Pro-life groups have expressed relief as attempts to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Domestic Abuse Bill to decriminalise abortion and permanently legalise dangerous home abortions failed, in what is being described as “a major victory for the unborn child and women”.
However, they expressed concern about an announcement by Minister Victoria Atkins that the Government would be holding a consultation into making the temporary provisions on home abortions during the pandemic permanent.
The Speaker of the House of Commons rejected New Clause 29, an amendment by Diana Johnson to remove sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act, as being outside the scope of the bill. The amendment sought to remove abortion from criminal law and nullify the Abortion Act, which requires legal adherence to conditions such as gestational time limits and health issues.
Prior to the debate, Bishop John Sherrington, the lead Catholic Bishop for Life Issues, warned that the amendment would allow abortion on demand “for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks”. He appealed to people to write to their MPs urging them to oppose the amendment.
Another abortion amendment, New Clause 28, sought to permanently legalise abortions for women, at any time, without having to attend a hospital or place approved by the Secretary of State, providing they are in an abusive situation. However Ms Johnson withdrew this amendment after a promise from the Government that it will have a public consultation about whether the temporary allowance for home abortions will be made permanent.
Life Charity welcomed the rejection of the amendments, saying that as a charity that provides practical care and support to thousands of vulnerable women, they welcome the Domestic Abuse Bill, as “much needed legislation intended to keep women safe and protect them from abuse and exploitation”
They criticised the attempts to hijack the bill in an attempt to decriminalise abortion, saying they “contradicted the spirit and intention of the Domestic Abuse Bill”.
“Had she been successful, Ms Johnson’s amendment on home abortions would have enabled those who groom young people for sexual abuse, to hide their crimes since there would have been less monitoring by medical professionals,” Liz Parsons, Life’s director of advocacy, told The Catholic Universe. “We therefore welcome the opportunity to engage in a public consultation on whether home abortions should be allowed to continue permanently.”
Ms Parsons also expressed relief that the Speaker rejected the amendment to decriminalise abortion in the bill, warning that this would have meant that abortion clinics, which, she said, have exposed women to health risks and blatantly flouted the current abortion laws, would have been able to escape any legal sanctions.
“Last year the abortion lobby hijacked a government bill to impose abortion on Northern Ireland. Parliament must be commended for stopping them from repeating another hijack of a government bill to serve their agenda for abortion on demand. MPs have demonstrated today that they can be objective and focused on true protection for women and we welcome the Domestic Abuse Bill in its current form,” she added.
Right To Life UK declared the pro-abortion lobby’s failure to hijack the bill as “a major victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies”, warning that if they had been successful, the amendments would have left the unborn child with considerably worse protections and removed many of the current safeguards that 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,” Catherine Robinson, of Right To Life UK, told The Catholic Universe.
“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.
“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,” Ms Robinson added.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) had also urged its supporters to contact their MPs, asking them to make it clear to the Speaker that decriminalising abortion was outside the scope of this bill.
“Indeed, that’s what he found,” Alithea Williams, SPUC’s political assistant, told The Catholic Universe. “It is great news that this unrelated, opportunistic amendment, which would have removed all remaining protection from unborn children, was not given any parliamentary time.”
Miss Williams also described the collapse of New Clause 28 as “a huge relief”.
“If this amendment had passed vulnerable women would be exposed to a greater risk of coerced abortion,” she said, citing recent revelations that “abortion providers are not making even basic checks when they certify women for abortion over the phone under the current remote abortions regime”.
“It is therefore a huge relief that this situation will not be made permanent the most vulnerable women, victims of domestic abuse,” she said. “However, the announcement of a consultation on making the temporary home abortions regime permanent is very concerning. 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.”
Miss Williams concluded: “SPUC supporters up and down the country lobbied hard to defeat these amendments today. We will be mobilising them again to respond to this consultation and do all we can to make sure that dangerous home abortions do not continue. We have too much experience of Government consultations on pro-life matters, which result in little evidence that pro-life concerns have been heard. But we will continue to make our voices heard – lives are at stake.”
Picture: General view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in Westminster, London. (Dominic Lipinski/PA).