MPs vote to devolve abortion policy to Scottish Parliament
9 November 2015
MPs have voted to devolve control over abortion laws to the Scottish Parliament
The House of Commons has voted to grant the Scottish Parliament control over abortion laws. 350 MPs voted in favour of the change, with 183 opposing (a majority of 167).
The move to devolve abortion policy was one of a number of amendments put forward to the Scotland Bill by Scottish Secretary David Mundell, following criticism that the bill did not go far enough in the wake of last year’s referendum campaign.
The Smith Commission, set up to examine further devolution, had called for ‘serious consideration’ of the proposal but stopped short of recommending it in its final report.
The proposal to devolve abortion law had been welcomed by the SNP, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has not yet said what changes to the current law the SNP would back (saying only that they have no plans to do so).
The plans were also backed by the Liberal Democrats, Scottish Greens and Conservatives. However, several senior Labour figures argued that giving MSPs the ability to change Scottish abortion policy could lead to further fragmentation of the law in the UK. It is already different in Northern Ireland.
Yvette Cooper, who lost to Jeremy Corbyn in September’s leadership contest, warned in a Guardian article that if pro-lifers were able to change the law in Scotland to make it more restrictive, this would create pressure on Westminster to follow suit. Ms Cooper has also been lobbying to ban pro-life counsellors from peacefully offering women alternatives outside abortion clinics.
The Labour MP was the main speaker against the amendment during the debate, where she repeated those arguments. Mr Mundell replied that he did not believe Holyrood was likely to make abortion law more restrictive, while the SNP's Deidre Brook said it was patronising to say that the Scottish Parliament could not be trusted with control over abortion law.
"Protect unborn children"
John Deighan, Chief Executive of SPUC Scotland, said "Ultimately, the issue of where policies on abortion are decided is only relevant if it means changes in law which protect unborn children.
"We must also be aware of the danger that hardline pro-abortion activists now use this as an opportunity to try to weaken legal protections for children in the womb even further. Transferring this responsibility to the Scottish Parliament may mean that the blatant discrimination against the disabled and the extent of post abortion trauma may now gain greater attention in Scotland.
"We call on the Scottish Parliament to uphold respect for all human life from the moment of its conception."