UK two-child cap on tax credit pushing women to abortions during the pandemic

By Petra

The United Kingdom’s government has enacted a policy with the stated intent of encouraging families to consider financial implications before having more than two children and the goal of reducing poverty, but it has not succeeded and the end result thus far has also meant pressure for families in need to resort to abortion.

In 2015, the UK government passed a budget reform which stated families would not be able to claim any benefits such as tax credits or the Universal Credit on a third or subsequent child born after April 2017. Parents who have a third or subsequent child after April 2017 lose out on £2700-2900 in tax credits/benefits each year.

The goal of the policy change was to get parents “to think carefully about whether they can afford to support additional children.” 

Parents who are not working would be incentivized to work, and parents already working would work more hours. The hope was the policy would reduce the need for government financial help, cutting the spending budget and helping families in poverty make decisions to lift them out of poverty. 

In reality, the UK government’s “Two child limit in Universal Credit and child tax credits” is a way for the government to influence the family size of disadvantaged families.

The Work and Pensions Committee gave a report in 2019 stating that:

“By the Government’s logic, only the wealthy few, with the financial resilience to withstand all of life’s misfortunes without recourse to the benefits system, could ever responsibly decide to have more than two children. …We have seen no evidence that the two-child limit is working in the way the Government hoped for… A whole host of expert organisations, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies, have predicted that the two-child limit will lead to significant increases in the numbers of children living in poverty, and will push hundreds of thousands of children even deeper into poverty. These effects will be felt more severely in communities which tend to have larger families…But the two child limit not only fails to achieve the Government’s own objectives, but has unintended consequences that no Government should be willing to accept.”

However, the policy has remained in place.

The pro-choice organization/abortion provider British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) found evidence that the policy is disproportionately affecting women who already have two children, causing them to be about 5-10% more likely to get an abortion than carry to term compared to women who have no children or only one child. 

Additionally, BPAS has found that in 2020 specifically, during the COVID-19 pandemic, women who already have two children and who are aware of the two-child policy were more likely to get an abortion than carry to term due to feeling backed into a corner financially. 

Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.