Thank you for contacting me about abortion.
Diana Johnson Amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (NC55): I will be voting against this amendment.
NC 55 goes far beyond 'decriminalising abortion'. It would remove all the existing safeguards and protections in current abortion legislation and render the 1967 Abortion Act redundant. It would, in effect, introduce abortion on demand (including sex-selective abortions) up to birth.
The amendment would have the following specific consequences, among others:
- There would be no legal restrictions on places where abortions could be performed.
- A doctor would not be required to participate in an abortion procedure. Healthcare assistants, nurses, and pharmacists could carry out abortions.
- There would be no legal requirement that two doctors must certify an abortion.
- There would be no legal provision protecting medical professionals’ freedom of conscience with regard to abortion. This could result in doctors and other healthcare professionals being forced into choosing between performing an abortion or leaving their profession. The Abortion Act (s. 4) provides conscientious objection rights for medical professionals. Without this safeguard, doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals could be forced to perform abortions or leave their profession. They could also be forced to be complicit in the abortion process by having to refer to another doctor who would do a termination (e.g. Victoria, Australia a doctor was investigated for not referring for a sex-selective abortion.)
- The situation would likely allow for far greater abuses than have already occurred under the current law.
○ Already within our current legal framework we have seen doctors pre-signing abortion forms, sex-selective abortions being offered, live babies being left to die following abortions that have gone wrong and children with minor disabilities, such as cleft palate, being aborted.
○ In this context, where the current law is supposed to be preventing such appalling practices, the thought of allowing abortion on demand and removing legal safeguards is seriously worrying.
- ‘Decriminalisation’ would put women in greater danger. As Lord Morrow noted during a debate on repealing section 58,“the repeal of Section 58 means that the provision of abortion becomes legal in any context ...Thus, extraordinarily, backstreet abortions, with all the attendant safety concerns for women, will be de facto legal.”
Protests outside Abortion Facilities ('Buffer Zones'): This country has a proud history of allowing free speech. The law already provides protection against harassment and intimidation, and the police have a range of powers to manage protests. Like all members of the public, protesters are subject to the law and suspected criminal offences must be robustly investigated and dealt with by the police.
Following allegations about the tactics of protestors outside some abortion clinics, a review was instigated by Government in 2018. This review revealed that anti-abortion demonstrations take place outside a small number of facilities. In 2017 for example, 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales carried out abortions and pro-life advocates were present at 36 of them on various occasions. With this in mind as well as the peaceful nature of such occasions, I support the Government’s assessment that introducing national 'buffer' or censorship zones would not be an appropriate response.
It is worth pointing out that opposition to 'buffer'/censorship zones goes beyond pro-life advocates and embraces advocates of democratic liberties who may not agree with the pro-life position on abortion but oppose censorship zones because they infringe on free speech.
A number of prominent human rights groups and campaigners, all of whom support abortion, have spoken out against the introduction of censorship zones including Peter Tatchell, the Manifesto Club, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and the Freedom Association.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP