Theresa May: "I do not support decriminalising abortion."
22 November 2018
The Prime Minister listed her problems with decriminalisation in a letter to a constituent.
The comments were made public as Diana Johnson published the text of her bill
Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that she does not agree with Diana Johnson's proposed abortion decriminalisation bill, and has reiterated that locally elected politicians in Northern Ireland must decide on the issue there.
Mrs May made the comments in a reply to a constituent, who as someone involved in counselling women traumatised by abortion, had raised concerns about the Labour MP's Ten Minute Rule bill. Ms Johnson's bill passed its first reading last month, and is listed for a second reading tomorrow, although time constraints mean a bill of this nature is highly unlikely to proceed any further.
"No safeguards for women"
Writing as MP for Maidenhead, Mrs May said: "I do have concerns about the points raised in Diana Johnson’s Ten Minute Rule Bill. I do not support the repealing of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 for several reasons. Primarily, repealing those two sections does not solve the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland, as without any new provisions it offers no safeguards for women and would impact on England and Wales, as well as Northern Ireland."
She continues: "The 1967 Abortion Act provides defences against the criminal law offences in the 1861 Act. If these offences were removed then abortion would in effect be decriminalised and no legal framework would be in place, including no gestational time limits. A new legal framework would be needed to replace those provisions, which is rightly a devolved matter which locally accountable politicians in Northern Ireland should have the opportunity to debate and consider.
"Important legislation is not imposed on Northern Ireland"
"The measures in the Bill also go a lot further than the current debate in Northern Ireland, so it is important legislation is not imposed on Northern Ireland and we allow local politicians the opportunity to represent the views of the people of Northern Ireland," Mrs May concludes. "It is the Government’s priority to restore devolved government at the earliest opportunity."
The Prime Minister's comments were made public as Diana Johnson published the text of her bill, and 60 female celebrities signed an open letter organised by Amnesty International calling on the Prime Minister to give it parliamentary time. Over 120 pro-life women have signed a letter in response, urging the Prime Minister to stand up for women and unborn children.
A heartening move
Antonia Tully, SPUC’s campaigns director, said: "This is our priority campaign and it is heartening that Mrs May has listened to our views and backed our position.
"Mrs May has highlighted the key issue of women’s health," she continued. "Decriminalising abortion would leave women at greater risk.
"If abortion is no longer governed by the criminal law we could easily develop a ‘backstreet abortion’ culture. Decriminalising abortion would leave every unborn baby and expectant mother in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with no legal protection against abortion and utterly at the mercy of the unscrupulous abortion industry."
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