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Liberalising abortion law

autumn 2007

From triple helix - autumn 2007 - Liberalising abortion law [p4]

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A new parliamentary battle looms

The Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, expected to be introduced into Parliament after the Queen's Speech this November, will open up the entire 1967 Abortion Act to amendment. Pro-choice MPs have pledged to liberalise the law [1] and intend to mark the Act's 40th anniversary on 27 October with a push to bring in 'abortion on request' (along with nurse and home abortion) in the first trimester.

This agenda is being supported by the national coalition Abortion Rights, [2] which works closely with the Parliamentary All Party Pro-choice and Sexual Health group [3] and the Voice for Choice [4] coalition of major abortion providers. It already has support from the British Medical Association (BMA), [5] whose Medical Ethics Committee fully supports its agenda.[6] This movement is well organised and well funded and, even if this autumn's initiative fails, there will be continuing pressure to change the law during the lifetime of the present Parliament.

The BMA at its annual representative meeting on 27 June passed by a margin of 67-33% a motion asking for abortion on demand in the first trimester (ie on the basis of informed consent only).[7] Further motions allowing trained nurses and midwives to perform abortions, and relaxing rules on approved premises (ie allowing medical abortions in GP surgeries and at home) were lost by 41-59% and 46-54% respectively.[8] Concerns about safety guided those present, in a debate that never considered ethics. It is already BMA polic y to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. In the week prior to the debate an online petition, calling on the BMA to reject its Ethics Committee proposals and instead to mount a properly evidencebased review that involved full consultation with its members and all frontline doctors, was signed by over 13,000 people including over 950 BMA members.[9]

The first stage of the coming parliamentary battle is a government consultation [10] being carried out by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee into scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967. Written submissions have closed and oral evidence sessions have commenced. The findings will inform the later parliamentary debate.

CMF's submission, which we are seeking permission to make public, provides data on improving survival of neonates born at 23 and 24 weeks' gestation and marshals the latest evidence on the well established links between abortion and premature delivery and abortion and mental health. CMF has also played a lead role in forming Time for Change, a new coalition of church, professional and pro-life groups seeking to tighten the existing law.[11] Let us each ask God what part we ourselves should play.




Article written by Peter Saunders

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