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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Abortion ‘Free For All’ Warning: Top Law Professor Says Proposed New Law Will Be ‘Radically More Permissive’, Allowing Even DIY Killing Of Babies As They Are Being Born

22 October 2018


A leading law professor has issued a grim warning over the impact of proposed new legislation which would result in an “abortion free for all”.

The new Abortion Bill will make the existing law regulating abortion radically more permissive and would even permit a woman herself to kill her baby while it was being born.

That’s the opinion of Professor John Keown, a prominent British-born academic who is based at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Professor Keown was asked to analyse Diana Johnson’s Ten Minute Rule Bill - which goes before MPs tomorrow (TUE OCT 23)  - following a request from the world’s oldest pro-life organisation, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

Her Bill would decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks in England and Wales and allow abortion in Northern Ireland, although it is a devolved power to Stormont.

SPUC deputy CEO Mr Deighan has already warned that the Bill contains include alarming proposals which would ride roughshod over devolution as abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland.

The Bill envisages permitting women to self-abort and conceal the bodies of their aborted babies.

Prof Keown stated:

“The Abortion Bill I have been invited to analyse would, if enacted, make the law regulating abortion radically more permissive, especially but by no means only in relation to abortion up to the end of the 24th week of pregnancy.”

He added: “It would, therefore, no longer be a crime for anyone, medically qualified or not, to use means with intent to cause abortion up to that time.  For example, it would no longer be a crime for a lay person to try to abort a woman by administering pills or by inserting an instrument.
“The effect of this provision would be radical not only in England and Wales but even more so in Northern Ireland
“The Bill provides that no offence is committed by a woman who terminates her own pregnancy, even after the 24th week. A woman could, therefore, procure her own abortion days before natural birth, and even kill the child during delivery.”

Prof Keown continued: “It would, moreover, be a defence for a registered medical practitioner who killed an unborn child after the 24th week to prove that he or she ‘believed, in good faith’ that the pregnancy had not exceeded its 24th week. 

“In the unlikely event of prosecution, if a doctor claimed to have believed this, it would not be easy to secure a conviction.”

Prof Keown added: “The Bill would repeal section 59 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, which prohibits the unlawful supply or procurement of means knowing that they are to be used with intent to procure abortion of a woman (whether she be pregnant or not).”
And he asked:  “What is to prohibit anyone from supplying or obtaining (whether in the pub, the street or the schoolyard) pills, other substances or any other means that are (or are represented to be) abortifacient?"

He concluded: “In short, no-one should be under any illusion as to the extreme nature of this Bill. If enacted, it would create one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world, which it would not be unreasonable to describe as tantamount to an abortion free-for-all, at least until the end of the 24th week.”

Responding to Prof Keown’s comments, SPUC’s Mr Deighan said:

“This Bill reveals the truly harsh nature of the abortion lobby. Presently the law on abortion includes provision to ensure that abortions cannot be covered up by concealing the body of the dead baby. It beggars belief that such a provision would be removed from the law, yet Diana Johnson aims to do just that.

“In practise, her proposals will incentivise women in Northern Ireland to procure their own abortions without medical assistance after 24 weeks.”

He continued: “The bill also threatens to put women’s lives at risk. It proposes that where a woman is given a substance, supposedly to procure an abortion, but which leads to her death, the criminal law response is diminished because manslaughter will no longer be available to prosecutors.

“This Bill would repeal a section of the Offences Against the Person Act which states:

‘If any woman shall be delivered of a child, every person who shall, by any secret disposition of the dead body of the said child, whether such child died before, at, or after its birth, endeavour to conceal the birth thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years.’

“This is a Bill concocted by those so committed to furthering the dreadful business of abortion that they are willing to push aside any barrier whether it be democratic controls, the protection of the unborn or legal safeguards for vulnerable women in pregnancy.”
A ComRes opinion poll last week revealed that any bid by Westminster to impose abortion on Northern Ireland would deal a devastating blow to the devolution settlement.

And the poll showed that voters in the Province insist that all decisions on the controversial issue must be made by Stormont alone.

The ComRes survey quizzed 1013 Northern Ireland voters and more than half were opposed to Westminster imposing its will on Northern Ireland.

Asked if It was right that MPs from outside Northern Ireland should determine whether or not to remove all remaining legal protections from the unborn up to 24 weeks gestation - 53 per cent were opposed and only 28 per cent were in favour.

And voters also believe that interference from outwith Northern Ireland’s own political structures will undermine the devolution settlement which has been a crucial outcome of the peace process.

Asked if it would undermine the devolution settlement, if MPs in Westminster were to overrule the views of Northern Ireland’s elected representatives because they held a different view on abortion law – 47 per cent agreed while just 30 per cent disagreed.

Overall, the poll revealed that 64 per cent supported the view that any decision on abortion legislation should be taken by Northern Ireland politicians and not by Westminster.

Notes to editors:

  • The text of the Diana Johnson bill was accessed from on 11/10/18
  • Dr. Keown is the Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Christian Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, Washington DC. He graduated in law from Cambridge and took a doctorate at Oxford, after which he was called to the Bar of England and Wales. Dr. Keown has published widely in the law and ethics of medicine, specializing on issues at the beginning and end of life. His research has been cited by distinguished bodies worldwide, including the United States Supreme Court, the Law Lords, the Court of Appeal, the House of Commons and  the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics.
  • ComRes interviewed 1013 adults in Northern Ireland online between the October 8-15 2018. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all adults in Northern Ireland aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.


Contact us

For more information, please contact Alithea Williams, SPUC's Communications Officer, on:

Or John Deighan, SPUC Deputy CEO, on:

  • Tel: 0141 221 2094
  • Mob: 07802 739265   
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