An attempt to introduce abortion on demand into Parliament has failed, in a pro-life victory.
Two attempts to hijack the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill were ultimately dropped before they went to a vote. In New Clause 42, Rupa Huq MP proposed an amendment which would have created ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics and hospitals and introduced a jail sentence of up to two years for offering support to women outside abortion clinics.
Similarly, in New Clause 55, Diana Johnson MP proposed an amendment that “would decriminalise abortion and create a new offence of non-consensual termination of pregnancy,” effectively introducing abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.
Many MPs spoke out in the debate against these two amendments, including MPs Fiona Bruce, Sally-Ann Hart, Danny Kruger and Bob Blackman, alongside a number of MPs who don’t usually align themselves with a prolife position, but were still shocked by the idea of introducing abortion up to birth, including Maria Miller, who has a mixed voting record on matters relating to life and supports the idea of decriminalising abortion. She stated: “I do not support new clause 55 by the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) because of the expansiveness in the way it is drawn.”
‘One of the most extreme abortion regimes’
Fiona Bruce MP spoke out against both clauses, arguing that:
“New clause 55 is truly shocking on many counts. It would legalise abortions in this country right up to the moment of the birth of a child. No reason would need to be given. The current 24-week limit provision would go. The new clause would legalise sex-selective abortions: an abortion could be legally performed if someone chose to reject an unborn boy or girl. It would remove the requirement for abortions to be carried out by doctors, and the protection for women that abortions should take place on approved premises. It would remove the conscience clause: healthcare professionals could be required to conduct abortions contrary to their conscience or beliefs, or lose their job. It would sweep away current legal safeguards and protections not only for the unborn child, but many that protect women. The Abortion Act 1967 would, in effect, be void.
“… it would leave England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world. In Europe, the median gestational time limit for abortion is 12 weeks. Here, it is currently 24, with some exceptions. We should not be looking to increase it to 37 weeks—full term. … The proposals are shocking: a viable human being could have his or her life ended up to the point of birth, with no one held accountable, and yet a day later similar actions against a child outside the womb would constitute murder. … The proposal has no place on the amendment paper. It has no place in this House. We are better than this. We are better than this as a Parliament. We are better than this as a country, and our constituents know it.”
A lack of safeguards
Conservative MP Sally-Ann Hart also spoke to oppose the amendments:
“Abortion would be available on demand for any reason. Evidence shows that after a few weeks, unborn babies are sentient beings in the womb. Who gives them a voice? We should ask ourselves what kind of a society we are that we would condone that.”
She also referenced an open letter signed by over 800 medical professionals urging Diana Johnson MP to withdraw her amendment:
“The right hon. Lady points out that the amendment talks about decriminalisation, but it does not underline the safeguards. As 800 or so medical professionals said in an open letter to her,
“‘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.’
“Seventy per cent. of women favour a reduction in abortion time limits, and we see from recent history that abortion time limits align to the viability of a baby—the point at which a baby can survive inside or outside the womb. We should therefore seek to reduce the time limit, save for exceptions.”
Mrs Hart also opposed the introduction of so-called ‘buffer zones’:
“New clause 42, introduced by the hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq), would impose censorship zones outside abortion clinics. That goes against the long-standing tradition in the UK that people are free to gather together to express their views. It also goes against this Government’s commitment to human rights and freedom of speech in our party manifesto. The right to protest is the cornerstone of our democracy.”
‘The law already stops harassment’
Danny Kruger MP similarly opposed the amendment seeking to introduce ‘buffer zones’, arguing that the law already deals with harassment:
“We already have laws against harassment which can be, and are, applied. We also already have public order laws that allow councils to impose restrictions regarding specific clinics that are experiencing any real public order difficulties, so the activity that the new clause proposes to criminalise is peaceful, passive, non-obstructive activity—less disruptive than the sort of protests that Opposition Members are so busy trying to defend today. I recognise the good faith behind the new clause, but in practice it is an attempt to criminalise the expression of an opinion.”
He also opposed Diana Johnson’s amendment:
“New clause 55, tabled by the right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), would not criminalise anything; it would decriminalise something, namely abortion itself up to term. It would effectively legalise abortion on demand up to birth. She is keen that we pay attention to the text of her new clause, so I shall quote from it:
“‘No offence is committed…by…a woman who terminates her own pregnancy or who assists in or consents to such termination.’
“The effect would be to legalise or to decriminalise abortion up to birth.”
Decriminalising means changing regulations
Conservative MP Bob Blackman was keen to point out the decriminalising abortion completely effectively deregulate abortion as it currently stands – something Diana Johnson had expressly argued would not happen if her amendment was passed:
“I want to clarify something that was earlier in dispute, which is whether the decriminalisation of abortion, as sought by new clause 55, also means its deregulation and the loss of all legal safeguards. Changing the law means changing regulations. The central and implacable legal fact of new clause 55 is that repealing the relevant sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and relevant offences under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, will immediately undo all the safeguards provided by the Abortion Act 1967. … new clause 55 would sweep away all current legal safeguards and protections, not only for the unborn child, but many that protect women. The 1967 Act would, in effect, be void, leaving England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world.”
Let’s praise God that these amendments were not made law and have not progressed further. However, it remains clear that we must still act to protect the unborn.
Thank you to everyone who wrote to their MP to ask them to oppose these amendments. If your MP wrote back to you, why not write back to thank them?