Warning: Domestic Abuse Bill at risk of being hijacked for abortion on demand

Overview of objections to Domestic Abuse Bill amendments

On Monday 6 July a debate on proposed amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, that would allow for abortions on demand, is due to take place. To be clear, as a charity which cares for vulnerable women, we fully support any legislation which provides them with greater protection. However, we oppose two proposed amendments to this bill that would allow for abortions to continue to take place at home, thereby putting women at greater risk and which would also remove abortion from the law. Given our opponent’s successes over the last few years, it is vital that you contact your MP to tell them of your objections. (Click here to message your MP).

Below is a brief summary of Life’s objections and concerns to the proposed amendments.

  • Initial wording for NC28: “Enabling access to abortion in abusive relationships (1) The Abortion Act 1967 is amended as follows. (2) At the end of section 1 add— “(5) Subsection (3) of this section shall not apply to the termination of a pregnancy by a registered medical practitioner who is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the woman is unable to access treatment for the termination of pregnancy in a hospital or a place approved by the Secretary of State under subsection (3) by reason of the abusive behaviour of a person with whom the woman is personally connected within the meaning of section 2 of the Domestic Abuse Act 2020.”” (Full wording can be found here) 

Problems with this amendment:

  • This wording doesn’t discriminate between medical and surgical abortions.
  • It also doesn’t put a gestational limit on when it can happen.

The essential meaning of it, however, is to allow abortions to take place in the home for women in abusive relationships.

Amendments to the amendment: Thanks to Fiona Bruce, Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir John Hayes, Sir Edward Leigh, Bob Blackman and Carla Lockhart, who have proposed that the following amends should be made to the above

  • That this should be restricted to medical abortions only
  • That there should be a nine week six day time limit
  • That there should first be a review of the impact of the changes made through COVID, which for all intents and purposes allowed the above to take place for any woman asking for an abortion.

Summary: Essentially, NC28 of the Domestic Abuse Bill would allow women affected by domestic abuse to take both abortion pills at home for the reason that they may not be able to attend the clinic. This is what has been happening already during COVID-19 since the rules were changed at the end of March. There has been no debate on this question and it came as the result of a state of emergency. Yet there will be arguments that since we’re already doing it; why not simply continue. We have already seen some abuses to this system including one story where a woman took these abortion pills at 28 weeks gestation.

  •  NC29: To move the following Clause“Amendment of criminal law in relation to termination of pregnancy (1) The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is amended as follows. (2) Sections 58 (administering drugs or using instruments to procure abortion) and 59 (procuring drugs, &c. to cause abortion) are repealed. (3) After section 59 insert— “59A Non-consensual termination of pregnancy (1) A person (A) commits an offence if— (a) in relation to a woman (B) A commits any unlawful act involving the use or threat of force, or the administration of any substance capable of causing abortion, (b) A believes that B is pregnant or is reckless as to whether she is pregnant, and (c) A intends to cause B’s abortion or is reckless as to whether her abortion results. (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) — (a) an act done by, or with the informed consent or assistance of B, or done in good faith by a registered medical practitioner, registered nurse or registered midwife, is not to be considered unlawful, (b) but B is not to be treated as consenting to the administration of a substance unless she is aware of its nature as a substance capable of causing abortion. (3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life or for any shorter term.””

Summary: This change is what we’ve been speaking against for the last two years. It effectively decriminalises abortion, unless it’s committed against the woman’s will, whether intentionally or recklessly. Fundamentally it decriminalises the 209,240 abortions (the number that took place prior to 24 weeks) from 2019 and brings us in line with what was recently imposed on Northern Ireland.

  • Without the Offences Against the Person’s Act, the next provision protecting life in the womb is from 28 weeks onwards: a time when the majority of babies, if born, could survive (89% according to Tommys). Comres polling from 2017 has shown that 70% of women would prefer a decrease in abortion limits, not an increase.
  • There would be no special circumstance clauses prior to 28 weeks which means that women could have abortions for any reason including gender selective abortions.
  • Regulation is not legislation; we will be less able to detect whether regulations are being abused; there may be no reason to collate abortion statistics for example. The CQC over the last few years has already investigated a number of abortion clinics providing sub-par care for women – and this was during a time of legislation – how much worse will it be? We already know that some medical staff are unwilling to ask too many questions, which allowed a number of situations where young teenage girls were sexually assaulted by grooming gangs and had a number of abortions to allow the abuse to continue. This should never have happened. But with the proposed changes, it will be even easier for the abusers to go unnoticed.
  • Keeping abortion in the legal sphere of influence is not to criminalise women as the other side would have the public believe, it is to maintain the legal stance that abortion is not a good thing and to provide some measure of protection (although limited) for her unborn baby and to hold anyone who works outside the law to serious account on behalf of both the woman and her baby.
  • This is part of a long-term plan and has been carefully crafted after passing a few other tests over the last few years.
    • The first test was Diana Johnson’s 10 minute rule bill back in 2018, which was the first time a proposal to remove sections 58 and 59 was allowed a second reading.
    • Rupa Huq’s latest bill (on buffer zones) was the latest test of parliamentary support and it succeeded with flying colours.
    • They now have confidence that they can achieve their aims, since it worked with Northern Ireland i.e. the Executive Formation Bill wasn’t about abortion, but it was hijacked and it still succeeded. Much of the wording of the above is still the same/ similar to the NI formation bill, which shows they’ve learned their successes.

Please do not hesitate to contact your MP. This is too important not to.

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