Diana Johnson MP has tabled an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth, to England and Wales. A cross-party group of 10 other MPs have also agreed to move the amendment.
The amendment has been tabled at Report Stage of the Bill and is expected to go to a vote on Monday 5 July.
As the Abortion Act (1967) was passed to create exemptions to sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA) and the Infant Life Preservation Act (ILPA), a repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the OAPA and offences committed under the ILPA, as proposed by the amendment, would make the 1967 Abortion Act redundant.
This would remove all current legal safeguards around abortion provided by the Act, many of which protect women.
This would mean that there would be no UK abortion law regulating abortion up until birth, and abortion would be made available on demand, for any reason, up until birth. An abortion could be performed legally on any grounds, including sex-selection.
A doctor would not be required to participate in an abortion procedure, and healthcare assistants, nurses, and pharmacists could carry out the entire abortion process. There would also no longer be legal restrictions on places where abortions could be performed.
Nor would there be any legal requirement for two doctors to certify an abortion in order for it to take place.
If the proposals become law, there would also be no legal provision protecting medical professionals’ freedom of conscience with regard to abortion. This could result in doctors and other healthcare professionals being forced into choosing between performing an abortion or leaving their profession.
The situation would likely allow for far greater abuses than have already occurred under the current law. Already within our current legal framework, we have seen doctors pre-signing abortion forms, sex-selective abortions being offered, live babies being left to die following abortions that have gone wrong and children with minor disabilities, such as cleft palate, being aborted.
Polling shows women don’t want abortion up to birth
The proposed law change, if passed, would be the most extensive change to abortion legislation since 1967 and would leave England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world. It would drastically contrast to laws in Europe, where the median gestational time limit for abortion is 12 weeks.
These proposals are radically out of step with the opinions of women on abortion. Polling of over 2,000 British adults from Savanta ComRes on whether time limits for abortion should be increased showed that only 1% of women wanted the time limit to be extended to birth. In contrast, around 70% of women favoured a reduction in time limits from 24 weeks.
91% of women agree that gender-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law. This polling shows that women want more, not fewer, safeguards around abortion. A poll from March 2014 also showed that 92% of women agreed that a woman requesting an abortion should always be seen in person by a qualified doctor.
Right To Life UK is calling on members of the public throughout the country to urgently contact their MP asking them to oppose this radical amendment. They have launched an email tool that allows people to easily contact their MP on this issue here.
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “The British public prides itself on being a reasonable, humane and tolerant society. Such an extreme and radical proposal has no place in the UK”.
“Diana Johnson’s amendment would remove all current legal safeguards around abortion provided by the Act, many of which protect women. It would be legal for an abortion to happen for any reason right through to birth. This would leave England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world”.
“Polling shows that there is no support from women in the UK for increasing the current time limit from 24 weeks, let alone increasing it right up to birth. In fact, 70% of women favour a reduction in time limits from 24 weeks and 91% of women agree that gender-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law”.
“Regardless of where MPs stand on the wider issue of abortion, we are calling on them to oppose this amendment on the basis that it would leave England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world, where abortion is available up to birth, and that it is radically out of touch with the wishes of British women”.
“We are calling on members of the public around the country to take 30 seconds to contact their MP using our email tool and ask them to speak and vote against Diana Johnson’s radical abortion amendment on Monday”.