Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Briefing 2 – January 2008: Parliament debates Abortion Act

This is the second of a series of briefings to update you on the situation in Parliament and how you can contribute to the campaign. Further details of the next steps are expected when Parliament returns from recess, so please look out for the next briefing.

– Time to get active to support women’s rights

The first weeks and months of 2008 are set to be decisive for women’s abortion rights in Britain. MPs and Peers opposed to abortion are seeking to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, currently in Parliament, to restrict women’s access to abortion. Damaging amendments are already being debated in the House of Lords and votes on the abortion time limit are expected in the House of Commons after the middle of February. 

Abortion Rights will be actively campaigning at every stage of the Bill to defend women’s rights against attack and maximise any opportunity to advance abortion rights. Your active participation in the campaign will make a real difference to what we are able to achieve.

Supporters can sign up for email briefings directly by clicking on the ‘action alert’ button on the website. Other briefings can be found under the ‘media and resource centre’ section of the website under ‘publications’.

Very best wishes for a happy and successful new year from all at Abortion Rights.


 Parliamentary update
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill can receive amendments on abortion at most stages in its progress and is currently speeding through the House of Lords. Following the Queen’s speech on 6th November the Bill has already had its First and Second Readings and was debated over four days at Committee stage in December. The Bill’s progress and Hansard transcripts of the debates can be followed at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2007-08/humanfertilisationandembryology.html

During the Committee stage, an amendment to outlaw abortion on the grounds of severe foetal impairment was tabled by Baroness Masham of Ilton. Although the amendment was withdrawn after debate, it is likely that the issue will be pushed to a vote at Report stage on 15th January or debated in a special Select Committee on abortion which the Lords Liaison Committee is due to consider establishing on 8th January.

Following the Report stage, the Bill will have a Third Reading in the Lords where further amendments can be moved. The Bill will then be passed into the House of Commons where full range of amendments are expected to be debated after the middle of February. Further briefings from Abortion Rights will provide a more detailed timetable as this becomes available.

Opposing Baroness Masham’s amendment
Abortion Rights opposes any threats to restrict women’s reproductive rights. If passed into law, Baroness Masham’s amendment to remove the sections of the Abortion Act permitting abortion for severe foetal impairment both before and after 24 weeks of pregnancy would have a devastating impact for the small proportion of women who need to use this clause.

Only 1 per cent of abortions are carried out for reasons of severe foetal impairment. Even fewer women need to end their pregnancy after 24 weeks. These are almost always for unforeseeable and difficult health circumstances in much wanted pregnancies. The woman concerned, with the support of her doctor, is in the best position to make that complex and careful decision which should be respected. Removing that possibility in law would leave women forced to continue pregnancies or seek abortion outside of the law or outside of Britain.

The recent Commons Science and Technology Committee on abortion concluded against any restriction in abortion rights on grounds of severe foetal impairment or to reduce the gestational time limit for abortion.

Abortion Rights believes that all women, including disabled women, have the right to make their own reproductive choices. No woman should be persuaded to either terminate, or carry a pregnancy to term, whatever her situation and whether or not the foetus shows signs of impairment.

Abortion Rights fully supports the rights of disabled people, and supports the work of the disability rights movement to bring about recognition of their dignity and human rights and end prejudice and discrimination. Restricting the rights of women, including disabled women, to make their own reproductive decisions would in no way advance the rights of disabled people.


Campaigning update

– public meeting 16th January, 7pm, Parliament
Abortion Rights is organising a public meeting in Parliament to launch the pro-choice campaigning to defeat anti-abortion amendments and to support any opportunities to advance women’s abortion rights. This will be an opportunity to have your say and get involved.

’Defend the Abortion Act – Campaigning for a Woman’s Right to Decide’ 7pm for a 7.30pm start, Committee Room 10, House of Commons, nearest tube Westminster

The meeting will hear a range of short contributions from invited speakers followed by time for contributions thoughts and ideas from the floor.

Speakers include: Baroness Joyce Gould; Baroness Jenny Tonge; Emily Thornberry MP; Katy Clark MP; Diane Abbott MP; Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary TUC; Wendy Savage, Doctors for A Woman’s Choice on Abortion; Anni Marjoram, adviser to the Mayor of London; Alex Kemp, NUS Disabled Students’ Campaign; Katherine Rake, Director Fawcett Society

Please allow plenty of time to clear security on entering the Palace of Westminster and tell the police outside Parliament that you are attending a meeting sponsored by Emily Thornberry MP

The room is wheelchair accessible and has a hearing loop system. Please let us know of any additional access requirements.

All pro-choice supporters welcome!

You can help by publicising this meeting widely. An eflyer for the event is available on request from choice@abortionrights.org.uk and a pdf flyer is available on the website www.abortionrights.org.uk to download, photocopy and distribute.


This event will be the first in a number of public campaigning initiatives during the course of the bill to exert maximum pressure on parliamentarians. Further details will be announced in future briefings and on our website.

You can have a direct impact by writing to your MP. A model letter is available on the home page of the website.