A campaign by activists to legalise abortion on demand up until birth hots up again this month, with the first reading of a Ten Minute Rule Bill on 13 March.
Labour MP Diana Johnson is introducing a ‘Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Ten Minute Rule Bill. The bill aims ‘to regulate the termination of pregnancies by medical practitioners and to repeal certain criminal offences relating to such terminations; and for connected purposes.’ Effectively seeking to amend sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
While the bill is unlikely to become law, Ten Minute Rule bills do very rarely eventually make it onto the statute books. However, the primary aim of Johnson’s bill seems to be to reopen the debate on ‘decriminalisation’ of abortion.
It is also quite probably an attempt to re-start discussions on lifting time limits on abortion – in other words, allowing abortion up to full term for all pregnancies. Current British law allows abortion to term only for disabled children, a situation that many disabled people see as profoundly discriminatory.
This push back on time limits and statutory protection for preborn but viable babies has been a prominent theme over the last year.
In May 2016, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) controversially backed a campaign by abortion provider BPAS for removal of all legal safeguards. At the same time, they introduced a new professional position statement severely curtailing the rights to freedom of conscience for midwives with respect to participation in abortion.
Midwives nationwide have expressed disgust at this stance by their professional body, with over a thousand writing an open letter to the President of the RCM opposing her support for the ‘We Trust Women’ campaign.
Only 2% of women back abortion up to term for any baby, regardless of disability. Lord Shinkwin’s bill for disabled babies to have equal protection under law is gaining widespread support, and is finishing its first phase of scrutiny in the House of Lords before going to the Commons.
The Johnson bill and the BPAS/RCM ‘We Trust Women’ campaign are trying to position themselves as mainstream, majority opinion. In reality they represent an extreme minority. Surveys show that the majority of the population see no need to relax the current law any further.
There is very little support for abortion on demand in British society, despite what campaigners say, which is why it is important that MPs are made aware of this when the Johnson bill comes before the Commons on 13 March.
This bill is both unnecessary and unwanted.