News Article24/02/2008

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill begins passage through the House of Commons

Marie Stopes International will be closely monitoring the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill through the House of Commons this spring. Having passed through the House of Lords, the Bill is expected to get a first commons reading towards the end of February.

After a Second Reading, the Bill will pass into Committee Stage, where potential amendments around abortion are likely to be proposed from both pro choice and anti abortion parliamentarians.

Opposition to the current Abortion Law will be led by Nadine Dorries MP, who will propose reductions to the current 24 week abortion limit. It is also likely that mandatory counselling for women seeking abortion, as well as an enforced waiting period before a procedure (to give women a chance to fully consider the implications of a termination) will be proposed.

“Marie Stopes International strongly opposes any lowering of the current time limit for abortion,” said Liz Davies, Director of UK and Western Europe Operations. “A reduction would make the lives of the very few women seeking a later term procedure extremely difficult.

“We must recognise that there will always be a need for later terminations, as a proportion of women, through no fault of their own, either do not recognise symptoms of pregnancy or have no reason to suspect that they could possibly be pregnant at all if, for example, they are regularly using a modern form of contraception.”

“As a society we should be supporting women and respecting their right to choose what they consider to be in their own best interests and the interests of their existing families and their unborn child, not condemning them or calling for measures that would limit their options and cause real hardship.”

It is anticipated that Pro-Choice MPs will seek to introduce amendments to improve access to abortion. There may be calls to remove the requirement for two doctors’ signatures to allow an abortion to proceed. Additional proposals might include amendments to allow easier access to medical abortion by ensuring that the first pill can be given by a qualified practitioner, and then allowing women to complete the procedure by taking the second pill at home.

Thus far, anti-abortion lobbying in the House of Lords to bring about changes to current legislation has proved unsuccessful. On January 28th, the first vote on an abortion amendment to the Report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill took place in the House of Lords.

The amendment, tabled by Baroness Masham of Ilton, would have removed the right to abortion on grounds of fetal abnormality. The proposed amendment, which was the first serious attempt to change the law for 17 years, was defeated by 89 votes to 22.

Marie Stopes International will continue to report on the bill’s progress through the House of Commons.


Related categories: Abortion Advocacy & campaigning
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