Pro-life victory as major attempt to introduce Europe’s most extreme abortion law fails

An attempt to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Domestic Abuse Bill with two extreme abortion proposals has failed. 

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, announced yesterday 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 later withdrew 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, following a good number of strong speeches against it.

Stirring speeches from Fiona Bruce MP and Carla Lockhart MP, along with a number of other MPs who don’t share their pro-life position on abortion, made it clear that this amendment would have had serious negative consequences for victims of domestic abuse.

As a result, it appears that the abortion lobby realised the extreme likelihood of their radical amendment being defeated and encouraged Diana Johnson to withdraw it.

If the Labour MP had pushed the amendment to a vote and lost, this would have been the first time a pro-abortion amendment or Bill had been defeated in a vote in UK history.

Pro-life MP Fiona Bruce MP put forward an amendment calling for a review of the current temporary measures allowing ‘DIY’ abortions. The amendment 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.

Stirring speeches against extreme abortion amendment

Contrary to the abortion lobby’s claims and the aims of the Domestic Abuse Bill, New Clause 28 would have likely resulted in a far greater number of women being coerced or forced into an unwanted abortion. 

By making both medical and surgical abortions legal outside of a hospital setting or place approved by the Secretary of State and removing the requirement for an in-person consultation, it would be difficult for physicians and providers to ascertain if abuse or coercion is involved.

The extreme change could have compromised the privacy of the patient and, in theory, would have allowed an abuser to hide in the background of an ‘electronic’ consultation.

Additionally, New Clause 28 would have removed the current 9 weeks and 6 days’ gestation time limit on ‘DIY’ home abortions which is present under the current temporary regulations.

This concern was raised in the House of Commons last night by Conservative MP Fiona.

Speaking against the amendment, the pro-life MP 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.”

Speaking from a personal capacity, Fiona Bruce then went on to say: “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.” 

Alex Stafford MP echoed Fiona Bruce’s concerns and said such a “seismic change” in the UK’s abortion law shouldn’t be “tacked on” to the Domestic Abuse Bill. 

Outlining his concerns with the amendment the MP for Rother Valley said: “Disturbingly, the new clause does not have a gestation period limit and is not limited to medical abortion. 

“In terms of addressing domestic abuse, as we have heard, the new clause could in fact worsen the very problem that it tries to address. 

“By removing confidential face-to-face meetings between women and a medical professional, it becomes impossible for clinicians to establish whether the woman was coerced into requesting the home pill or even whether it was in fact her on the telephone. This is a serious point. We should not do anything that could make domestic abuse any worse.”

Carla Lockhart MP shared the concerns of a person who works with women experiencing domestic abuse in England who said: “We work every day with women who experience domestic abuse. We see the way they are controlled and manipulated. To me, this suggests the legislation will only be making that worse. It will give abusers more power and more reason to keep the woman being abused at home, away from people who can really help them.” 

The pro-life MP said MPs “should not hinder” professionals like these in their work and that “laws should be designed to help vulnerable women escape domestic abuse situations, not enable them to remain in those horrific situations”.

She added: “The new clause seems to be a clear attempt to use the Domestic Abuse Bill as a vehicle to advance an agenda that is emphatic on expanding access to abortion, seemingly failing to acknowledge that allowing women to have an abortion at locations other than hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State has already led to serious complications. We all know that abortion is not the answer to domestic abuse. Surely we should be addressing how women find themselves in such difficult situations, and take measures to prevent that?”

Barrister and Chair of the Justice Select Committee Sir Robert Neill raised concerns from his experience as a criminal practitioner saying: “on more than one occasion, I found instances where part of the abuse had been to force the victim to have an abortion.” 

Highlighting that the new amendment would further compound this problem, he added: “The irony is that reliance on a telephone call to procure the means of doing that does not give the safeguard of knowing who is standing next to the victim when she makes the telephone call. I have certainly seen instances of that in practice, as other criminal practitioners will have done. Although the intentions are good and well meant, I have a concern about moving down the route set out in new clause 28.”

Abortion up to 28 weeks avoided

Amendment New Clause 29, which was not selected for debate and will, therefore, not be included in Domestic Abuse Bill legislation, 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. 

Women against extreme abortion proposals

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 want the time limit to be extended; in contrast, 70% of women are  in favour of 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.

Major victory

A 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.”

Prime Minister receives huge petition against disability abortion from Heidi Crowter

Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old woman who has Down’s syndrome, has delivered an open letter to Boris Johnson against an abortion law which makes her feel like she would be “better off dead”.

The petition, which was signed by over 18,000 people from Northern Ireland, urges the Prime Minister and other British MPs to let the people of Northern Ireland decide its own abortions laws.

If the same proportion of the UK population signed a similar petition it would equate to over 600,000 people.

Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, politicians in Westminster voted to impose an extreme abortion regime on the province.

Under the new regulations abortion is allowed up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome.

MPs are scheduled to vote on whether to approve the extreme abortion regulations tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s vote follows the last Westminster vote on Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, almost one year ago, in which 100% of Northern Irish MPs present voted against the proposals.

However, abortion was imposed on Northern Ireland, regardless, because of the greater number of English, Welsh and Scottish MPs, enforcing their different view on the province.

Northern Irish MPs have continued to speak out against the changes and a number of them, including Carla Lockhart, joined Heidi today at Downing Street.

‘Downright discrimination in the womb’

Speaking at Downing Street, today, Heidi said: “I’m asking MPs to respect the vote of Northern Ireland and make sure that it stands and to allow equality in the womb for every baby.

“I want this to happen because I’m someone who has Down’s Syndrome and I feel that the law makes me upset, it makes me feel like I’m better off dead.

“I think it sends a really negative message.”

She added: “I think the law which allows abortion up to birth for non-fatal disabilities such as mine is downright discrimination in the womb.”

‘Both lives matter’

Carla Lockhart MP who launched the petition with Baroness O’Loan said:

“Today at Westminster, along with colleagues and Heidi Crowter, we have delivered a petition to the Government saying no to the extreme abortion regulations that are being forced on the people of Northern Ireland.

“Along with over 18,000 people from Northern Ireland who signed the petition, we want to send a clear message to the Government that the people of Northern Ireland do not want Westminster imposing these extreme abortion laws on them.

“Instead, we join with Heidi Crowter in saying ‘no’ to discriminatory disability-selective abortion.

“We join Heidi in saying both lives matter.

“It is not the right of this Government to implement such far-reaching abortion laws on Northern Ireland that will see abortion up to birth for disability.

“So, as the vote takes place I am urging Westminster MPs to allow the devolved region to legislate in regards to abortion.”

Government recognises large numbers of pro-life voices during debate on proposed abortion framework in Northern Ireland

A number of pro-life MPs from across the political spectrum have expressed their dismay that Westminster is continuing with its plans to impose an extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland. 

The debate, which took place in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening, heard politicians rally in defence of unborn children, to respect devolution in Northern Ireland and to reverse Westminster’s extreme abortion regime imposed upon Northern Ireland.

Opening the debate, in place of Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, a Minister for Northern Ireland and Conservative MP Robin Walker said: “the Government are working towards the laying of regulations for a new legal framework for the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland, as required by the 2019 Act.” 

He confirmed the new framework will be in force by 31 March 2020.

However, a number of MPs have expressed deep concern that the proposed legislation goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 and could lead to abortion, for any reason, up to 24 weeks.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said she was deeply concerned by the width and breadth of the consultation raising concerns in her mind about possible changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland going much further than anticipated.

She added: “I am deeply concerned that the abortion framework that may be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office might go far beyond those three circumstances. For example, it may allow for access to abortion on request for any reason up to 12 weeks’ gestation, and then up to 24 weeks.”

Fiona Bruce also revealed that a number of clinicians in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned about their right to ​conscientiously object to engagement in abortion treatment procedures, and may not be given the same protections they have in England and Wales.

DUP MP Jim Shannon echoed Fiona Bruce’s concerns – that the proposed changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland go further than required, quoting the expert legal opinion of David Scoffield QC which stated:

“The question posed to me is essentially whether, if the… Secretary of State… determined to do no more than necessary to comply with his strict legal obligations under the 2019 Act, the proposals set out in the consultation go beyond this… I consider it to be relatively simple to conclude that the answer to this question is ‘yes’.”

Jim Shannon then asked the Northern Ireland Office to reconsider their “radical proposals”, saying they “constitute a clear political choice on the part of the NIO to undermine devolution to a greater extent than the 2017 to 2019 Parliament required…, which would effectively lead to abortion on request for any reason between 12 or 14 weeks’ and 22 or 24 weeks’ gestation.”

Under one of the proposed options being consulted on, abortion could be available for any reason, up to birth, for babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, club foot and other perceived disabilities.

Dr Lisa Cameron, who received hundreds of abusive messages and a threat of deselection for voting against imposing extreme abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, raised concerns from the Don’t Screen Us Out community, who are particularly concerned about the scope of the regulations and the impact on families with Down’s syndrome children.

“I hope that the Minister will comment on whether there has been consultation with that group [Don’t Screen Us Out], because, as I am sure the hon. Lady would agree, that would be very helpful.”

In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, DUP MP Carla Lockhart defended the right to life of unborn babies and called for the Government to respect devolution in Northern Ireland.

“I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ’No, mummy!’

“It is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, have published consultation proposals to introduce changes that go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament.”

However, Alliance MP Stephen Farry stated he was “content” that Westminster had ignored devolution and imposed extreme legislation on Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Tony Lloyd seemed to agree with the sentiment saying: “if the Assembly were to legislate contrary to the UK Government’s establishment of a process for safe and legal abortion, our efforts would have been futile.”

Closing the debate, Robin Walker, stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland, he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people, who I am happy to meet to try to address their concerns further, to ensure that we take this forward in the best possible way and in a way that is respectful of the concerns in the community in Northern Ireland and more widely.”

Pro-life MP uses maiden speech to defend the right to life of unborn babies and calls for a culture of choosing life

A pro-life MP has used her maiden speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday to defend the right to life of unborn babies and calls for the Government to respect devolution in Northern Ireland.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart made her encouraging remarks during a debate on a recent report from the Northern Ireland Office on Westminster’s plans to impose extreme abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

Carla Lockhart won the Northern Ireland seat of Upper Bann with a majority of over 8,000. 

In her speech, Ms Lockhart said:

“I now move to the motion at hand, and particularly the report concerning abortion. I feel it is imperative that I speak on this to attempt again to highlight the anger, disappointment and frustration concerning the change in abortion laws that have been foisted upon the people of Northern Ireland. These changes came in the most roughshod way, with complete contempt for the devolved Administration and the views of the people of Northern Ireland. I want today to make the point to this House, on behalf of the many thousands of people across Northern Ireland who take a pro-life stance, that we want to repeal section 9 with immediate effect and allow for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate, discuss and evidence-gather on this emotive issue.

“The Secretary of State has not intervened to assist in our crumbling healthcare system, or to fairly reward our healthcare workers or to avert the mental health crisis we are facing. He hasn’t done that because, in his own words,  he has said that these are ‘devolved issues’. Abortion was and should be a devolved matter, yet this House has imposed on Northern Ireland the most extreme measures of abortion anywhere across Europe.

“Northern Ireland has been a country that has always supported life-affirming laws. Back in 1967, our politicians said no to the ‘67 Abortion Act, and according to research conducted by Both Lives Matter, 100,000 people are alive today. England and Wales back then did support the Act, and as a result over 8 million babies have been aborted—three every minute, 23 every hour or 561 every day, and that’s only a small percentage of them being aborted on the grounds of sexual crime or fatal foetal abnormality.

“Great credence has been given to the CEDAW report and the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) mentioned the three instances. However, we believe that the abortion framework that looks likely to be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office will go far beyond allowing abortion on these grounds. It is my understanding that no consultation will take place on the legislative text of the regulations. With regard to abortion, it is well known that the detail of the text is crucial. The ask on that is that we, at least, as parliamentarians are ​consulted before the specific text is laid, and I welcome the Minister’s commitment to meet those Members who are concerned in that regard.

“In Northern Ireland, abortion on request for any reason will be legalised to the point at which a baby is ‘capable of being born alive’.

“This includes on the grounds of disability. I implore my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister to accede to the request to have section 9 repealed as part of the ongoing negotiations. The DUP are a pro-life party, but this actually crosses traditional boundaries and there is widespread cross-community support across Northern Ireland. We have an evolving political landscape, and I say let the people of Northern Ireland have their say on this matter.

“On this, Mr Speaker, I will bring my remarks to a close. I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ‘No, mummy!’ Mr Speaker, it is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, has published consultation proposals to introduce changes which go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament. If the Government wants to maintain any commitment to devolution, I would implore them to rethink their coach-and-horses approach to a life-and-death piece of legislation.”

Closing the debate, Conservative MP Robin Walker stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland,  he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people.”

After the debate, Ms Lockhart posted on Facebook:“This evening I had the honour of making my maiden speech as the MP for Upper Bann. Whilst I did take the time to highlight and showcase this great constituency I represent, it was also an opportunity to speak on the debate covering the introduction of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.

“I am unapologetically pro-life and look forward to challenging the Government on this alongside other pro-life members from across the House.”

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

“It was hugely encouraging to see a new MP use her maiden speech to speak out so clearly about the right to life for the unborn.

“This is further evidence that supports our analysis which concludes that the make-up of the new parliament is significantly more pro-life than the previous one.

“We share in Ms Lockhart’s disappointment and frustration concerning the imposition of extreme abortion laws in Northern Ireland by a Government who claims to support the devolution settlement. 

“We will support Carla and other MPs in their efforts to hold the Government to account on their words in regard to devolution, as doing so will help protect the lives of unborn babies in Northern Ireland.”