Friday, 6 June 2008

Don’t fall into the “we already have abortion on demand” trap – the law does matter

It is not only on the home front that legislators are considering permissive changes to abortion legislation. In the Australian state of Victoria, pressure is being applied to remove abortion from the criminal code altogether, that is, to completely decriminalise it. In response, the Catholic bishops of Victoria have produced a pastoral letter, directed to “the Catholic people of Victoria and all men and women of good will.” In it the bishops outline the reasons for the Church’s moral opposition to abortion, reasons that are “rationally grounded” and not ‘merely’ religious. There are good reasons for respecting and protecting every member of the human family, and many non-religious people have the same view.

Even though the practice of abortion in Victoria is effectively unrestricted, decriminalising it would nevertheless be a serious and final blow to the vestiges of protection for unborn children and their mothers. As the bishops note, the “Law is a great educator”, and “moving the regulation of abortion from the Crimes Act to the Health Act would also give strength to the fallacy that abortion is just an ordinary medical procedure.” That would represent a clear victory for pro-abortion forces. It would also completely remove any last remaining sense within the law - weakened as it is – of the “equality of all before the law.” Society’s most vulnerable would be completely deprived of any legal recognition of wrongs perpetrated against them. The bishops make it clear, “when a state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of the state based on law are undermined.”

How is this relevant to the UK?

Current proposals to change the law by pro-abortion MPs, whilst not full decriminalisation, are edging ever closer to it. The underlying drive behind the various proposals, by seeking to further liberalise abortion, is leading us in precisely the same direction as decriminalisation. For example, the amendments drafted by Dr Evan Harris MP, by removing the requirement for two doctors to authorise an abortion, and no longer requiring doctors to act in “good faith”, would make abortion more like any other medical procedure. The result will not only be more abortions but - similar to the effect that the Victorian decriminalisation will have - the public will be educated to think that abortion is really little different to the removal of a tumour.

The sentiment expressed by some MPs in the recent parliamentary debates has been overtly pro-abortion. Along with Andrew Lansley MP (shadow health secretary, Conservative), Nadine Dorries MP (also Conservative) wants abortions to be faster and safer, arguing on the grounds that early ones are better than late ones.

Claire Curtis-Thomas (Labour), a vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, is “not opposed to abortion. I believe that women should have the right to choose …. I would be much happier with 12 weeks—that is where I stand. Let women have the choice, but make it at 12 weeks." This is just the type of view that is not only consistent with decriminalisation, but at the very least implies that abortion should be a legal right. One wonders what these MPs would say if pressed on the point.

Amendments to widen access to abortion could be tabled at the next stage (the ‘Report’ stage) of the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, expected early in July. These pro-abortion amendments may include promoting nurses as abortion practitioners, and extending the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. More babies will die if such amendments are passed.

I know that many people have worked very hard in the fight against the HFE bill. But today we must redouble our efforts to stop pro-abortion amendments being incorporated into the bill. Please order a quantity of our new leaflet "No to more abortion" and distribute them door-to-door, in the street and at churches. You can order a quantity of leaflets by emailing or by telephoning SPUC on 020 7091 7091.

It's essential to contact your MP to ask him/her to vote against amendments extending abortion access. You can contact your MP (and find out your MP's name) via or by writing to your MP at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Please remember to copy any replies you receive to Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, by email at or by post to SPUC.