Victory as attempt to decriminalise abortion fails

25 November 2021

On Tuesday 23 November, MPs in the House of Commons debated the Government’s important Health and Care Bill.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to write to their MP to support three major pro-life amendments to the bill and oppose one amendment that would decriminalise abortion in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Diana Johnson MP’s amendment (NC50) – which, if passed, would have removed any safeguards preventing a woman from performing her own abortion up to 28 weeks – was withdrawn before it could go to a vote.

Sadly, the three pro-life amendments were also withdrawn, however there was strong support for them among MPs.

Amendments NC31, NC51 and NC52 sought to change the abortion limit to 22 weeks, clarify that sex-selective abortions are illegal, and prevent abortions up to birth for babies suspected of having disabilities.

Even though none of these amendments made it to a vote, there were some positive speeches made in favour of them.

MP Carla Lockhart, who tabled NC51 and NC52, gave her support to the three pro-life amendments:

“I will not push either of my new clauses to a vote. However, legal clarification on sex-selective abortion is urgently needed for the sake of women and the missing girls who are the victims of this abhorrent practice.

“I commend the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). As evidence changes, so should the law, and 22 weeks’ gestation is the point of foetal viability. At heart, this is a debate about human rights, and the most basic human right is the right to life.”

Similarly, MP Fiona Bruce spoke in support of NC51 and NC52:

“I also want to take a few moments to give my support to new clause 51, … which would clarify that abortion on the ground of the sex of the foetus is illegal. This relates to the truly awful exploitative practice whereby women can be pressurised into abortions based on the sex of their unborn child. I also support new clause 52 … The current law permits abortions up to birth if the baby is deemed likely to be born seriously handicapped. This is interpreted to include entirely non-fatal disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and easily surgically rectifiable conditions such as cleft palate and club foot. One of my sons was born with club foot, and I know how rectifiable it is. The law is plainly inconsistent with the disability discrimination legislation that applies after birth, and it sends a dreadful message to people who are living and thriving with disabilities about how little their lives are valued under abortion law.”

Down’s Syndrome Bill

Even though these amendments did not make it to a vote, there is a still opportunity to engage with your MP on these issues.

The Down’s Syndrome Bill is being debated at its Second Reading in the House of Commons tomorrow (Friday 26 November), and would recognise people with Down’s Syndrome as a minority group of people, putting more safeguards in place to ensure that people with Down’s Syndrome are not neglected and their abilities are recognised. It sends a clear message that people with Down’s Syndrome are not second-class citizens.

We’d encourage you to write to your MP – not only to urge them to support this bill, but also to thank them for engaging with the Health and Care Bill.

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