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UK Government created statutory bereavement leave for abortions after 24 weeks and should acknowledge it
  1. Nathan Hodson
  1. Unit of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nathan Hodson, Unit of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK; Nath_hods{at}

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Statutory bereavement leave after abortions

Around the world, activists call for bereavement leave after pregnancy loss, many inspired by New Zealand’s widely celebrated policy.1 In the UK, statutory bereavement leave is only available when pregnancy loss occurs after 24 weeks, under the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 20182 which came into force in April 2020. While the law in New Zealand excluded abortions, the UK law did not. This means British women who have a termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks (and their partners) are eligible for 2 weeks of bereavement leave. While some other countries have provided maternity leave following certain abortions, this statutory recognition that abortion can, under certain rare circumstances, be a ‘bereavement’ experience is unique. This option for statutory bereavement leave covering some abortions is world-leading.

This policy is also humane. Under clauses 1 (1)b-d of the Abortion Act 1967, abortions may take place after 24 weeks. Most of these abortions take place due to a substantial risk that the child would be “seriously handicapped” but some are required to prevent grave injury to the woman or where the woman’s life is threatened. Often these parents excitedly anticipate raising the child and grieve deeply over the abortion, even though they judge it the right choice.3 According to …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.