliament is expected to vote on the amendment tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon.