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MPs vote in favour of decriminalising abortion

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A bill to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales passed its first reading in the House of Commons this week.

Labour MP Diana Johnson's Ten Minute Rule Bill, which is being backed by abortion giant BPAS, would effectively remove all legal restrictions on abortion.

MPs voted 172 to 142 in favour of the radical proposal.

A second reading for the bill is scheduled for 24 March, but it is unlikely to go ahead as several other readings are taking place on that day.

Complete decriminalisation

Abortion is illegal under the Abortion Act 1967, except under limited circumstances.

Despite this, it is widely available in the UK with around 550 abortions taking place each day.

Ms Johnson claimed that her bill, a draft of which has yet to be published, would not mean "deregulation".

"Abortion will still be subject to a significant body of Parliamentary regulation and robust professional standards. The Bill does not intend to make it easier to access abortion after 24 weeks.

"Removing the counter-productive threat of criminal punishment against vulnerable women will help create an environment more conducive to reducing incidents of unplanned pregnancies and abortions - not least medically unsafe ones."

Dangers of this bill

But Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes who led the opposition, spoke powerfully against the bill.

She wants to see legislation that protects "not only the dignity and rights of women but the dignity and rights of the unborn child".

Ms Caulfield highlighted that women seeking abortions are rarely prosecuted, and that abortion is "widely available under the terms of the abortion act".

She also said that this bill would remove protections against young people having easy access to abortion pills, as well as increase the number of abortions based on the grounds of disability or gender.

She added that "far from being progressive it would be a charter for backstreet abortions".

'Richer understanding of dignity and equality'

Maria Caulfield concluded: "A 21st century approach to this area must be based on a fuller and richer understanding of human dignity and equality, which doesn't treat a woman as a victim of her own body, which doesn't treat children as commodities, and which doesn't treat marginalised people such as young girls or children with Down's syndrome as burdens or inconveniences."

Diana Johnson's bill is unlikely to become law and may not receive a second reading.

Creating positive alternatives

Part of working to change attitudes on abortion is to create and promote positive alternatives.

Adoption is one key way in which women in crisis pregnancies can offer their child a hopeful future.

It is also important that babies or children taken into care are placed into loving and stable homes.

If you believe that you could help to meet a need by adopting or fostering, please visit the Home for Good website for more information.

Related links:
Bill to decriminalise abortions passes first stage (Christian Today)
MPs win right to challenge Victorian law criminalising abortion (Guardian)
I am thinking about fostering or adopting (Home For Good)


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