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Press release – Significant pro-life victory – Attempt to introduce extreme changes to abortion law fails

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Significant pro-life victory – Attempt to introduce extreme change to abortion law fails


An attempt to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Health and Care Bill with an extreme abortion proposal has failed, in a significant pro-life victory, with Diana Johnson MP’s amendment (NC50) not going to a vote. 

This amendment would have changed the Offences Against the Person Act so that the current medical and legal safeguards, which prevent a woman from performing her own abortion without the involvement of a registered abortion provider, would have been removed through to 28 weeks.

There was also strong support for the three pro-life amendments to abortion legislation that were tabled to the Bill.

As these amendments were probing amendments, they were not taken to a vote, but a large number of MPs across different parties showed their support for these amendments by signing them.

The amendments proposed a reduction to the abortion time limit, a ban on sex-selective abortion, and an end to abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Reducing the upper gestational limit for abortion from 24 to 22 weeks’ gestation 

The current 24-week limit is based on an outdated understanding of the viability of premature babies. The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine establishes 22 weeks’ gestation to be the point of viability and 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.

Our time limit on abortion is more extreme than the majority of other European countries, being double the median time limit among EU countries of 12 weeks’ gestation.

There is widespread public support for this change to the law, with polling from Savanta ComRes showing that 70% of women favour a reduction of the time limit on abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Clarifying that sex-selective abortion is illegal

Sex-selective abortion is the practice of terminating a pregnancy based upon the predicted sex of the unborn child.

A recent BBC investigation revealed evidence that new NIPT pre-natal tests are being used on a widespread basis to determine the sex of babies early in pregnancy and some women are coming under intense pressure to undergo sex-selective abortions.

An undercover Telegraph investigation revealed that doctors were agreeing to provide sex-selective abortions “no questions asked”, and uncovered that sex-selective abortions were being offered in the UK, including by a doctor who worked both privately and for the NHS.

There is an increasing body of first-hand testimony from UK-resident women who say that they have been coerced into obtaining sex-selective abortions in the UK and abroad. A Department of Health and Social Care report on sex-selective abortion detailed the personal testimonies of women who had been coerced into obtaining a sex-selective abortion in the UK by their partner or family.

There is widespread public support for this change to the law, with polling from Savanta ComRes showing that 91% of women agree that gender-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.

Introduces an upper gestational limit on abortion on the grounds of disability equal to the upper gestational limit set out in section (1)(1)(a) of the Abortion Act.

Currently, abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot is available right up to birth. This contrasts with the time limit set out under section 1(1)(a) of the Abortion Act, which is set at 24 weeks.

A recent court case was brought against the Government for allowing disability discrimination in abortion by Heidi Crowter, 26, who has Down’s syndrome and Máire Lea-Wilson, whose son has Down’s syndrome. Ms Crowter has consistently described how the current law “makes me feel that my life is not as valuable as anyone else’s”, whilst Ms Lea-Wilson was “placed under intense pressure” to have an abortion after a 34-week scan revealed her son had Down’s syndrome.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recommended the UK update its law on abortion, specifically suggesting they amend abortion legislation to clarify abortion should not be singling out babies with disabilities.

There is widespread public support for this change to the law, with polling from Savanta ComRes showing that only one in three people think it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.

Speaking about the failure of Diana Johnson’s amendment, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“This is a significant victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies”. 

“This amendment would have changed the Offences Against the Person Act so that the current medical and legal safeguards, which prevent a woman from performing her own abortion without the involvement of a registered abortion provider, would have been removed through to 28 weeks”.

“Thank you to the thousands of people that rallied to get friends and family to email their MPs”.

“Thank you to the amazing group of pro-life MPs in Parliament who have worked so hard to ensure that this extreme amendment was defeated”. 

Speaking about the strong support for the three pro-life amendments, spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has made it clear that we must update our abortion law so that it is not singling out babies with disabilities. Our current disability-abortion legislation is out of date and is a throwback to a time when we had different attitudes to the societal inclusion and contribution of people with disabilities”. 

“It has been over 30 years since Parliament reviewed our abortion time limit. It’s time that Parliament reviewed the abortion time limit. Our gestational limits on abortion are way out of line with the majority of European countries, being double the median time limit among EU countries of 12 weeks’ gestation”.

“There is an increasing body of first-hand testimony from UK-resident women who say that they have been coerced into obtaining sex-selective abortions in the UK and abroad. There is an urgent need to explicitly protect against sex-selective abortion in UK law for the sake of women and girls in this country”.

“Thank you to everyone who wrote to their MPs asking them to support these amendments”.

“This has significantly raised the profile of these law changes among MPs and taken us a step closer to making these changes to abortion law, which would save many lives”.

Carla Lockhart MP, who is one of the cross-party group of MPs who tabled the amendments, said:

“The public support for Heidi Crowter’s court case seeking to end abortion up to birth for disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot has shown that abortion legislation needs to be urgently updated in this area”.

“The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine establishes 22 weeks gestation to be the point of viability and enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 23 weeks whilst, in another room, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age”.

“A recent BBC investigation revealed that new NIPT pre-natal tests are being used on a widespread basis to determine the sex of babies early in pregnancy and some women are coming under intense pressure to undergo sex-selective abortions when they are found to be expecting a girl. Abortion legislation needs to be urgently updated to clarify that abortion on the ground of sex of the fetus is illegal”. 

ENDS

Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot