Tuesday 20th May 2008
Protest: from 5.30pm, Old Palace Yard, opposite St Stephen s Entrance
Supporters of women s abortion rights will be saying don t turn the clock back on women s rights outside parliament as MPs vote on time limit
On Tuesday, MPs will debate and vote on anti-abortion amendments to the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill. Ahead of the crucial debate starting at 7pm, supporters of women s abortion rights will be protesting outside Parliament from 5.30pm to show the broad opposition to any reduction in the abortion time limit. On 12 May, a Guardian survey showed a majority of MPs support the current 24 weeks limit. For a briefing on the anti-abortion amendments tabled please visit www.abortionrights.org.uk
PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Defend 24 weeks: don t turn the clock back on women s rights There will be a photo opportunity at 5.30pm with MPs, trade unionists, student leaders, and representatives from the medical profession surrounding a banner defend 24 weeks and holding a large artworked clock, to make the point don t turn back the clock on women s rights .
INTERVIEWS: Individual interviews with spokespeople for the campaign, those attending the photo opportunity, and women who have needed later abortion are available by request in advance via the organisers.
Contact: Louise Hutchins, Abortion Rights Coordinator 07904 709 160
Ahead of the vote, key supporters of the current abortion rights said:
Jo Brand, the comedian said:
"This time limit argument is a total red herring. It s the same old anti-abortionists with their anti-women agenda, making up the science as they go along. MPs should have no truck with it."
Christine McCafferty, Labour MP said:
"There has been no significant improvement in the survival of babies born before 24 weeks gestation over the last 12 years, despite medical advances. If the current limit were reduced, it would have an adverse impact on the very small number of women or girls, who do seek late abortions."
Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP said:
There has been a campaign of misinformation, assertion and irrelevant information about the abortion time limit led by very well funded organisations opposed to all abortion. Sadly, the evidence shows that it simply isn t the case that wanted babies born below 24 weeks are more likely to survive. It is a cruel deception on parents with pre-term babies. It would be astonishing if Parliament took a view against the united approach of all the relevant medical institutions.
Robert Key, Conservative MP said:
I am a member of the general synod of the Church of England. A recent Church of England briefing to MPs said that any support for campaigns to change the abortion law would be on the proviso that such measures were evidence based. I am yet to be convinced that lowering from 24 weeks would significantly reduce the abortion rate and I believe there are alternative answers. I think the answer is a massive advance in responsible sex education."
Julie Bentley, Chief Executive fpa (Family Planning Association) said:
The few women who need later abortion are the hardest cases very vulnerable women in incredibly difficult circumstances. Some women don t recognise the symptoms of pregnancy, sometimes because of poor sex education they believe the myths, like you can t get pregnant if you re a virgin. People don t make these decisions lightly and women do need the time to make that decision.
Wendy Savage, Doctors for A Woman s Choice on Abortion said:
As one of the few doctors who has performed later abortion in Britain, I know how difficult the cases are. In one case, after 1990, I had a call from A and E about a young 17 year old, 26 weeks pregnant who had been held captive as a domestic worker, raped by her boss and was going to kill herself if her pregnancy wasn t ended. I hope that right, logic and evidence will prevail amongst MPs.
Louise Hutchins, Abortion Rights Campaign Coordinator said:
Nadine Dorries MP s crusade to turn back the clock on women s reproductive rights shows an appalling disregard for women and the difficult circumstances that they sometimes face. Lowering the time limit would be devastating for this small number of women and force some to continue with a pregnancy against their will causing long term psychological and physical harm, others will travel abroad for a later abortion if they can afford to and others, will risk a dangerous illegal back-street option. MPs need to understand that women will be watching very carefully how MPs vote on Tuesday. We are protesting to make sure women s voices are heard loud and clear to defend 24 weeks.
Contact: Louise Hutchins, Abortion Rights Coordinator 07904 709 160
Women s testimonies: 19 year old Janet, 21 weeks: I was 19, my father had died and I was looking after my 8 siblings with my mother who could barely afford to keep us. I couldn t face telling my mum about my pregnancy things were so difficult. If I couldn t have an abortion, I would have killed myself. Now I have been able to go to college, learn to read and write, play a full role in society and bring up a family of my own .
17 year old Kate, 21 weeks: I had been taking the pill. When I had a missed period, I went straight to my doctor for a pregnancy test. It came back negative. I was still missing periods. I returned to my doctor who said I had nothing to worry about. A short while later I met someone who had had a child after finding out too late that she was pregnant to have an abortion. I did another test, which came back positive. It took a further two and a half weeks before I could have an abortion. It was the right thing for me I never regretted it.
Claire, Nottingham: With my son, I wanted an abortion and I was refused by my GP several times until it was too late and I could not afford to go private. I was forced to do something I did not want to and it ruined my life. Why ruin the child s life too by having it born to a mother and a father that did not want it?
1) Women need later abortion: The time limit for abortion is currently up to 24 weeks (except in exceptional circumstances). Less than 2% of all abortions take place after 20 weeks gestation; these are needed by women in difficult and individual circumstances including women who did not know they were pregnant until later because they did not have the normal signs of pregnancy or thought they couldn t be pregnant women using contraception, young and pre-menopausal; women who have a wanted pregnancy but face catastrophic life events such as domestic violence or loss of a partner; women who have been delayed by the NHS.
2) Medical Opinion opposed to lowering of time limit: In light of recent coverage on the issue of extremely preterm infants survival, specifically below 24 weeks gestation, the shared view of the British Medical Association (BMA), the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is that:
there is no evidence of a significant improvement in the survival of preterm infants below 24 weeks gestation, in the UK, in the last 18 years. The major development since 1990 has been an improvement in the survival of babies born at 24 weeks and over, but not below this gestation .
The view that survival rates below 24 weeks gestation have not significantly improved is shared with the House of Commons former Science and Technology Committee.
3) Broad support for maintaining the current 24-week limit: including by all the major relevant medical bodies - the BMA, the RCN, fpa (Family Planning Association), RCOG, the Royal College of Paediatricians, the British Association of Perinatal Medicine and Antenatal Results and Choices the main charity supporting women facing the prospect of later terminations, the TUC, National Union of Students and Fawcett Society.
4) Abortion Rights, the national pro-choice campaign, is campaigning to defend women s current abortion rights involving thousands of supporters across Britain, MPs, medical professionals, trade union, student and women s groups. Abortion Rights believes the abortion law should be strengthened, not weakened. For details please visit www.abortionrights.org.uk.