Stormy Clash Likely Over Abortion Vote
Chief political correspondent Tuesday May 20, 2008
A stormy Commons showdown is expected later today as MPs vote on moves to cut the time limit on abortion from 24 weeks to as low as 12 weeks.
Moves to cut abortion time limit
The confrontation comes at the end of two days of clashes on the Government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, even though the Bill does not mention abortion.
Backed by David Cameron, Tory MP and former nurse Nadine Dorries will propose an amendment to the Bill demanding a cut in the time limit to 20 weeks, while other MPs will propose 22, 18, 16, 14 and 12 weeks.
MPs will clash on a Government move to change the law on fertility treatment, replacing the present obligation on clinics to consider a child's "need for a father" with "need for supportive parenting".
The Government's aim is to avoid discrimination against single and lesbian women.
But opponents, led by the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, will argue that the absence of a father is detrimental to children.
Today's votes come after the Government comfortably defeated moves to ban embryo research and so-called "saviour siblings" on the first day of the Commons committee stage debating the Bill.
Three Roman Catholic Cabinet ministers - Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy - took advantage of a free vote to vote against the Government and back two separate amendments moved by Tory MPs on embryo research.
Vote to ban embryo research
The first was an amendment tabled by Tory former minister Edward Leigh to outlaw the creation of hybrid embryos to be harvested for stem cell research, which was defeated by 336 to 176, a 160 majority.
The second, tabled in the name of Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and his deputy Mark Simmonds, to ban so-called "true hybrids" was also defeated, this time by the narrower margin of 286 to 223, a 63 majority.
Later, an amendment aiming to prevent parents selecting embryos to produce children whose genetic material could help treat a sick brother or sister was defeated by 342 to 163, a majority of 179.