Yesterday, Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, brought forward her Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) bill, which sought to remove abortion from criminal law, thereby allowing it up to birth and for any reason. The bill narrowly passed its first reading, but has next to no chance of becoming law, due to a lack of parliamentary time.
The gall of the abortion industry
Diana Johnson argued that the “Victorian” abortion laws needed to be updated, especially in light of the growing availability of abortion pills online. Maria Caulfield began her rebuttal by dismissing the “progressive” credentials of the bill, saying it would be a “charter for unsafe abortion practises”.
She went on to attack the backers of the bill, which include the abortion provider BPAS.
“That brings me to the current state of the abortion industry in the UK. I am amazed that the Bill’s backers, including private abortion providers, have the gall to propose these changes, which would remove regulations at a time when the UK abortion industry is knee-deep in revelations of unethical, unsafe and unprofessional practices,” she said, describing in detail the recent revelations of breaches in safety, especially as found by the CQC report into Marie Stopes. “No wonder these abortion providers are calling for a Bill that would get rid of the regulations and safeguards in the Abortion Act.”
Would leave women vulnerable to abuse
Maria Caulfield also challenged the idea that the increasing availability of abortion pills means there should be less regulation, making the point that abusive partners would find it easier to force women into an abortion if they could easily obtain pills online. Women would also be left more vulnerable to abuse by removing the requirement that they be seen by a qualified doctor (something 92% of British women support). She said the bill “would exacerbate the dangers posed by increased availability of abortion pills and it would remove some of the few protections and regulations in abortion law, fuelling unethical and unsafe practices in many UK abortion clinics and leaving women less safe and less informed.”
Human dignity and equality
Throughout her speech, Maria Caulfield referred to “the unborn child” and talked about how decriminalisation would be particularly dangerous for those babies at risk of being aborted for their gender or disability. The law, she said, must reflect a “fuller and richer understanding of human dignity and equality…which does not treat children as commodities and which does not treat marginalised people such as young girls or children with Down’s syndrome as burdens or inconveniences.”
“Too often today, debates about abortion—about the risks involved and the rights of the unborn child—are shut down; but I, and many colleagues who share my views, will not be silenced as we seek to be a voice for the voiceless, and as we argue for more modern and humane abortion law that upholds not only the dignity and rights of women but the dignity and rights of the unborn child.”
The bill passed its first reading by 172 votes to 142. However, as SPUC’s political officer Katherine Hampton explains, it has no chance of becoming law as things stand.
“Although this bill has been given a date for a second reading, on that date, 24th March, there are currently 75 bills listed on the order paper. Only the first few bills will be debated, and the rest can only be debated if no objections are made. It will only take one MP saying “object” to kill the bill for this parliamentary session. This was never a serious attempt to legislate. It was clearly being used as a way of raising the issue in the House of Commons. It is, however, useful in revealing which way MPs voted, and we encourage supporters to check whether their MP voted for the bill or not, and write to them to either thank them or express disappointment.”
The vote, which can be seen here, was heavily split along party lines, with 146 Labour MPs voting in favour and 6 against, and 17 Conservatives in favour and 123 against. The SNP abstained as abortion is devolved to Scotland. It also appears that around 100 Conservative MPs, who were present in the Commons to vote for a subsequent vote, abstained on this issue.
LifeNews Note: Courtesy of SPUC. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is a leading pro-life organziation in the United Kingdom.