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Ethics – Radical abortion motion

December 2018

Fiona Bruce – UK Parliament official portraits 2017
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Campaigners have expressed relief that a radical abortion motion brought forward by Diana Johnson MP, Labour MP for Hull North, is unlikely to become law.

The motion, which MPs passed by 208 to 123 votes in October, sought to impose abortion on Northern Ireland and remove many of the current legal safeguards around abortion provision in England and Wales.

As the debate was a ‘10 Minute Rule Motion’, it is unlikely it will be given further time by the government in Parliament, or become law, according to the widely based charity Right to Life (https://righttolife.org.uk).

Right to Life added that Ms Johnson’s proposals for England and Wales are out of line with public opinion, with the majority of women wanting more, not less, safeguards around abortion.

The charity says 70 per cent of women polled believe that the current 24-week gestational limit for abortion should be reduced — not increased — with 93 per cent of women wanting an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion.

Dangerous precedent

During the Commons debate, Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, said the move would set a dangerous constitutional precedent of interference, that it was unconstitutional, and would undermine the substance and spirit of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement.

She said: ‘Northern Ireland is the most recent part of the UK to vote on abortion law in 2016, and by a clear majority to retain their law as it stands’. In Northern Ireland 66 per cent of women and 70 per cent of 18-34s said that Westminster should not dictate this change to them.

Clare McCarthy, spokesperson for Right to Life, said: ‘Ms Johnson’s bill goes a lot further than seeking to impose abortion legislation on Northern Ireland. If these proposals were to become law, it would bring about one of the world’s most extreme abortion laws.

‘This bill would have the effect of making the Abortion Act 1967, along with most of the legal safeguards it provides, void through to at least 24 weeks gestation’.