July 6, 2018 (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) – An MP held up a scan of his unborn baby in the Commons chamber to make a point about parental leave offered to members of parliament.
A baby first
The SNP's David Linden wanted more time to debate the principle of proxy voting – where another MP votes on a colleague's behalf, for example when they are on paternity leave – so it could be voted on later. Holding the picture aloft, Mr Linden told colleagues: “This is my daughter to be born in the autumn, so I'm particularly keen to see this be put in place as soon as possible.”
The debate was pulled yesterday because of two Government statements and an urgent question, but Mr Linden may have unknowingly broken new ground – SPUC's sources believe that this is the first time an ultrasound scan of an unborn child has been shown in the Commons chamber.
In fact, despite the fact that abortion has been debated an unusual amount in recent months, the very mention of the unborn child is unusual enough to be noticed. During Stella Creasy's emergency debate on repealing sections of the Offences Against the Person Act (which would decriminalise abortion in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), the DUP's Sammy Wilson noted that the debate “has of course reflected the views of those who wish to control their own bodies, but what about the unborn child? That side has been lacking in most of the speeches today. What rights and protections does the state afford to unborn children?”
Shut out of debate
Mr Wilson and his colleagues did stand up for the rights of the unborn, but they were jeered and heckled for doing so. Hannah Bardell MP (SNP) stormed that for “DUP Members…to talk about unborn children being thrown in the bin or babies being disposed of, are disgusting ways to describe the choices that women have to make anywhere in the UK but particularly in Northern Ireland.”
The Conservative MP Maria Caulfield was faced with similar vitriol when she defended the unborn during Diana Johnson's decriminalisation bill last year. “Too often today,” she said then, “debates about abortion—about the risks involved and the rights of the unborn child—are shut down; but I, and many colleagues who share my views, will not be silenced as we seek to be a voice for the voiceless, and as we argue for more modern and humane abortion law that upholds not only the dignity and rights of women but the dignity and rights of the unborn child.”
These comments meant Ms Caulfield faced a huge media outcry when she was appointed as the Conservative Vice-Chair for Women.
After the Grayling mystery, reshuffle glitch number 2 – Maria Caulfield new tory vice chair opposed decriminalising abortion – BPAS response https://t.co/sZ8h7fd4bK
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) January 8, 2018
Despite 50 years of legal abortion, it's taken a discussion on parental leave for MPs to be shown the image of an unborn child – perhaps they'll be less shocked when an MP dares to mention the unborn in any future abortion debate.
Published with permission from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.