Baby Feet. Credit: Morgan via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
A pro-life group said Monday that the failure of an attempt to introduce abortion on demand up to birth in England and Wales marked “a major victory for the unborn child.”
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said: “This is a major victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies.”
“Diana Johnson’s amendment would have removed all current legal safeguards around abortion provided by the Abortion Act, many of which protect women.”
“It would have been legal for an abortion to happen for any reason right through to birth. This would have left England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world.”
The charity also said that Rupa Huq, another Labour MP, decided not to take her amendment, NC42, which would have made it an offense punishable by up to two years in jail for pro-lifers to offer help to women outside abortion clinics.
Among those voicing concerns ahead of the potential vote on Diana Johnson’s amendment was Bishop John Sherrington, lead bishop for life issues at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“The implications of this amendment would permit the free choice of abortion without restriction. The protections of the present legislation would be swept away,” the auxiliary bishop of Westminster archdiocese said July 4.
“Please pray that this amendment will be rejected by the Speaker as beyond the scope of this particular legislation and, if debated, is rejected.”
More than 800 medical professionals also issued an open letter calling on Johnson to withdraw the amendment.
They wrote: “As health professionals, where required, we are responsible for the care of both women and their babies throughout pregnancy and childbirth. It would be very difficult for us to work in a health service where the lives of these babies could be ended for any reason up to birth and where current legal safeguards around abortion, many of which are there to protect women, have been removed.”
After the amendment was tabled, Right To Life asked its supporters to urge their MPs to vote against the text, which it said would make the Abortion Act 1967 redundant.
After the Act was passed, abortion was permitted up to 28 weeks until 1990, when the time limit was reduced to 24 weeks unless there is a “substantial risk” of disability.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) also urged its members to write to their MPs.
The group explained that the amendment would have allowed abortion up to birth by repealing sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which prohibits the administration of drugs or the use of instruments to cause a miscarriage, and excluding abortion from the Infant Life (Preservation) Act.
A record number of abortions took place in England and Wales in 2020, according to new statistics released last month.
The figures showed that there were 210,860 abortions, the highest number since the Abortion Act 1967 was introduced.
The statistics, published by the Department of Health and Social Care, showed that 3,083 abortions took place in 2020 on the grounds of disability.
Right To Life UK said that 693 of the abortions were due to Down syndrome, an increase from 656 in 2019.
It added that there were also 35 abortions for cleft lip or cleft palate in 2020. Both conditions can be corrected by surgery.
The charity also said that 65 “selective termination” procedures took place, where doctors abort an unborn child carried by a mother expecting multiple babies.
Right To Life UK’s Catherine Robinson said July 5: “Thank you to the thousands of people that rallied over the last week to get friends and family to email their MPs. MPs received more emails ahead of this vote than they have ever received ahead of an abortion vote and some MPs said that they received more emails on this issue than on any other issue while in office.”
“Thank you to the amazing group of pro-life MPs in Parliament who have worked so hard to ensure that these extreme amendments were defeated.”