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LONDON, United Kingdom, November 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Two UK political parties, the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, announced plans to “decriminalise” and radically deregulate abortion in the United Kingdom should they win December’s General Election. 

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto pledges to “decriminalise abortion across the UK whilst retaining the existing 24-week limit”, and to “legislate for access to abortion facilities within Northern Ireland” (p 61). It contains 15 references to LGBT policies, including plans to teach about “LGBT+ relationships” in “Relationships and Sex Education” in schools (p 33).

The Labour manifesto pledges to “uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions”, and claims that “women in Northern Ireland should have access to abortions in Northern Ireland” (pp 48 and 83). It gives no indication of any time limits, and so could allow abortion up until birth. The Labour manifesto also includes 16 references to LGBT policies, and promises to “put LGBT+ equality at the heart of government” and to “provide sufficient funding for schools to deliver mandatory LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education” (p 69).

Abortion was illegal in Northern Ireland until it began to be introduced by the Conservative Government in July. Before this, women seeking abortions needed to travel to Great Britain.

Abortion is permitted in England under exceptions to earlier laws which make it a criminal offence. The Abortion Act 1967 allows abortions up to 24 weeks, providing it is carried out by a registered doctor, and that two doctors agree that the mother’s physical or mental health is at risk, or that the child will be seriously disabled.

Decriminalizing abortion means repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861), and the Infant Life Preservation Act (1929). As UK abortion regulations presume that abortion is a criminal offence, this would make the Abortion Act exceptions irrelevant and deregulate the industry. It would allow abortion-on-demand, in any place, for any reason, and without medical supervision. 

Right to Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson has called this “the most extreme abortion law in the world”.

Both manifestos refer to reproductive rights, but “there is no right to abortion in any human rights convention anywhere in the world”, says Michael Robinson, Director of Parliamentary Communications and Campaigns at the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). What is more, he says, the concept contradicts “the right, recognised in international law, of the unborn child to be protected by law”.

Robinson called decriminalization “the biggest expansion of abortion provision in over fifty years”, which would “leave women at the mercy of the for-profit abortion industry”. He believes that “online abortion pill businesses” – which allow abortions to take place without medical supervision – “are likely to proliferate under such a regime”. 

Right to Life UK has expressed fears that abortions could be carried out by nurses or indeed anyone, without a doctor present – despite the risks of abortion complications – and in mobile facilities or even schools. Decriminalization would also remove existing conscience protections for medical professionals and make it harder to convict people who have forced non-consensual abortions.

While the Liberal Democrats intend to retain the 24-week limit, they make even more radical pledges to “fund abortion clinics to provide their services free of charge to service users regardless of nationality or residency” (p61). 

Robinson responded to this, saying: “Abortion providers already receive millions of pounds for performing taxpayer funded abortions, so it is quite incredible that the Liberal Democrats are promising to fund abortions on women who might not even be eligible for genuine healthcare in this country. If no regard is given to nationality or residency, what is to stop women getting a cheap flight to end their baby’s life at the British taxpayer’s expense?”

The Liberal Democrats further intend to impose what SPUC has called “draconian censorship zones” around clinics and intend to “make intimidation or harassment of abortion service users and staff outside clinics, or on common transport routes […] illegal” (p 61). 

SPUC said that this will prevent people “offering help to women outside abortion clinics; women who might desperately want to keep their babies but feel they have no choice […] What is liberal or democratic about offering free abortions but denying these women any other help or choice?”

These manifesto pledges come as Labour Member of Parliament Diana Johnson recently tried to “hijack” debates regarding the Domestic Abuse Bill to propose a repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act. Her amendments would have deregulated abortion up to 28 weeks. Even pro-abortion MPs such as Maria Miller have said that “while there is a strong case for reform”, a bill on domestic abuse “is not the place to do it”. 

The Conservative Party manifesto was released on Sunday, November 24, 2019, and contained no references to abortion or “reproductive rights,” and two references to LGBT policies. However, in September 2019, the Conservative government of the UK also pledged to give £600 million of taxpayer funds to the UN for “family planning”, which includes abortions. 

The Brexit Party’s “Contract with the People” contains no reference to abortion or LGBT policies. They are not standing in seats won by the Conservatives in 2017.