posted on 06 July 2021 15:26
Last night was one of celebration for pro-life supporters, as Diana Johnson’s extreme abortion amendment was not added to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
After fierce opposition in and outside of Parliament, neither her amendment, New Clause 55, which would have decriminalised abortion up to birth, nor that of her Labour colleague Rupa Huq, on introducing buffer zones, were selected by vote by the Speaker.
Rattled by the strength of opposition
Diana Johnson, who was clearly taken aback by the level of public opposition to her proposed law change, began the debate by insisting that her amendment was only a “probing” one, to hear the view of Government. She accused opponents of spreading “much misinformation”, and said, “The behaviour of some hon. Members and national organisations, particularly on social media, is not helpful to the proper scrutiny and debate in this place of serious issues.”
“Changing the law means changing regulations”
Ms Johnson insisted that decriminalising abortion would not mean deregulation. However, as Bob Blackman MP pointed out, “Changing the law means changing regulations. The central and implacable legal fact of new clause 55 is that repealing the relevant sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and relevant offences under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, will immediately undo all the safeguards provided by the Abortion Act 1967…new clause 55 would sweep away all current legal safeguards and protections, not only for the unborn child, but many that protect women. The 1967 Act would, in effect, be void, leaving England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world.”
“No place in a compassionate, civilised and humane society”
No MP fully supported Ms Johnson’s proposal, and many pro-life MPs spoke out against it. Fiona Bruce MP said: “The proposals are shocking: a viable human being could have his or her life ended up to the point of birth, with no one held accountable, and yet a day later similar actions against a child outside the womb would constitute murder. If, as has happened, the abortion procedure goes wrong, what then? Is the child to be left alone, crying and uncomforted, until it breathes its last? If new clause 55 were put to a vote, I am confident that it would be soundly defeated.”
She concluded: “New clause 55 has no place in a compassionate, civilised and humane society. If, as I now understand, the proposers tabled it as a probing amendment, then I hope, given the strength of opposition that has gathered in just a few days within and outside this House, they will never contemplate reintroducing it. We are better than this.”
“Tsunami of opposition”
Many MPs highlighted how much public opposition there was to New Clause 55. Ms Bruce said: “Our inboxes have been flooded with calls to oppose new clause 55. I have had over 150 constituents email urging me to vote against new clause 55—not one constituent has asked me to support it.” Bob Blackman said he had “received more emails and calls about new clause 55 than I have about any other measure since I was elected to the House 11 years ago” while Steve Brine MP spoke of a “tsunami” of responses.
Voice for the Voiceless
Pro-life MPs also spoke up for the rights of the unborn baby. Sally-Ann Hart, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, said: “Abortion would be available on demand for any reason. Evidence shows that after a few weeks, unborn babies are sentient beings in the womb. Who gives them a voice? We should ask ourselves what kind of a society we are that we would condone that.”
Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes, summed up the horror of abortion: “It says a very, very terrible thing about the value that we place on an unborn life if we simply say that it should be determined by whether or not the mother would like to keep it—by whether that baby is wanted or not.”
In the end, the Government Minister, Victoria Atkins, did not even mention the abortion amendments in her summing up, and they were not selected by the Speaker for separate votes, meaning they fell.
We will not tolerate this
Writing to supporters last night, SPUC’s director of Campaigns Antonia Tully, said: “Thank you so much to all of you who contacted your MP at very short notice to oppose Diana Johnson's deadly proposal. Many MPs have received the message loud and clear that we will not tolerate such extreme and barbaric practices.
“We hope that being defeated again will prove to Diana Johnson that there is no appetite for such extreme abortion legislation in this country. But if she or another pro-abortion MP do try to decriminalise abortion again we will be ready to take action to protect unborn babies and their mothers.”