Thank you for contacting me about foetal sentience and abortion.
I completely understand what an incredibly emotive issue this is, and I appreciate the strength of feelings on all sides. It is for this reason that, as with other matters of conscience, the Government rightly adopts a neutral stance on abortion, allowing Conservative MPs to vote freely according to their moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. This is a convention which I support wholeheartedly.
I understand that, in the last ten years, the body of knowledge relating to foetal sentience has been expanding, such that in 2019 the NHS recommended pain relief for foetuses undergoing surgery for spina bifida from 20 weeks onwards. I also know that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has not recommended the use of analgesia or anaesthesia for the foetus in utero, including for abortions. There is a wide range of guidance and research in this area, reaching a wide range of recommendations and conclusions.
I believe it is vital that, on a matter this sensitive and important, the broadest possible scope of scientific research is examined, informing a comprehensive debate.
Thank you for inviting me to the APPG webinar. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the meeting on this occasion, but I will always continue to review emerging research in this area.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me on this very important issue.