An attempt to repeal all legal protections for the unborn in England and Wales has been abandoned.
Last night, Dame Diana Johnson MP withdrew her amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which would have introduced abortion on demand up to birth.
In the UK, abortion is currently permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons, but is available up to birth for conditions such as Down’s syndrome and cleft palate.
Had New Clause 55 been successful, it would have repealed all legal safeguards around abortion, including the need for a doctor to be involved, and would have removed conscience protections for medics who did not wish to participate.
The amendment was severely criticised by Christian MP Fiona Bruce, who described it as “truly shocking”.
She said it would leave England and Wales “with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world”.
Mrs Bruce expressed astonishment that, under the proposed changes, “a viable human being could have his or her life ended, up to the point of birth, with no one held accountable, and yet a day later similar actions against a child outside the womb would constitute murder.”
‘Better than this’
The MP for Congleton continued: “If New Clause 55 were put to a vote, I am confident that it would be soundly defeated. The proposal has no place on the amendment paper. It has no place in this House. We are better than this.”
New Clause 55 has no place in a compassionate, civilised and humane society.
Mrs Bruce concluded: “Let today be a turning point in our approach towards the review of this country’s abortion laws. Let us determine to secure better protection for the unborn child and for women, not worse. New Clause 55 has no place in a compassionate, civilised and humane society.”
Sally-Ann Hart MP agreed. In another powerful speech she said: “Evidence shows that after a few weeks, unborn babies are sentient beings in the womb. Who gives them a voice? We should ask ourselves what kind of a society we are that we would condone that.
“The British public prides itself on being a reasonable, humane and tolerant society. Such an extreme and radical abortion law has no place in the UK.”
MPs repeatedly drew attention to the remarkably high number of calls and emails they had received from constituents urging them to oppose the change.
I have received more emails and calls about New Clause 55 than I have about any other measure since I was elected to the House eleven years ago
Bob Blackman MP said many voters across the country had rallied against the prospect of abortion up to birth, noting that “I have received more emails and calls about New Clause 55 than I have about any other measure since I was elected to the House eleven years ago.”
In an open letter issued in advance of the debate, over 800 medical professionals called on Johnson to withdraw her amendment, saying that her proposal would undermine the medical profession’s “core duty to protect life whenever and wherever possible”.
Such an extreme and radical abortion law has no place in the UK