I completely understand what an incredibly emotive issue this is, and I appreciate the strength of feelings on both sides. It is for this reason that, as with other matters of conscience, the Government 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 know that a number of colleagues have proposed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill which seeks to decriminalise abortion so that women who end their own pregnancies, including women who access abortion medication online, are not held criminally responsible. I support the intention of the amendment to protect vulnerable women from prosecution and I very much understand and appreciate the issues raised; however, having closely scrutinised the amendments I do not believe the bill was the appropriate place to make contentious amendments which is why I did not support them.
The approach to abortion in Great Britain is set out in the Abortion Act 1967, which states that two doctors must certify that, in their opinion, a request for an abortion is made on at least one of the grounds laid out in the Act. These grounds include “risk to the life of the pregnant woman”, and “substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”.
I am encouraged that guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act has been issued, which stipulates that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion. Full details can be found online at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-doctors-on-compliance-with-the-abortion-act.
With best wishes