The Socialist 14 May 2008
NHS under threat
Defend and extend abortion rights
- No reduction in the time limit
- End the two-doctor rule
On 20 May Tory MP Nadine Dorries intends to move an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to cut the current upper limit for abortion from 24 to 20 weeks.
Eleanor Donne, Basildon Socialist Party
Having seen one attempt to restrict abortion on the grounds of foetal abnormality defeated in the House of Lords earlier this year, and having lost the vote on her private member's bill last year (attempting to lower the time limit to 21 weeks), Dorries and her supporters in the anti-abortion lobby may see this as their best chance to restrict existing abortion law.
The organisation Pro-life Alliance, with their seemingly limitless funds, have been bombarding MPs and the media with their propaganda in the form of free DVDs.
Dorries uses her own combination of homespun philosophy and bad science in her '20 reasons for 20 weeks' campaign, which has been featured in that champion of human rights, the Daily Mail.
The 'justification' for lowering time limits is, the 'pro-life' lobby argue, that pre-term babies are surviving much younger than in 1990 (when the time limit was reduced from 28 to 24 weeks).
However, whilst there are isolated examples of 'miracle' babies seized on by Dorries, nationally foetal viability at less than 24 weeks remains largely unchanged over the last 20 years. The parliamentary Science and Technology Committee concluded, after considering all available evidence (including from pro-life groups) that there was no justification for altering the current limit.
The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Association of Perinatal medicine, and the Royal College of Nursing all oppose lowering the upper limit.
Dorries says she is concerned about the effect of abortion on women's mental health. However, women who seek late abortions are often amongst the most vulnerable in society - very young, pregnant through rape, mentally ill etc.
What effect does Dorries think being forced to go ahead with an unplanned pregnancy would have?
It is vital to defend the existing law against any attempt to make abortion less accessible. But it is also very important to campaign for improvements - in particular to remove the need for two doctors signatures and ensure that abortion is properly funded under the NHS. Without these two changes we clearly have not got an effective 'right to choose'.
Unfortunately no MP has yet put forward an amendment which improves existing abortion rights and so the current campaign is largely one to defend what we have.
This could change if some of the major trade unions took up the call to end the current two-doctor signature rule.
Protest Outside parliament
Near Westminster tube
5.30pm Tuesday 20 May
Protest to defend abortion rights
Abortion Rights has called a protest outside parliament when the vote is being taken.
Socialist Party members are campaigning to get as many people there as possible.
Come and show your support for women's right to choose when and whether to have a child - make sure MPs know that the majority support women's rights.
In this issue
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party women
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party review