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Over 800 medical professionals demand MP withdraws abortion up to birth amendment

Over 800 medical professionals have issued an open letter urgently calling on Labour MP Diana Johnson to withdraw her amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth (including sex-selective abortion) to England and Wales which is expected to be debated and voted on today

In an open letter to Johnson, they explain how 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.

They argue that “as health professionals, where required, we are responsible for the care of both women and their babies throughout pregnancy and childbirth. It [therefore] 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”.

They go on: “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”.

The letter goes on to explain that polls have consistently shown that a larger proportion of women want more, not fewer restrictions on abortion. They cite a Savanta ComRes poll that concluded 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.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “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”.

“It, therefore, makes total sense that so many medical professionals, whose vocation is to care for, and preserve the life of, human beings would be profoundly distressed by the idea of such radical abortion permissions”.

“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 also calling on members of the public around the country to contact their MP using our email tool and ask them to speak and vote against Diana Johnson’s radical abortion amendment on Monday”.

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.