EXPERTS warned this would happen. As reported in The National yesterday, a survey carried out by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has shown that the two-child cap on benefits is influencing women in how they come to a decision about whether to have an abortion.

The heart-rending survey shows a rise in the number of women terminating pregnancies because of worries about money and affordability.

More than half of the respondents (who have had an abortion during the pandemic and would be affected by the two-child cap) said the policy was “important in their decision-making around whether or not to continue the pregnancy”.

One told the BPAS: “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.”

This cruel policy was initially designed to further reduce Treasury spending on welfare. That it targets low-income families and pushes children into poverty seems to be of little consequence to this ideologically driven UK Government.

Previous studies have suggested that prior to the pandemic and the devastating economic consequences of it, the two child-cap was already impacting abortion rates. Between 2016 and 2019 there was a 16.4% increase in abortions among women with two or more existing children, a figure which is much higher than the increase in abortions for women with fewer than two children.

That the result of this most recent BPAS survey was predicted and warned about by equality experts makes the information it contains more shocking, not less.

When the UK Government designed, implemented and defended this policy, it knew what the consequences would be. Those consequences have since been realised. Low-income families pushed further into poverty: children, hungry and held back and women forced to end wanted pregnancies.

The policy apparently cuts £1 billion per year from the welfare bill but it is a saving that comes with a human and societal cost. How many of the 243,000 families affected by the policy have suffered mental or physical health implications from lack of support?

What will the long-term impact be on the 900 women who have so far been forced to disclose that their third child was born as a result of rape, in order to get an exemption from the policy?

The UK Government’s erosion of the already threadbare safety net that is afforded by social security has a price tag far greater than the money it saves.

Responding to the survey, a BPAS spokesperson made the choice facing the UK Government clear: “If the Government does not want to see more women feeling forced into a corner between financial hardship or ending an otherwise wanted pregnancy, they must revoke the two-child limit as a matter of urgency.”

We know where the instincts of this Government lie. Rishi Sunak is in receipt of (undeserved) plaudits right now for how freely he is borrowing money and accruing debt on our behalf.

There will come a time in the not too distant future, when his “generosity” will have to be repaid.

Unfortunately for us all, it is likely to fall at the same time the UK starts to feel the economic fall-out from Brexit.

In those circumstances, Tories will revert to type. Don’t expect them to use the moment as an opportunity to try something different. There will be no rejigging of our economy and who benefits from it. The inequality that lies at the heart of the UK – highlighted by the coronavirus crisis – won’t change. There will be no moment of clarity and no attempt to redress the balance between rich and poor.

No, when the conversation about “balancing the books” starts again in earnest, we know who they are coming for. The same people that always suffer when the Tories decide we need to tighten our belts.

I suspect, though I sincerely hope I am wrong, that the figures shown in this BPAS survey of women who have been priced-out of pregnancy, will be eclipsed by what is to come.

Maybe Boris Johnson will have welcomed his sixth or seventh child into the world by then. Maybe Jacob Rees-Mogg will have expanded his already large family. Good for them if they do. Children are a blessing and I hope they understand how fortunate they are.

In hoping that this study serves as a wake-up call to the UK Government, I don’t think many of us really expect it to. This time next year, we will hopefully be vaccinated and mask-free. We’ll be able to hug our extended families and for that, I’m sure we will feel an enormous sense of relief.

But we will have moved onto the next crisis: the financial fallout from coronavirus and Brexit. Unless the UK Government ends its war on low-income families, those that are already struggling are sure to be hit the hardest.