No Abortion Amendments Permitted in Vote on British Embryology Bill

By Hilary White

Update: Article written earlier in the day. The HFE bill passed the House of Commons this evening by a massive 355-129 majority. See further coverage here:

WESTMINSTER, October 22, 2008 ( – Rumours swirling around Westminster in recent weeks were confirmed today when Labour’s Health Secretary tabled a procedural motion that effectively prohibits debate on abortion-related amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. For two weeks, Parliamentary sources have been hinting that the attempt to impose legal abortion on Northern Ireland, as well as amendments that would make abortion available with fewer restrictions, would be dropped by the government over fears of derailing delicate negotiations over the Northern Irish peace process.

The Health Secretary’s motion imposes strict time limits on topics in today’s debate, meaning that no time will be allotted for the abortion amendments. It requires all discussion relating to the main business of the Bill be taken before any topics unrelated to the substance of the bill.

Pro-abortion MPs and lobbyists have expressed anger at the move. Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, one of Britain’s largest abortionist groups said, “This misguided political opportunism would amount to a shocking act of betrayal of women by government ministers.”

The abortion amendments would scrap the requirement for two doctors to give their consent for abortions and allow nurses and midwives to carry out abortions. Other amendments proposed to allow abortion drugs to be taken at home without medical supervision. 

Meanwhile, pro-life advocates are still calling for the defeat of the bill in its entirety, given its provisions allowing the creation and destruction of cloned human beings, and its abolition of the “need for a father” in considerations by doctors for artificial procreation treatments such as IVF.

“What Parliament decides [today] will be a matter of life or death for possibly countless millions of unborn children,” said John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. 

On Monday, pro-life campaigners from Northern Ireland handed in a petition with more than 100,000 signatures asking Prime Minister Gordon Brown “to deny any extension planned for the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, as we believe in the right to life.”

Christians of all denominations gathered at Westminster today as MPs debated the bill in the House of Commons. The prayer vigil and rally was organised by the group Christian Concern For Our Nation, whose founder, Andrea Minichiello Williams, said, “We will be praying that God will have mercy on this nation and allow amendments limiting the loss of human life to be passed.  We will also pray that abortion law will not be liberalised and that the Abortion Act will not be extended to Northern Ireland.”

“We consider it one of the most anti-life bills to come before parliament,” said Josephine Quintavalle of the Pro-Life Alliance who attended the rally.

Read related coverage:

Abortion Amendments to UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill Unlikely to Come to a Vote Wednesday

Share this article