Defend the abortion time limit

// 7 April 2008

Abortion Rights are urging all pro-choice supporters to write to their MPs quick smart urging them to protect the abortion time limit. Anti-choice MPs aim to use the Human Fertilisation and Embrylology bill to reduce the time limit from 20 to 24 weeks, and we know they won’t stop there. Ann Widdecombe and David Cameron are both supporters of a reduction, so if you’re as lucky as I am and have blue representation, there’s extra impetus to get scribbling.

You can find a model letter here, but it makes no demand to improve abortion provision, so I wrote my own, suggesting the removal of the two doctor rule, provision for nurses and midwives to carry out early abortions, improved sex education and better financial support for single mothers. Address letters to your MP at House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

There will be a national lobby of parliament on Wednesday May 7th from 3pm to 6pm, followed by a public meeting at 7pm, venue TBC.

Image by openDemocracy, shared under a Creative Commons license.

Comments From You

joanne // Posted 7 April 2008 at 11:32 pm

It would be very helpful if anyone writing to their MPs could also mention the fact that a reduction in the limit may have a more serious impact on women travelling to the UK from Northern Ireland (and the ROI).

Although we are beginning to organise a campaign of our own, we need the support of feminists, pro-choice groups and pro-choice MPs in the rest of the UK to help put pressure on the government regarding extending the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

Thank you!

Rachel // Posted 8 April 2008 at 9:30 am

Any chance you could post your letter (or an edited version – maybe with the NI issue another commenter has pointed out)? Not only would I like to read it, but I think it’d be really useful to have a template to people a bit too busy to organise writing themselves.

Laura // Posted 8 April 2008 at 2:48 pm

Hi Rachel and Joanne,

I’ve already posted the letter, otherwise I would definitely have included the point about NI – I will contact my MP again when he replies on that one.

Here’s my letter:

Dear MP,

Abortion and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

Firstly, I would like to express my support for the proposals contained in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The development of Admix embryos could potentially save and improve the lives of thousands of people, and I hope you will be able to give the bill your support.

However, I am concerned that a minority of MPs are seeking to use this bill to lower the abortion time limit from 24 to 20 weeks. Both David Cameron and Ann Widdecombe have claimed that scientific developments over the last 40 years have significantly increased foetal viability, making abortion over 20 weeks ethically unsound.

This position is highly misleading. The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Commons Science and Technology Committee and the Department of Health all agree that there has been no significant development in foetal viability, nor in the foetus’ ability to feel pain, and as such there is no need to reduce the abortion time limit.

Less than 2% of abortions are carried out after 20 weeks, and those women who do opt for late term abortions are often extremely vulnerable. Late diagnosis of pregnancy, domestic abuse and rape are common reasons for their decision to have an abortion, and a reduction in the time limit would be devastating for these women and girls. I would therefore urge you to vote against any reduction in the abortion time limit.

We all want to see abortions carried out as early as possible. However, rather than attacking the time limit, I believe MPs should heed the recommendations of the Commons Science and Technology Committee and remove the requirement for a woman to obtain the signature of two GPs before having an abortion. NHS waiting lists could be reduced by training nurses and midwives to carry out early abortions, while some women may not choose to have abortions at all if financial support for single mothers were improved.

Of course, fewer abortions would have to be carried out if the government instituted high quality compulsory sex education in all schools, delivered by properly trained staff, in an effort to reduce the UK’s teen pregnancy rate.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I would appreciate it if you could let me know your views on these issues.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 8 April 2008 at 6:30 pm

Mine was very similar to this but shorter. But I added that despite a vocal minority, 83% of people support a women’s right to choose and that my MP should support the wishes of the majority of his constituents. I concluded this with something along the lines of ‘a reduction in the time limit is not in the interests of the public good’.

I thought this was important to add, because legislation can be based on the wishes/ interest of the public as well as science.

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