UK two-child benefit cap influencing abortion decisions

UK two-child benefit cap influencing abortion decisions

Three in five women surveyed say that the United Kingdom's two-child benefit cap policy influenced their decision on abortion.

The two-child benefit cap, which limits state benefits to a woman’s first two children, was identified by the women surveyed as a significant factor in many women’s decisions to have an abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The abortion provider, BPAS, surveyed 240 women with two or more children who had had an abortion since March. Of these, 59% said they were aware of the two-child benefit cap prior to their abortion.

Of those in receipt of tax credits or universal credit, and therefore most likely to be affected by the two-child benefit cap, 57% “said that the policy was important in their decision-making around whether or not to continue the pregnancy”.

The impact on families

Many women reported that their family finances had taken a significant hit during the pandemic. One woman said:

“I did something I never imagined I would ever do… But at the back of my mind all I kept thinking is how would I have managed financially… I had to do this”.

Another said: “[The two-child limit] was a big factor for me. My husband has lost his job so we are on a very tight budget and when we looked at our finances we realised we couldn’t afford to have another baby.”

While another woman said: “If there was no two-child limit I would have kept the baby, but I couldn’t afford to feed and clothe it … I’ve really struggled to come to terms with [my decision].”

In response to this survey a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We know this is an uncertain time for families which is why we have taken unprecedented steps to support incomes and help with living costs”.

“The support available through the welfare safety net reflects the fact that the majority of households in Britain (85%) have two or fewer children”.

A number of faith leaders have also expressed their concerns about the two-child benefit cap.

Abortion in larger families on the increase

The Guardian reports that from 2016 to 2019, the number of women with two or more children having an abortion has risen by 16.4%, while for women with no existing children or one existing child, the numbers increased by 10.3% and 7% respectively. The two-child policy was introduced in 2017.

The two-child benefit cap was introduced in order to cut the state welfare bill. In real terms, the loss of benefits is worth £2,900 per child per year. 243,000 families had been impacted by the two-child limit by April 2020, according to government data. The pandemic means a further 60,000 families are likely to have been affected by the policy.

Right To Life UK’s spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The extent to which our society discourages women from continuing with their pregnancies is saddening. We know that women feel pressured into having abortions for any number of reasons, and sadly, at this time, it appears that the combination of the two-child benefit cap and the financial hardships created by the current crisis , is putting pressure on women to have abortions”.

“While the abortion provider BPAS apparently laments that it appears that the two-child benefit cap is putting pressure on women to have abortions, they and the UK’s other largest abortion provider, MSI Reproductive Choices, unlike pro-life support services available around the country, provide no direct practical or financial support at their clinics to help women facing financial difficulties to continue their pregnancies. Instead, both have worked to increase their market share of abortions since the two-child benefit cap was introduced.” 

“This increase in abortions also comes as MSI Reproductive Choices has been accused by the Care Quality Commission of paying staff bonuses for persuading women to undergo abortions. CQC inspectors have also found evidence of a policy that saw staff utilise high-pressure sales tactics, which appeared to be used to drive abortion numbers up. This involved calling women who had decided against having an abortion to offer them another appointment. This policy was in place at all 70 MSI Reproductive Choices [previously called Marie Stopes] clinics across the UK.”

“Unsurprisingly there have been no surveys undertaken by either of the two big abortion providers to investigate whether these high-pressure sales tactics are influencing women’s abortion decisions.”

“Vulnerable women should not be seen as a revenue opportunity but sadly we know this is not the reality as abortion itself is a multi-million pound industry. Private abortion clinics have a vested monetary interest in increasing the numbers of abortions they perform every year.”

“To make matters worse for women facing unplanned pregnancies, they are also now working together to ban support for pregnant women that is offered by pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics throughout the country. By attempting to restrict the locations where women facing unplanned pregnancies can receive compassionate emotional and practical support, the ‘pro-choice’ lobby are removing real choice for women and revealing they’re really just pro-abortion.”