Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BBC NEWS: MPs To Vote on Abortion Limit Cut

MPs to vote on abortion limit cut

Two abortion experts explain their views

MPs are to vote on the emotive issue of cutting the abortion time limit on the second day of debates on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

On Monday night a cross-party attempt to ban hybrid human animal embryos was defeated on a free vote, by 336 to 176.

MPs will now debate the abortion laws and decide on changes in a free vote.

An amendment to the government's bill has been put forward to reduce the upper time limit on abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or less.

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo insists there is no evidence requiring the abortion laws to be changed.

She told BBC News: "There is no science that shows us that the survival rates have changed since we took the decision to have the time limit at 24 weeks."


Under 9 weeks: 54.9%

9-12 weeks: 34.3%

13-19 weeks: 9.2%

20-24 weeks: 1.5%

ONS figures from 2006

She also said the government wanted to protect the right of women to choose.

However, David Jones, a professor of bio-ethics, said research on the survival rates for extremely premature babies was "disputed".

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 said: "If a baby feels pain as part of a barbaric abortion process - which is what happens post-20 weeks - and if we know that baby could live if it was allowed to be born, then there comes the point when that baby has rights which are of equal parity to the mother's."

'Difficult matter'

Conservative leader David Cameron told GMTV earlier he would vote to lower the limit to 22 weeks but added, as an issue of conscience, he expected Conservatives to vote "in all sorts of different directions".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC he would vote to maintain the current limit. He said it was a "very difficult matter" but that the medical evidence had not changed.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is also expected to vote against any reduction.

We are expecting considerable support and believe the government could be defeated
Ian Lucas
Pro-Life campaign

Government figures show that 193,737 women in England and Wales had an abortion in 2006.

Previous attempts to force a vote on lowering the abortion limit have been defeated, but as there is a free vote on the issue, an unknown number of MPs may choose to stay away, or abstain.

That increases the chances of those campaigning to lower the limit to 20 or 22 weeks, who claim to have the backing of 200 MPs.

Need for father

Ian Lucas, the campaign manager of the Pro-Life Group, said: "We are expecting considerable support and believe the government could be defeated."

Before the abortion limit vote, MPs will debate and vote on the role of fathers in IVF.

Existing legislation requires IVF clinics to consider the "welfare" of any child created, which currently means considering the need for a father.

HAVE YOUR SAY This is about a woman having the right to choose what happens to her body Leana, Shropshire

However, the new bill says this should no longer be the case, saying instead there needs to be evidence of "supportive parenting".

On Monday night a cross-party attempt to ban hybrid animal embryos was defeated.

Roman Catholic cabinet ministers Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy voted for a ban, while Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Tory leader David Cameron both opposed it.

And a bid to ban "saviour siblings" was voted down by 342 votes to 163.

The votes followed two impassioned debates in the committee stage of the bill, aimed at updating laws from 1990 in line with scientific advances.

Story from BBC NEWS

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