Abortion: let’s get the limit down – by Edward Leigh MP

portrait-edwardleigh3.jpgSome time in the coming weeks, the House of Commons will be grappling with the Government’s latest legislative chimera: the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

I spoke last week at a rally in Westminster Central Hall to encourage public opposition to the Bill. In my speech I made clear that our best hope was a limit of 20 weeks. Much as we would like a lower limit, given the parliamentary arithmetic it is not doable.

On the way in, we had to walk through a picket line of Socialist Workers’ Party reps, jeering and chanting; inside the hall, some of their friends kept up a racket of heckling throughout. Some tried to block the doorway until the police moved in. When David Alton spoke, they heckled him loudly; but when he showed pictures of aborted babies, rape alarms were set off and they started screaming to drown him out.

Not all pro-lifers agree with the use of such pictures; but what they show, like it or not, is the horrifying reality of abortion: a tiny human form torn to pieces.

It is strange how utterly unbearable this truth is to the hard left.

Some protesters were marched out by stewards, but others gripped their seats and went on shouting at the speakers from time to time.

Other parliamentary speakers were my colleagues Ann Widdecombe and David Burrowes and, from the Labour side, Jim Dobbin and Geraldine Smith. Jim said he would be meeting the Prime Minister  to discuss a free vote in the Commons, but that if the Government did not grant one, he would vote against the Bill.

The Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon, made a telling point, audible over the roar of the hecklers. He said that there are many people ‘with or without faith’ who believe human life is sacred.

It is well known that the Lib Dems’ Dr Evan Harris, who successfully tabled a staggering hundred-plus amendments to the Bill during the hearings of the Science and Technology Committee, is looking forward to a further liberalisation of the law. Among his goals are removing the need for even one doctor’s signature and enabling nurses to abort children in doctor’s surgeries.

Imagine: in one room the doctor might be advising a young mother on her pregnancy and how to breastfeed her baby, while next door a child is being killed in the womb by the nurse, perhaps herself a mother.

But of course, according to Dr Harris and his supporters that is perfectly all right. Because all that really matters to them are the ‘rights’ of the individual – provided, of course, that that individual has left the illusory protection of the womb.

To be fair to Harris, he has declared an interest in maintaining the current abortion limit of 24 weeks: his girlfriend is the press manager of BPAS (formerly the British Pregnancy Advisory Service), which advertises its abortion services in all the women’s magazines.

Harris is also an ‘honorary associate’ of the National Secular Society. They want to sweep away the influence of religion, even offering a ‘debaptise yourself’ service with a certificate to prove it. In its own words, the Society ‘asserts that supernaturalism is based upon ignorance and assails it as the historic enemy of progress’. Ah, ‘Progress’! That great idol of the atheist.

The question is begged: progress towards what? A nation in which even more than the current tally of nearly 600 unborn children are aborted every day? A world in which a child with two ‘mothers’ – one legally recorded as his father – has no right to know who his actual father is until he is 18? Is that progress? Harris’ party clearly thinks so; they allowed free votes on the other provisions in the Bill but whipped their peers on this.

Finally, knowing that Harris and his supporters will do their utmost to drive through all sorts of liberalising amendments, I strongly hope that those of my colleagues who share my views will unite with those from all parties who, although not pro-life, are uncomfortable with the current limit of 24 weeks, to vote for a reduction in the limit for abortion to 20 weeks.

Fellow-Catholics should not have a problem with this since last year’s joint statement on the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act by Cardinals Murphy-O’Connor and O’Brien. In that they said: ‘Whilst upholding the principle of the sacredness of human life, it is both licit and important for those in public life who oppose abortion on principle to work and vote for achievable incremental improvement to what is an unjust law.’

It is a hopeful sign that since the release of the ‘walking in the womb’ pictures, and the latest evidence on foetal pain, more MPs have reconsidered the issue.

Now that is progress.

I applaud my Cornerstone colleague Nadine Dorries for her sterling work in publicising this issue.

For an update on the campaign against the Bill see http://www.passionforlife.org.uk/

If you don’t find what you want immediately, just keep scrolling down.

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