Up-to-birth abortion for any reason is about to be voted on in parliament despite most women opposing it

Over at the Think Theology blog, Andrew Bunt highlights a concerning move coming up in parliament. He writes:

Next Monday, it is likely that MPs will be given the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (NC55). The amendment would decriminalise abortion in England and Wales, making the procedure available on demand, for any reason, up to birth. This would be one of the most extreme abortion laws anywhere in the world.

The amendment has been tabled by Labour MP, Diana Johnson, and a cross-party group of 10 other MPs have also agreed to move the amendment.

Right for Life lay out some of the key and most troubling aspects of this move. Whilst, naturally, from a Christian perspective there are lots of terribly worrying things about this, many who have no Christian faith and are in no way against abortion in principle also have major concerns about this ill-considered amendment. Some of those include:

  • The inappropriateness of attaching legislation on an emotive issue like abortion onto the back of legislation focusing on crime, sentencing and courts. It is too serious an issue to merely be tacked onto legislation designed to address entirely different matters.
  • The proposed amendment would remove all the safeguards, designed to protect women, that exist in the current Abortion Act 1967 rendering the 1967 Act redundant.
  • It would legalise sex-selective abortion, which disproportionately affects girls.
  • It would legalise abortion for any reason up to birth. This would disproportionately affect BAME and disabled people.
  • It would increase the likelihood of forced termination – something that would disproportionately affect BAME women
  • As abortion would be permitted anywhere, the care and oversight of healthcare professionals would be removed, leading to significant safety concerns for the women involved

Indeed, even beyond these things, polling suggests that most women are not in favour of such a move. SavantaComRes has undertaken the most extensive UK polling in a decade on abortion. They found that only 1% of women support the time limit on abortion being extended, with 70% favouring a reduction in the current 24 week time limit. 60% of the general population also agree. 76% of the UK population believe that doctors should be required to verify in person whether a person seeking an abortion is under undue pressure from a third party, with a staggering 93% of women agreeing that a woman considering abortion should have a legal right to independent counselling from a source that has no financial interest in her decision. 91% of women believe sex-selective abortions should be explicitly banned in law. 89% of the general population agreed with them on that. What this minimally tells us is that UK-wide views on this issue are not at all in line with the proposed amendment.

Interestingly, tucked away in the Scottish section of The Times last Friday, was the following comment piece by Peter Kearney. I reproduce it in full here because it is both short and specifically relevant:

Over the past 20 years the Scottish government has conducted hundreds of consultations, generating many thousands of responses. Consultations were seen as a mechanism to garner evidence and opinion from organisations and individuals which fed in to the public policy and legislative process.

They set out to “seek views” and “gather evidence” and seemed like an entirely innocuous way of taking the pulse of the nation. Or at least they were until last week when the Scottish government broke with every previous convention and deliberately set out to diminish and demean the views of thousands of individuals who took part in the Consultation on Future Arrangements for Early Medical Abortion at Home.

The consultation ran for three months at the end of last year. Owing to the pandemic, the government had changed the rules for early abortions, no longer requiring women to attend a hospital clinic to take mifepristone, the two sets of pills, under medical supervision. Instead, powerful abortifacients could be taken at home.

Although more than 600 medical professionals signed an open letter to the Scottish, Welsh and English governments calling for an end to “at-home” abortion because of concerns about abortions occurring beyond the ten-week limit and about women and girls being coerced into an abortion against their will, the Scottish government consulted on whether the arrangements should become permanent or revert to the previous arrangements. DIY home abortions are associated with incidents including significant pain and bleeding, ruptured ectopics and haemorrhage.

Only 17 per cent of submissions to the consultation supported home abortions being made permanent. A total of 61 per cent wanted home abortion services ended and 74 per cent believed they had a negative impact on the safety of women.

In a shocking analysis of the consultation results, however, a sinister anti-faith bias is evident.

A significant number of responses from the public were labelled as “organised by pro-life or faith groups” as if to suggest that they should be dismissed or downgraded in importance. Worryingly, responses from pro-abortion groups were not singled out.

Clearly wrong-footed by the overwhelming opposition to home abortion, the Scottish government has sought to diminish the results and to commission an “independent evaluation” of the procedure. There are no prizes for guessing what the outcome of that exercise will be.

Notably, 600 hundred medical professionals in Scotland wrote a joint letter querying this particular stance. That is, interestingly, not dissimilar to the protest of 1000 midwives against BPAS’s campaign for the introduction of up-to-birth abortion for any reason. Those 600 medical professionals in Scotland merely kicked off a consultation. When that consultation delivered a clear result – only 17% of respondents favouring the position whilst 61% wanted the practice, in line with the medical professionals, immediately stopped – the SNP found reasons to justify away the result they were clearly not expecting. As Kearney sardonically suggests of the independent evaluation of the consultation procedure, we can pick the result now.

The reason for my sharing this is that – contrary to popular belief – the support for up-to-birth abortion amongst the general public is simply not there. This is an obsession principally among ultra-liberals in Westminster. Once again, the mores of liberal elites take precedent over all. The proof that this is an obsession can be seen in the way the British government have sought to impose their views on Northern Ireland, showing that colonialism is not dead and gone just yet. You can read here, here, here and here about it. As I noted there, ‘As the progressive liberals in Westminster continue to apologise for Britain’s colonial past, they impose laws on Northern Ireland that they don’t want so that they can feel good about signalling their right virtues to the world, making it clear to all that British colonialism is alive and well after all.’ But their paternalistic impulses continue as they seek to change abortion law against the will of most British people, against the views of most women polled, in the face of consultations commissioned by themselves and – knowing all these things – attempting to secretly slip them into other pieces of legislation to get around these facts that they find deeply inconvenient.

There are many other issues that go well beyond the questions of when life begins and whether one happens to have a faith belief or not. Indeed, they press beyond the question of whether you believe abortion in principle is acceptable or not. These are things that should, rightly, concern everybody. I would encourage you to do the research on this (perhaps starting here) and write to your MP if the things you learn seriously concern you. You can do that by going to WriteToThem and telling them why these things are a serious concern.

As Andrew Bunt writes in his article:

Let’s speak up to our MPs. Do a bit of research and write to your MP explaining that this is not the way to make changes to our abortion provision. Highlight the fact that this amendment removes vital safeguards designed to protect women and would contribute to the furthering of gender inequality through the availability of sex-selective abortion. You can find out more about the amendment and make contact with you MP at Right for Life.