On Tuesday 20th May, MPs voted to defend the 24 week abortion time limit. This vote is a decisive win for women and the pro-choice movement. The key votes were to reduce the time to 22 weeks (defeated 304 votes to 233) and 20 weeks (defeated 332 votes to 190). Despite a sensationalist and misleading campaign by the anti-abortion lobby, women’s voices, the wealth of medical evidence and the majority of the population have been listened to.
Abortion Rights would like to thank all the MPs who voted to defeat amendments to restrict women’s access to safe legal abortion. We would also like to thank our members, affiliates and supporters for your determined and tireless campaign to defend the 24 week time limit. We believe that our effective campaign of lobbying and protesting for women’s rights played a crucial part in ensuring this win for women. Our work with a wide range of organisations including the national trade unions, National Union of Students, women’s organisations, the pro-choice faith organisations and thousands of individuals, in their many different ways, made sure the pro-choice voice has been heard.
Ahead of the vote Oscar winning actor Emma Thompson and comedian Jo Brand added their support to the campaign. Jo Brand said ‘The time limit argument is a total red herring. It’s the same old anti-abortionists with their anti-women agenda, making up the science as they go along. MPs must have no truck with this’. Emma Thompson said ‘Those opposed to abortion are entitled to their view, but they should not be allowed to dictate to women about their own individual decisions and start chipping away at laws designed to protect the safety of women who cannot continue with a pregnancy.’
We would like to thank all those who attended the 1000 strong emergency demonstration outside parliament last night ahead of the vote, and also those who demonstrated in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Attendees included leaders and members of the national trade unions and the TUC, the National Union of Students, women’s groups, sexual healthcare workers, doctors and nurses and individuals. The protest led the first items on Channel 4 news, ITN news, and BBC News, and was a feature in many of the national newspapers the following day.
71 for 12 weeks, 393 against;
84 for 16 weeks, 387 against;
190 for 20 weeks, 332 against;
233 for 22 weeks, 304 against
If your MP stood up for women’s rights and voted against lowering the abortion time limit please do take the time to write and thank them. We know that they will be hearing from the anti-abortion lobby.
Nadine Dorries MP has pledged to continue with her fight to lower the time limit. We must ensure that this decisive vote is the end of anti-abortion attacks.
We are calling on parliamentarians to put the focus back where it should be: on improving women’s access to safe, legal abortion and removing the unfair and cruel obstacles and delays that women still face.
Please encourage friends, colleagues and family to become a member of Abortion Rights – together we’re stronger!
Please donate! Our campaigning has clearly been essential and effective, but it needs to be paid for! We are calling on all supporters to help cover the costs of Abortion Rights’ campaigning and to secure the future sustainability of the organisation to defend a women’s right to chose – please be as generous as possible! You can donate quickly and securely on-line.
In the debate:
Christine McCafferty MP said:
‘Lowering the abortion time limit would not remove the need for later abortion, but would put distressing barriers in the way. Legislation should, of course, keep up to date with scientific evidence, but all peer-reviewed studies show no improvement in babies’ survival before 24 weeks. All amendments to lower the abortion time limit are cynical, cruel, abusive and inhumane.’
Julie Morgan MP said:
‘The campaign to cut the limit is not an anti-24 week campaign, it is an anti-abortion campaign. I hope MPs recognise these rights over our bodies were hard won and we don’t want an erosion of our rights. We need to stay steadfast and accept the medical evidence.’
John Bercow MP said:
‘[Ann Widdecombe] talks about humanity. Does she not accept that if the time limit was lowered by 2 weeks very, very, very frightened and vulnerable women will suffer?’
Dawn Primarolo, health minister said:
‘The upper limit was set by parliament in 1990 at 24 weeks because scientific evidence at the time was that the threshold of viability had increased. That was the case in 1990 and it is certainly the case now. While there have been medical advances in caring for premature babies, only a small number born after 24 weeks gestation can survive. Wouldn’t it be appalling if we drove women back to where they were before the 1967 act?’
Responding to the vote, Evan Harris MP said:
‘Parliament has made the right decision, respecting womens’ right to access abortion and taking the advice of the medical world about what the appropriate time limit should be. It was a good debate, although it was a pity to see so many made up statistics and distortions of the medical evidence from the anti-abortion side.’