Conservative backbench MP, Ann Winterton, failed to secure parliamentary support for her ‘Ten minute rule Bill’ requiring counselling for all women contemplating an abortion. Her Termination of Pregnancy (Counselling and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was defeated in the Commons by 182 votes to 107 votes.
Ann Winterton, who is Vice-Chairman of the all-parliamentary Pro-Life group, proposed legislation to provide counselling for all women contemplating an abortion. This counselling would warn of possible dangers to physical and mental health, inform of alternative help and provide a seven-day ‘cooling off’ period before making a final decision.
The pro-life group Christian Concern for our Nation gave an example of why this is so important. They quoted recent comments of one young woman who had an abortion: ‘I had the pregnancy test on Monday, had a scan on Tuesday and the abortion on Wednesday, and no one asked me if I was sure’.
The lost bill also required doctors to state on notification forms whether the abortion was carried out on the grounds of a threat to the physical or mental health of the mother posed by the pregnancy’s continuation. Currently the two grounds (physical or mental) are combined, which obscures the real reasons for the abortion and prevents any scrutiny of whether the legal test set out under the Abortion Act 1967 has actually been fulfilled.
During the Parliamentary debate, Mrs Winterton raised concerns that there was a current culture of ‘abortion on demand’, stating, ‘At present, abortion on demand is carried out on the catch-all ground of risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the woman. Members will be interested to learn that of 186,416 abortions on resident women in 2005, 178,341 were carried out on that ground – 96% in total under that criterion’.