Pro-lifers welcome defeat of extreme abortion amendments in Parliament

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Amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill which would have decriminalised abortion and permanently extend 'DIY' terminations at home have been defeated.

Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, announced that the amendment to introduce abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks would not be selected for debate. 

This was followed by Diana Johnson MP's decision to withdraw her amendment to allow medical and surgical abortions to take place in any location for women in abusive relationships. 

The Right to Life UK campaign group said the developments were a "major pro-life victory". 

Fiona Bruce MP, who spoke out against the amendments in the Commons last night, said the prospect of abortions outside approved clinics was "concerning".

"This is a domestic abuse Bill; it should not be hijacked by those continuously campaigning on another issue and constantly looking for opportunities in this place to add badly worded amendments to Bills with unforeseen implications and complications.," she said. 

"We have already seen the outcome of such an approach with the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.  This House should, I hope, be very wary of repeating that.

"I support the Government's endeavours to tackle domestic abuse: let us ensure that that is the focus of this Bill."

Concerns were also raised that the amendments, if passed, would only hand more power to abusers. 

Carla Lockhart, DUP MP for Upper Bann, said "The new clause seems to be a clear attempt to use the Domestic Abuse Bill as a vehicle to advance an agenda that is emphatic on expanding access to abortion, seemingly failing to acknowledge that allowing women to have an abortion at locations other than hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State has already led to serious complications."

"We all know that abortion is not the answer to domestic abuse. Surely we should be addressing how women find themselves in such difficult situations, and take measures to prevent that?" 

She continued: "The amendment makes no provision for helping women to get out of the abusive situation. Providing women with abortion pills while failing to address the reasons why women may be unable safely to attend a clinic does not present itself as a responsible or logical solution to tackling domestic abuse.

"Our laws should be designed to help vulnerable women escape domestic abuse situations, not enable them to remain in those horrific situations. Indeed, if a woman is not assessed in person—and, specifically, given an ultrasound—and if she has gone beyond the legal limit for an abortion by pill, the risk of complications goes up dramatically.

"Coercion of some kind is frequent in an unplanned pregnancy and in removing the requirement of a face-to-face consultation, there is no guarantee that a patient can speak freely without the coercive party listening in. Furthermore, we know that women are coerced into having abortions ​based on sex selection.

"If an abusive partner does not want a particular sex of child, they can force their partner into having an abortion via telemedicine." 

Polling by Savanta ComRes has found that only 1% of women want the time limit on abortions to be extended, with an overwhelming majority, 70%, favouring a reduction in time limits.

The survey also revealed that more than three-quarters of women (77%) believe that doctors should be required to verify in person that a patient seeking an abortion is not under pressure from a third party to undergo the abortion, while 91% agree that gender-selective abortion should be illegal.

Right to Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said: "This is a major victory for the unborn child and women facing unplanned pregnancies. These amendments would have left the unborn child with considerably worse protections and removed many of the current safeguards which protect women facing unplanned pregnancies.

"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.

"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.

"Thank you to the large number of organisations that have all come together to encourage their supporters to contact MPs and ensure this major attempt to introduce extreme abortion changes was defeated."