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MP withdraws attempt to introduce extreme abortion amendment

  • Clare Bergin

Houses of Parliament - JS/ICN

Houses of Parliament - JS/ICN

Source: Right to Life/BBC

Pro-life campaigners and health professionals are welcoming the news this evening that Diana Johnson MP has decided not to take her amendment to the UK Government's flagship Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (NC 55), that would have introduced abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth, to a vote in Parliament.

A large number of MPs took part in the debate. There were speeches from Fiona Bruce MP, Sally-Ann Hart MP, Danny Kruger MP, and Bob Blackman MP, along with a number of MPs who don't usually take a pro-life position on abortion but were shocked by the proposal to introduce abortion up to birth.

Ahead of the debate today, more than 800 medical professionals signed the following open letter to Diana Johnson urging her to withdraw her amendment.

They wrote:

Dear Diana Johnson MP,

You have tabled an amendment (NC55) to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to make radical changes to abortion legislation in England and Wales.

The amendment would go far beyond just 'decriminalising' women, and would introduce abortion on demand, for any reason (including sex-selective abortion), up until birth. It would make the Abortion Act redundant by removing all current legal safeguards (many of which protect women) around abortion provided by the Act.

This would leave England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world. It would also position England and Wales drastically away from Europe where the median gestational time limit for abortion is 12 weeks.

As health professionals, where required, we are responsible for the care of both women and their babies throughout pregnancy and childbirth. It would be very difficult for us to work in a health service where the lives of these babies could be ended for any reason up to birth and where current legal safeguards around abortion, many of which are there to protect women, have been removed.

Polls have consistently shown that a larger proportion of women want more, not fewer restrictions on abortion. A Savanta ComRes 4 poll found that only 1% of women wanted to see the time limit for abortion extended above 24 weeks and only 1% of women wanted to see the time limit for abortion extended through to birth. The same poll found that 70% of women wanted to see the abortion time limit reduced to 20 weeks or below. The poll also found that 91% of women favour a total and explicit ban on sex-selective abortion.

Your proposal to allow abortion up to birth in this country would be to attack the heart of the medical profession: our core duty to protect life whenever and wherever possible.

The British public prides itself on being a reasonable, humane and tolerant society. Such an extreme and radical abortion law has no place in the UK. Your proposal is out of keeping with what we take to be the central ethic of our profession, as well as the consistently expressed wishes of British women with regards to the legality and regulation of abortion.

As medical professionals, we, the undersigned, call on you to urgently withdraw your extreme abortion amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

This evening Rupa Huq MP also withdrew her amendment (NC 42), that would have introduced a jail term of up to six months and/or an unlimited fine, and, in further instances, up to two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, for anyone that speaks about abortion to a woman seeking an abortion within 150 metres of every abortion clinic in the country. This would have included protesting or demonstrating outside a clinic, as well as offering a woman practical, emotional, or financial support to be able to continue a pregnancy if she were unsure about her decision.

Catherine Robinson from Right To Life UK said: "This is a major victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies".

"Diana Johnson's amendment would have removed all current legal safeguards around abortion provided by the Abortion Act, many of which protect women. It would have been legal for an abortion to happen for any reason right through to birth. This would have left England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world."


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