LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Pro-life groups in the UK expressing relief after the failure of an attempt to “hijack” the Domestic Abuse Bill to liberalize the country’s abortion laws.
On Monday, the Speaker of the House said Parliament would not debate an amendment to the bill – called New Clause 29 – that would have allowed abortion on demand up to 28 weeks of gestation.
In England and Wales, abortions are not allowed after the 24th week of pregnancy, although there are exceptions allowed by the law.
That evening, the sponsor of the second amendment – called New Clause 28 – announced she would be withdrawing the proposal, which would have allowed both medical and surgical abortions to take place in any location if a woman is in an abusive relationship.
The Catholic bishops’ conference in England and Wales and the Scottish bishops’ conference had both encouraged British Catholics to contact their representatives to oppose the two amendments.
“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,” said Fiona Bruce, a Member of Parliament from the Conservative Party.
Catherine Robinson of Right to Life UK said the defeat of the two amendments was “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,” she said.
Robinson noted that MPs received more emails ahead of the vote than they have ever received ahead of any previous vote dealing with abortion.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Alithea Williams from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said it was “great news that this unrelated, opportunistic amendment [New Clause 29], which would have removed all remaining protection from unborn children, was not given any parliamentary time.”
“The collapse of New Clause 28 is also a huge relief. If this amendment had passed vulnerable women would be exposed to a greater risk of coerced abortion,” she continued.
“It was revealed [Sunday] that abortion providers are not making even basic checks when they certify women for abortion over the phone under the current remote abortions regime,” Williams added, referring an emergency policy to allow “do-it-yourself abortions” during the coronavirus pandemic. The law usually requires women to visit two doctors before getting an abortion.
She said it was a “huge relief” that the temporary provision will not be made permanent in the Domestic Abuse Bill.
However, Williams said it was “concerning” that the government was announcing a consultation on making the temporary home abortions regime permanent.
“We have already seen ample evidence that this practise is impossible to regulate, and is not safe for women, especially the most vulnerable. A consultation will not lessen the dangers of DIY abortions,” she said.
Bruce called on the government to hold a inquiry into the practice of DIY abortions, with the MP asking the government to look 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.”
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome