The Irish Examiner Wednesday May 21st 2008
MPs Reject Bid To Cut Abortion Limits
Attempts to cut the 24-week upper limit for abortions to 12, 16, and 20 weeks have been rejected by MPs in the British House of Commons. The proposed cut came in an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who proposed the 20-week limit, said she was not anti-abortion but said ‘the baby involved had rights’
But Pro-choice campaigners dismissed efforts to cut limits as ‘cynical’. Earlier Tory MP Edward Leigh, who proposed the 12-week limit, said it would bring Britain in line with most of Europe. But Labour’s Chris McCafferty said the limit was ‘cynical and inhumane’.
It is the second day of the debate on the bill, and comes after MPs voted down a cross-party attempt to ban hybrid animal embryos. MPs also rejected a cross-party move for doctors to consider the need for a ‘father and mother’ before allowing IVF treatment.
British Health Minister Dawn Primarolo insists there is no evidence requiring the abortion laws to be changed. The upper gestational limit for termination of pregnancy was set by the British Parliament in 1990 at 24 weeks because the scientific evidence of the time was that the threshold of viability had increased and babies were increasingly surviving at 24 weeks and above. ‘That was the case in 1990 and it’s certainly the case now.’ But, David Jones, a professor of bio-ethics, said research on the survival rates for extremely premature babies was ‘disputed’.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would vote to maintain the current limit, while Conservative leader David Cameron said he would vote to lower the limit to 22 weeks, which they were still voting on last night at the time of going to press. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who put forward the amendment to change the abortion laws, said she believed the right of a woman to choose had its limits. She reached this decision after seeing the ‘botched’ abortion of a baby boy when she was a gynaecological nurse. ‘I believe a baby has rights. Those rights kick in if that baby were born it would have a chance of life and if it feels pain as part of the abortion,’ she said.