Thursday 3 July 2008

Pro-abortion amendments due 14 July

The Report stage and 3rd reading of the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill has been announced for Monday 14 July. Several pro-abortion amendments to the Abortion Act 1967 via the HFE bill have been tabled.

The amendments attempt to remove safeguards on abortion, such as a second doctor's signature and specified medical grounds on all early and mid-term abortions. The amendments would also allow abortion providers to use nurses and midwives to perform abortions instead of doctors and allow abortions to be performed in a wider range of health care centres. SPUC has posted an analysis of the effect of the two main pro-abortion amendments here.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, has commented today: "These amendments are trying to say that abortion is no different to other medical procedures. But it is vastly different. The pro-abortion MPs insist that abortion is a woman's right to choose but there is no right, either in law or in ethics, for patients to demand a medical procedure with no medical benefit, let alone one which kills another human being, and may harm themselves.

"There is no legal requirement for abortion providers to offer counselling or tell women about alternatives to abortion. These amendments promote the abortion providers' 'conveyor belt' approach which denies women the opportunity to consider fully the gravity and possible consequences of an abortion. It will leave many women vulnerable to pressure and even coercion to have an abortion they don't want.

"An increasing proportion of doctors are refusing to be complicit in abortion, many for ethical reasons. Removing restrictions on abortion will place considerable pressure upon medical staff with a conscientious objection to abortion. Nurses and midwives should not be pressured to become abortion practitioners. Dumping abortion work on nurses and midwives will also put women's lives at risk, as they are not equipped to deal with emergencies that will arise during an abortion.

"It is expected that some MPs will also table amendments to restrict abortions in certain ways. If this happens MPs must be wary not to get embroiled in a trade-off, agreeing to sacrifice some babies in order to help others. SPUC therefore urges MPs with pro-life sympathies not to promote amendments on abortion, as Parliament's pro-abortion majority may well use the Report stage as the opportunity for a new settlement on abortion which will lead to more, not fewer, deaths of unborn children."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has written to all MPs, also urging them to vote against the pro-abortion amendments. The full text of his letter can be read below:

My dear Member of Parliament

As you may know, I recently had the opportunity of visiting the Houses of Parliament, of celebrating Mass and preaching in St Mary Undercroft, and of hosting a reception in the Scotland Office. This visit had been pre-arranged, but occurred shortly after the debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. This is a Bill, as you will be very much aware, which deals with extremely sensitive and controversial issues.

You will be aware also of the opposition I have expressed on behalf of my Church and many others to specific aspects of the bill specifically around inter-species embryos, abortion, saviour siblings and the role of fathers. These have been dealt with in Committee stage albeit not favourably from my perspective.

I wish now, however, to ask you to consider seriously any proposals at Report stage which would make early abortion more readily available. We already have a shamefully high level of abortions in the UK which continues to climb. This cannot be good for anyone involved in the whole process and I ask you respectfully to vote against measures which would exacerbate the situation.

I know that there is still no date set for the Report stage of the Bill. I am aware, however, that amendments have been put down to allow abortion on request up to 24 weeks gestation, with approval needed from one doctor only and a further amendment to allow nurses and midwives to perform abortions. These amendments do reflect very sadly on our society at this present time.

I would hate to think that as I myself grow older, I will look back at the passage of the legislation and ask myself whether or not I did everything possible to fight for the right to life of the unborn. Consequently, I am asking you to seriously use your conscience at this time and let that be your guide as to how you will vote in the short time which lies ahead concerning this Bill.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Yours sincerely in Christ

+ Keith Patrick Cardinal O’Brien

Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh