A PROFESSOR has called for an end to ‘archaic’ abortion laws ahead of a controversial medical debate in Bournemouth.

Professor Sam Rowlands from Bournemouth University has spoken out to support the complete decriminalisation of abortions because ‘doctors and pregnant women could do without the threat of going to prison hanging over them.’

It comes as pro-life protestors will today gather outside the BIC where the British Medical Association is voting on the motion at its annual conference, which could lead to allowing abortions up until birth for any reason.

Pro-life campaign group Abort67 say ‘late term abortions kill innocent human beings, many of whom would be viable outside the womb.’

Hundreds of doctors have reportedly signed a petition and written a joint letter calling on the union to scrap the ballot, fearing the profession will be ‘severely damaged’ and warning the vote will be swayed by pro-abortion campaigners.

Last year the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) launched a campaign supported by organisations including Royal College of Midwives and Women’s Aid calling for abortion to be decriminalised claiming it would give women more choice and control.

It is currently against the law for women to terminate a foetus after 24 weeks unless there is a medical reason to do so, while abortions earlier in a pregnancy are only legal if two doctors agree to it.

Professor Rowlands, a visiting Professor at Bournemouth University’s Centre of Postgraduate Medical Research and Education who has researched around abortion and emergency contraception, said: “I personally am in favour of complete decriminalisation, with abortion regulated in the same way as other medical treatments.

“Although it does not solve all the problems associated with offering good quality abortion services to women, it is a better basis and in particular allows nurses and midwives to play a full part. At present offering services is hidebound by the requirement of a 50-year old law which requires two doctors to sign a certificate that 'allows' a woman to have an abortion. In my view doctors and pregnant women could do without the threat of going to prison hanging over them. Healthcare is well-regulated by the Care Quality Commission and healthcare professionals are accountable to their professional bodies which have extensive lay representation.”

He added: “Women do not like having abortions and find the decision to have one hard. They particularly find having an abortion further on in the pregnancy difficult. That is why 92 per cent of abortion take place in England and Wales at less than 12 weeks’ gestation. This is not going to change. In fact we see some delays because women are waiting for doctors’ signatures, so if anything abortions would be earlier if we had decriminalisation.”

A BMA spokesman said it was a ‘sensitive and complex issue on which doctors will have a range of views.’