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Veteran pro-life politician, Baroness Williams, dies

Baroness Shirley Williams, former Labour and Social Democratic Party MP, and life-long pro-life politician died on Monday 12 April.

First elected as a Labour MP in 1964, she was one of only two women MPs who voted against the 1967 Abortion Act.

Baroness Williams of Crosby was a life-long opponent to abortion and human embryo experimentation, as well as human cloning and euthanasia.

The Labour Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance all said that, though her pro-life views differed significantly from the majority of these parties’ MPs, they were nevertheless proud to have her as a member.

Significant political career

In 1964 Williams was elected to the House of Commons for Hitchin. She served as Minister for Education and Science between 1967 and 1969 and then Minister of State for Home Affairs from 1969 to 1970. She served as Shadow Home Secretary from 1971 and 1973. In 1974, she became Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection and then she served as Secretary of State for Education and Science and Paymaster General from 1976 to 1979. 

In 1981 she was one of the “Gang of Four”, centrist Labour figures who formed the SDP. Williams won the 1981 Crosby by-election and became the first SDP member elected to Parliament. She served as President of the SDP from 1982 to 1987 and was supportive of the SDP’s merger with the Liberal Party that formed the Liberal Democrats.

From 2001 to 2004, she served as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, and from 2007 to 2010, as Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. She remained an active member of the House of Lords until her retirement in January 2016, and was a Professor Emerita of Electoral Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

‘There are hazards in everything one does, but there are greater hazards in doing nothing.’

In a short obituary, Lord Alton of Liverpool said: “Shirley Williams was from a generation which respected conscience – but she also expected others to respect her conscience”.

“[She] gave politics a good name and all of us who knew her will greatly miss her wonderful spirit. A rising generation, interested in politics, should carefully reflect on her life, times and ideas”.

“She once said: ‘There are hazards in everything one does, but there are greater hazards in doing nothing.’ Not an accusation which could ever be levelled at her”.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Baroness Williams of Crosby was one of the first of a long series of MPs since 1967 to resist, with great courage, conviction and respect, the change in the British Parliament in favour of abortion. Her stand against abortion has surely served, and will continue to serve, as a great example for all those who have come after her in ensuring that the unborn and women facing unplanned pregnancies are not forgotten in the Houses of Parliament”.

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.