An attempt to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Domestic Abuse Bill with two extreme abortion proposals has failed, in a major pro-life victory.
The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, announced this afternoon that amendment New Clause 29, which would have introduced abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks, would not be selected for debate.
Diana Johnson MP then, this evening, announced that she would be withdrawing amendment New Clause 28 which would have allowed both medical and surgical abortions to take place in any location if a woman is in an abusive relationship.
If Diana Johnson had pushed the amendment to a vote and lost, this would have been the first time that a pro-abortion amendment or Bill had been defeated in a vote in UK history.
It appears that the abortion lobby realised that it was very likely that Diana Johnson’s amendment was going to be defeated and encouraged the Labour MP to instead withdraw the amendment.
Pro-life MP Fiona Bruce MP put forward an amendment calling for a review of the current temporary measures allowing ‘DIY’ abortions. This called for the Government to conduct an “an inquiry into the safety, number, and impact of abortions carried out under the temporary coronavirus crisis provisions where the place of abortion was the woman’s home”.
The Government subsequently agreed to a full inquiry into the temporary ‘DIY’ abortion measures.
A large number of MPs in the debate this evening spoke out against these attempts to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill with extreme abortion amendments. This included stirring speeches from Fiona Bruce MP and Carla Lockhart MP, along with a number of MPs who don’t agree with the pro-life position on abortion but made it clear that the amendment was poorly drafted and would have had serious negative consequences for women in domestic abuse scenarios.
Amendment New Clause 28 would have allowed both medical and surgical abortions to take place in any location if a woman is in an abusive relationship. This amendment went far beyond the temporary measures that allow ‘DIY’ home telemedicine abortions, by making both medical and surgical abortions legal outside of a hospital or place approved by the Secretary of State. Current temporary measures allowing the home use of abortion pills are limited to 9 weeks and 6 days’ gestation for safety reasons. There was no similar time limit outlined in this amendment.
Speaking against the amendment, Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said she could not put forward key objections any better than a response from a female GP who she quotes as saying: “I am very concerned about the proposed changes to new clause 28. It is extraordinary that it should be argued that a woman suffering or at risk of domestic abuse, seeking abortion should somehow be considered to be at less risk if she consults a doctor remotely by telemedicine and given abortifacients to take at home.
“Where is the opportunity to check with her, privately, that she is not being coerced or that she may be in danger, to examine her to determine her stage of pregnancy, to offer support and clear advice in a place of safety? As a medical practitioner working remotely, how can I reliably ensure she is at the stage of pregnancy she says she is, as the use of abortifacients used later than the 9 weeks 6 days limit carries greater risk of complications which I would be responsible for providing care for? And how can I provide assurance that this woman is suffering from domestic abuse unless it has been previously disclosed to me… These factors are virtually impossible to verify without a face to face consultation”.
The pro-life MP then spoke from a personal capacity against the amendment, saying: “This is a domestic abuse Bill; it should not be hijacked by those continuously campaigning on another issue and constantly looking for opportunities in this place to add badly worded amendments to Bills with unforeseen implications and complications.”
Amendment New Clause 29 would have made extreme changes to abortion legislation by repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act. This would have left England and Wales with no abortion law through to 28 weeks. Almost all current legal safeguards on abortion would have been removed, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks. This would have introduced abortion on demand, for any reason (including sex-selective abortion) up to 28 weeks. The change would have been the most extreme change to abortion legislation since 1967 and would have left England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world.
The failed proposals were radically out of step with the opinions of women on abortion. Polling from Savanta ComRes on whether time limits for abortion should be increased shows that only 1% of women wanted the time limit to be extended; in contrast, 70% of women favour a reduction in time limits. The polling also showed that 77% of women agree that doctors should be required to verify in person that a patient seeking an abortion is not under pressure from a third party to undergo the abortion, and 91% of women agree that gender-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.
Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:
“This is a major victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies. These amendments would have left the unborn child with considerably worse protections and removed many of the current safeguards which protect women facing unplanned pregnancies.
“Thank you to the thousands of people that rallied over the last week to get friends and family to email their MPs. MPs received more emails ahead of this vote than they have ever received ahead of an abortion vote.
“Thank you to the amazing group of pro-life MPs in Parliament who have worked so hard to ensure that these extreme amendments were defeated.
“Thank you to the large number of organisations that have all come together to encourage their supporters to contact MPs and ensure this major attempt to introduce extreme abortion changes was defeated.