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UK News

No vote on amendment to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales

by Press Association

A proposal to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales received a mixed response in the Commons.

Labour former minister Dame Diana Johnson's amendment, which she was not intending to push to a vote, would also have created a new offence of non-consensual termination of pregnancy - which would include where a woman's abusive partner intentionally or recklessly caused her abortion through abusive behaviour.

Conservative MP Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) said new clause 55 would "introduce abortion on demand for any reason up to birth".

She added: "Abortion would be available on demand for any reason and evidence shows after a few weeks, unborn babies are sentient beings in the womb. Who gives them a voice?"

But Dame Diana, intervening, said: "I think we need to get the facts straight here.

"Could she point to where in the amendment it says that there will be no safeguards around abortion? It talks about decriminalisation, not deregulation."

Abortion is currently regulated through the 1967 Abortion Act, which provides exemptions to a law from 1861 which makes abortion illegal. 

Diana Johnson's amendment, signed by ten other MPs, looked to repeal parts of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

The amendment stated: "an act done by, or with the informed consent or assistance of B (a woman wanting an abortion), or done in good faith by a registered medical practitioner, registered nurse or registered midwife, is not to be considered unlawful."

The Evangelical Alliance, CARE, Right to Life and SPUC had all been encouraging their supporters to write to their MP to oppose the amendment. 

"The current law protects women from unsafe and unregulated abortions and provides at least a small measure of protection for unborn children. This proposal would undermine the safety of both. Recent changes have seen the introduction of at-home abortion, initially due to the pandemic, but there’s a risk this could be extended further or even made permanent. Such a prospect has led to increased awareness around the risks of terminating pregnancies and the need for good medical care throughout pregnancy. By removing the law and deregulating abortion, any suggestion that this is for the safety of women is hard to accept," said Danny Webster from the Evangelical Alliance, prior to the amendment being tabled. 


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