A leading pro-life MP welcomed the defeat Monday of attempts to strip away protections for unborn children in the U.K.
Fiona Bruce, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, told CNA July 7 that the result was a “clear victory” for the pro-life movement.
A group of MPs sought to introduce two amendments July 6 removing restrictions on abortion to a bill aimed at combating domestic abuse.
The first, New Clause 28, would have permitted women in abusive relationships to undergo both medical and surgical abortions in any location.
The second, New Clause 29, would have introduced abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks.
The first clause was withdrawn after it became clear that it would not be backed by a majority of MPs.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, ruled that the second clause would not be selected for debate, deeming it “out of scope” of the Domestic Abuse Bill.
Bruce said: “I and other MPs, Members of the Pro-Life All Party Parliamentary Group, are delighted at this clear victory.”
“Thank you to everyone who wrote to their MP -- and prayed -- about the concerning amendments proposed to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which would have brought in the most significant -- and disturbing -- changes to our abortion laws in 50 years, none of which were passed by the House of Commons last night.”
“Indeed one of them, New Clause 29, was not even allowed to be debated by the Speaker: he deemed it ‘out of scope’ before the debate even began.”
Bruce, the Conservative MP for Congleton, continued: “I was very pleased that the proposer of the other -- New Clause 28 -- proposing an extension of the temporary emergency provisions for the provision of ‘at-home abortion pills’ during the current coronavirus crisis, withdrew it.”
“As the debate went on, with many strong contributions from pro-life MPs against New Clause 28, it became clear to MPs in the chamber of the House of Commons that if New Clause 28 was put to a vote the proposers of this dangerous clause risked a serious defeat.”
Bruce noted that pro-life MPs also won a commitment from the Government to review temporary measures on at-home medical abortions before it takes further action.
“It is to be hoped, and we need to ensure, that this review -- consultation -- will properly and fairly highlight safety concerns around the taking of ‘at-home abortion pills’ which have been highlighted in recent press reports,” she said.
The government announced in March that women would be allowed to perform medical abortions at home until the coronavirus crisis ends. In May, it was reported that police were investigating a case in which a mother took home abortion pills while 28 weeks pregnant, four weeks past the legal abortion time limit.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which oversees the “pills by post” service, reportedly confirmed that it was looking into the case, along with eight others in which women were beyond the 10-week limit for medical abortions at home.
Dr Helen Watt, senior research fellow at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, told CNA July 6 that it was “a huge relief” that neither of the two amendments were incorporated into the Domestic Abuse Bill.
She said: “For years, the abortion lobby has been pushing for home abortions, and COVID-19 provided the pretext to introduce them. Already, this temporary permission has led to on-the-ground use of abortion pills far beyond the ‘right’ gestation: in a harrowing recent case, one baby killed by home abortion was stillborn at 28 weeks.”
“It would be unconscionable to entrench permanently home abortions for genuine abuse cases, not least as abusive environments are precisely those in which coercion to abort is most likely, while such coercion is clearly harder to detect remotely.”
Watt added that women who were not being abused might be tempted to claim that they were in order to gain access to the pills.
“Checking the facts here is no easier than checking for coercion, gestational age or possible ectopic pregnancy,” she said.
“Home abortions are not only lethal to the baby but carry real harms and risks for the mother: women with crisis pregnancies need swift in-person help, not remote, abortion-focused consultations.”
Ahead of Monday’s House of Commons debate, an English bishop urged Catholics to contact their MPs to express their concern about the amendments. Bishop John Sherrington said that the proposals would “leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe.”
He said: “This is being presented as decriminalizing abortion but it would, if carried, do far more than that. It would result in the introduction of abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks.”
“It would leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe, where in nearly all countries the time limit for abortion is 12 weeks. The majority of our fellow citizens would like to see the current 24-week limit reduced, not increased.”
Last month official figures revealed that a record number of abortions took place in England and Wales in 2019.
The government said June 11 that a total of 209,519 abortions took place last year, more than in any other year since the practice was legalized by the Abortion Act 1967.
Catherine Robinson, spokesperson for the charitable organization Right to Life UK, said: “This is 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.”
“Thank you to the thousands of people that rallied over the last week to get friends and family to email their MPs. MPs received more emails ahead of this vote than they have ever received ahead of an abortion vote.”
“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.”