Pro-lifers have expressed disappointment after Diana Johnson’s abortion decriminalisation bill was given leave to proceed by 208 votes to 123.
Under the bill, Ms Johnson, Labour MP for Hull North, is seeking to remove the termination of unborn children from criminal law.
Her bill, drafted with the support of Amnesty International UK, the Family Planning Association and BPAS, seeks to amend Section 58 and repeal Section 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act (1861) (OAPA) which would leave Northern Ireland, England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion regimes anywhere in the world.
It would also render exceptions to the 1967 Act null and void, removing the efficacy of existing safeguards and opening the door to sex-selective abortions, more Down Syndrome babies being aborted and abortion anytime, anywhere for no reason up to 24 weeks.
Speaking in today’s debate, Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, said the bill “proposes far-reaching changes in abortion law … it would also set a dangerous constitutional precedent of interference.
“It is not only unconstitutional, it’s untimely. At such a sensitive time in relations between the Westminster government and the Northern Ireland administration, it would completely undermine the substance and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.”
“And it is unwanted. Northern Ireland is the most recent part of the UK to vote on abortion law in 2016 and by a clear majority voted to retain their law as it stands. If, however, the province in time decides to change their law that is for them, not for us here in Westminster, to decide.”
In response to the vote, Anne Scanlan, Life Charity’s Director of Advocacy, branded the bill “one of the most morally repugnant pieces of legislation to come to the House of Commons”.
“Just the consideration of this bill seeking to impose abortion on Northern Ireland represents a slap in the face of the people of Northern Ireland. But what we have seen in the vote today is a demonstration of the power this multi-million pound industry has at Westminster,” Ms Scanlan told The Catholic Universe.
“This bill would enable abusers and groomers to hide their crimes by demanding that victims get an abortion or self abort with no questions asked.
“The bill also devalues life when an unborn baby can be terminated at any time and for any reason without question or legal consequences. No society which truly values equality should possess such laws which allow for babies to be terminated because they are girls or disabled.
Meanwhile, Antonia Tully, Director of Campaigns at SPUC told The Catholic Universe: “While it is disappointing that the vote went in Diana Johnson’s favour, we will not be giving up our campaign to stop the measures in this bill making progress in Parliament.
“What Diana Johnson is proposing is a bleak, uncaring solution for women facing a crisis pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland development officer, branded the result “not only a disappointment” but “a disgrace”.
“It is nothing less than hypocrisy for MPs who claim to support self-government in Northern Ireland to then disregard democratic structures and the rule of law by trying to force their own views on the people of the Province,” he said.
“If devolution is to mean anything then the Westminster elite must accept that the people of Northern Ireland have the right to protect unborn children from abortion,” he added.
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Picture: Diana Johnson. (David Mirzoeff/PA).