Abortion on demand proposed

Dr Evan Harris and Chris McCafferty have given notice of two amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, proposing the Amendment of the 1967 Abortion Act.

The first clause of the Abortion Act begins:
1. — (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if [...]
This recognises that abortion is still an offence in the UK and can only be carried out legally if certain conditions are met. These are described in the current Abortion Act continues as follows:
[...] two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith—

(a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or

(b) that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or

(c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or

(d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
(Note that the 24 week limit does not apply in the case of (b), (c) or (d) so a child who might be "seriously handicapped" can be killed at any time up to birth.)

The proposed amendment would omit the text quoted above and insert:
a registered medical practitioner is of the opinion, formed in good faith—

(a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the termination would be carried out in accordance with the conditions and principles of good medical practice, or

(b) that one or more of the following grounds applies—
[... (i) (ii) and (iii) as in (b), (c) and (d) of the existing text as above.]
You can basically forget about part (b) because doctors who carry out abortions will not need to use those criteria any more. All that will be necessary is for one doctor to agree that the abortion would be carried out according to established procedures (i.e. "conditions and principles of good medical practice").

This would effectively establish abortion on demand. There would be no requirement for any health or social reason, only the normal requirement of "informed consent" as there would be for any other procedure such as, say, having a facelift.

Another worrying consequence of this amendment would be the risk to pro-life doctors. If a doctor refused to carry out an abortion and did not refer the patient to a doctor who would do the abortion, there could be an action against him in the courts for damages. If these were assessed as including the cost of bringing up a child, the cost could be considerable.

(The second proposed amendment would have the effect of allowing nurses and midwives to carry out abortions. It is quite likely that this would be opposed strongly by the BMA in any case so it is the first of the amendments that is probably the most dangerous.)

It would be a good idea to write to your MP urging them to oppose any amendments to the HFE Bill that would have the effect of liberalising abortion. It is possible that if MPs receive a number of communications on this matter that even those who are not particularly pro-life would wish to avoid another debate on abortion. Politically speaking, it would be good if these amendments were not allowed any time since the pro-abortion majority in Parliament presents a real risk that they might be passed if they are given time in Parliament.

An easy way to contact your MP is by means of Write To Them.

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