How did your MP vote? Breaking down the numbers

// 21 May 2008

As Laura pointed out earlier today, we’ve won this latest battle on choice, but this is no time to rest on our laurels.

We were on the defensive – and the one amendment which could have shifted the ground in favour of the pro-choice majority, ending the requirement for two doctors to sign off on an abortion, was withdrawn (although apparently for quite sensible tactical reasons).

One thing you can do is check how your MP voted – I’m going to be writing a miffed letter to my MP, Simon Hughes, about his decision to vote in favour of cutting the time limit to 20 and 22 weeks, and you might want to do the same. If your MP was one of the 304 who voted in favour of women’s rights every time, perhaps they would like an email or letter of support?

You can find out how your MP voted at The Public Whip – because the vote was only yesterday, it should be easy to find (be careful in how you interpret the results though, as they are presented in terms of rebelling from party lines, etc). Alternatively look for your MP on this list – ‘aye’ means they voted to curtain abortion access to 22-weeks.

You will also find some interesting statistics on how the vote divided along party lines. These are the figures for the attempt to cut the limit to 22 weeks, which came closest to succeeding:


As you can see, only 27 current Conservative MPs support keeping the 24 week limit, compared to 237 Labour MPs. That is massively worrying, because if the Tories get in at the next election, it’s going to be much harder to hold the line. The Liberal Democrats are nearly split down the middle.

Comments From You

Sian // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:09 pm

Even as someone who was brought up in her nappies to sing rude songs about Thatcher, I’m still shocked at the number of Tories for reducing the time limit. A timely reminder.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:09 pm

And the SNP are split- oh it’d make you cry.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:12 pm

Thanks for this Jess. My Labour MP was ABSENT! I am so annoyed. When I’ve written to her previously she’s always been, I support abortion rights, I support a woman’s right to choose, the existing laws are fine etc etc and then when it comes to the crunch she’s NOT THERE. Maybe there was a serious reason for her absence but if not, I am incredibly disappointed in her and will be writing.

Feministy // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:15 pm

That’ll be two miffed letters Simon Hughes is getting then – he’s my MP too!

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:16 pm

And the SNP are split- oh it’d make you cry.

But Plaid Cymru is officially the most pro-choice party in Parliament!

Amanda // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:21 pm

My uni MP voted against 22 weeks, My home MP abstained (which is probably a good thing as he is a conservative front bencher so I cant see him voting no)

What I want to know is is there any breakdown of voting according to gender? I looked down the lists and I counted about 25 women in all the people who voted to lower the limit.

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:23 pm

That’ll be two miffed letters Simon Hughes is getting then – he’s my MP too!

Ohhh, maybe we should have a Southwark Feminists meetup, Feministy!

Feminist Avatar // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:29 pm

Maybe I’ll move to Wales and fight for independence there. I noticed that Scottish MPs were actually very split across the board (worrying), maybe I’ll do a map.

My MP was absent. His reply to my letter was incredibly lengthy (included a copy of the legislation and everything) but in no way told me his position on this matter.

Sarah // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:32 pm

My MP (Stephen Timms) voted against, I am pleased to see, and also voted pro-science on the embryology bill. I’m pretty happy with his voting record, except that he voted for the Iraq ‘war’. That sums up my feelings about Labour really, after the whole Iraq thing it was difficult to consider voting for them again, however they are pretty solid on women’s rights and social issues. ore so than any of the other major parties, by a long way.

Cara // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:37 pm

My MP voted against. Yay! I sent them an e-mail in support.

Anji // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:40 pm

My MP didn’t vote! I emailed him AND sent him a letter by post and he still didn’t bloody vote! He too shall be receiving a sternly-worded letter. :o(

Anji // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:43 pm

ARGH! He DID vote – for a reduction to 22 weeks! That’s it, this letter is going to be even more sternly worded now!

Suzanne // Posted 21 May 2008 at 3:44 pm

Urgh, my MP voted for the reduction – and I voted for him. I feel dirty now. Time to write a cranky letter…

rad // Posted 21 May 2008 at 4:34 pm

I don’t see how being pro-24 weeks is neccessarily pro-women, and certainly not pro-children.

I know this view is controversial here, but Iim a feminist, I believe in a woman’s right to choose, and I believe the 24 week limit is too high.

Having known children born at this age perhaps makes you think about things differently.

I don’t see that reducing the limit to 20 weeks is anti-women, 20 weeks is a long enough time to make that decision.

I don’t think an unborn baby is a baby from the moment of conception, but I do think by 24 weeks it is sufficiently developed for abortion to be questionable.

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 May 2008 at 4:35 pm

I do know what you mean about Iraq, Sarah, but at the same time I would say that our political system and culture is such that Labour not being in power (and therefore the Tories being in power) would hardly have prevented our country being complicit in invading. They’d have certainly gone in, perhaps with even less pause for thought.

For me, it’s not a deciding factor anymore. It’s happened, and the stakes are too high to let past events – however awful – send us into a tailspin on every other political issue. I realise this makes me a lot less hard-line than others, but there you go – engaging in parliamentary politics is de facto an exercise in compromise, and government is de facto as an institution the problem. But the alternative is to totally disengage. That lets us keep a principled stance, uncompromised on lots of issues, but if we are not at least tilting the institution in a more progressive direction, it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse.

Well, that’s my view, anyway.

Laura // Posted 21 May 2008 at 4:47 pm


“20 weeks is a long enough time to make that decision”

Unfortunately it just isn’t that simple. Look at these women’s cases (from Abortion Rights):

19 year old Janet, 21 weeks: ‘I was 19, my father had died and I was looking after my 8 siblings with my mother who could barely afford to keep us. I couldn’t face telling my mum about my pregnancy – things were so difficult. If I couldn’t have an abortion, I would have killed myself. Now I have been able to go to college, learn to read and write, play a full role in society and bring up a family of my own’.

17 year old Kate, 21 weeks: ‘I had been taking the pill. When I had a missed period, I went straight to my doctor for a pregnancy test. It came back negative. I was still missing periods. I returned to my doctor who said I had nothing to worry about. A short while later I met someone who had had a child after finding out too late that she was pregnant to have an abortion. I did another test, which came back positive. It took a further two and a

half weeks before I could have an abortion. It was the right thing for me – I never regretted it.’

That’s why 24 weeks is, in my opinion, pro-woman: it’s about putting women’s needs and lives first. OK, some babies might survive at this early stage, IF the woman gave birth to them. But she doesn’t, the foetus can’t feel pain – she is the living, experiencing, fully developed individual here and her needs and feelings should, I believe, come first.

Eleanor // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:03 pm

Reading the Commons debate for ‘fertility treatment requires father and mother’ (, and I love what Lib Dem Evan Harris MP says to Iain Duncan Smith:

“May I bring the right hon. Gentleman from the general to the specific? We are dealing with the duty on clinics when they consider applications from lesbian couples and solo parents. Does he consider that lesbian couples with children are broken families, to some of which he attached the litany of concern that he rightly has? If he does, what evidence does he have that children with lesbian parents are going off the rails?”

I am so glad there are people defending my potential future family in parliament. Hurrah!

Northern Jess // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:03 pm

I think that abortion full stop is an issue between the woman and her doctor. This should never have seen parliament, why should a majority male parliament who are not medics vote on an issue that is a matter of personal choice? I thought that morality issues weren’t aloud to be voted on like this? Have I completly got that wrong?

Also, my MP (LiB Dem, usually good guy, anti war etc) voted for the 22 week limit- upset

Feministy // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:09 pm

That’ll be two miffed letters Simon Hughes is getting then – he’s my MP too!

Ohhh, maybe we should have a Southwark Feminists meetup, Feministy!

Jess – Sounds like fun!!

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:14 pm

Whoo for Tony Lloyd!

I’m glad he voted No for all sections of the Act.

He never did reply to my email or posted letter tho!

Anna // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:18 pm

Liam Fox, what an intolerable bastard.

Surprised to see Penrose voted to keep it at 24 weeks though, and think slightly more highly of him as a result.

Sal // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:20 pm

Bit worrying, my MP is Geraldine Smith ( who is Labour – yet looking at her voting record she appears to have voted against sexual orientation equality, and for reducing abortion access. If you read her Wiki entry, she also seems to support Hague for premiership, and even that w*nker Richard Littlejohn likes her… er, is she in the wrong party??!!!

Vicky // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:23 pm

My MP (James Plaskitt, Labour – majority of just a couple of hundred votes) voted for a reduction to 22 weeks. But. If Plaskitt loses his seat at the next election (and I can’t see how he could possibly hold on given his tiny majority and the general political shift of the country) he’ll be replaced by a Conservative MP as lib dems have very little support in my constituency. And as the Guardian suggests today, a move to cut back the abortion limit under a Conservative government is much more likely to succeed because even if MPs are given a free vote, most will follow the party line (as one F word blogger has already noted).

So rather a case of frying pan to fire, though it is particularly galling that this is one of the only occasions my MP has actually stuck his neck out to vote AGAINST the party line. Bah.

Soirore // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:26 pm

I recently moved constituency and my current MP voted aye compared to my old MP, who I always prefered, voting no.

I really wish I’d written to her earlier but I stupidly assumed she’d vote no due to the literature she sends me uninvited implying that she’s supportive of women. I will be writing to her now to express my disappointment.

Chloe // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:32 pm

Rad- “Having known children born at this age perhaps makes you think about things differently.”

My cousin had a premature baby at 24 weeks and I support the 24 week limit precisely for this reason. Why condemn one woman who chooses to have a late-term abortion, just because another has chosen to continue with her pregnancy and happens to give birth earlier than expected?

The majority of women who have late-term abortions are vulnerable; some are suffering domestic abuse (this has been proven to increase during pregnancy), and some don’t realise they are pregnant until their only option is a late-term abortion.

And I also don’t believe that feminism is about being pro-children, so I don’t understand what your point was when you said that. Maybe you should think about why some women do have abortions at 24 weeks, because for most of those women, 20 weeks was not enough time to make that decision.

Anne Onne // Posted 21 May 2008 at 5:51 pm

Mine voted not to reduce the limit *is smug* but they are a Labour MP, so I’d be very worried if they hadn’t. :s

Northern Jess, the problem is, what if your doctor is a conservative person who is morally opposed to abortions? I’m very worried about the increasing number of doctors who train into fields that require performing abortions, or referring women for abortions as an integral part of the job, but then refuse to carry out their duties to their patients.

Apparently there are whole GP clinics that refuse to refer women for abortions, and if this is true, then it is a dangerous, worrying thing, more so than the way this vote could have gone.

I appreciate personal beliefs, but it is up to you, if you feel your beliefs so strongly, to choose a career where they will not be compromised. I could never bring myself to defend a rapist, hence I didn’t go into law, for example. But choosing a job, knowing what it entails (gynaecology, general practice) and then refusing a service you owe your patients and are paid for doesn’t sit well with me. Naturally, you shouldn’t force anybody to do something they are opposed to, but maybe it should be a prerequisite that the practicioner has to sign a contract that they will be willing to do the job, and all it entails, rather than just the bits they like. If they don’t want to do it, there must be plenty of other medical fields.

I can’t see an easy way out of this that wouldn’t be discriminating against people who have very strong anti-choice beliefs, but it is much worse to have women suffer and be judged

At the very least, each practice needs at least one doctor who is willing to refer women for abortions, if they want them, and that member of staff should be easy to make appointments with. That should be a legal requirement, and it should be about putting patients and their needs first.

So, I think it really only needs ot be between the woman and herself. A counsellor might be welcome in some cases, and a doctor is needed just to ensure that there aren’t health reasons she shouldn’t go through with it, and to explain it to her. But in the end, the doctor really shouldn’t have that much of a say about it. It’s not their body, and I think we put too much emphasis on what doctors want.

Eeeh, I don’t hate the whole medical establishment, honest! Actually, It’s the opposite. But it’s only by recognising the ugly side and the limitations that we can improve it!

Pippa // Posted 21 May 2008 at 6:14 pm

My MP is part of the parliamentary pro-life group and voted for all of the amendments – even 12 weeks! :-( (He’s a LibDem btw)

I’m moving house next week, and my future MP voted for 20 and 22 weeks – and she’s Labour!


Steph Jones // Posted 21 May 2008 at 6:49 pm

Be very afraid when politicians have views like these!!!

Iris Robinson, of the Democratic Unionist Party, claimed the Government was “airbrushing out” the role of fathers. Some MPs wanted to “facilitate immorality” and put lesbians’ rights above everyone else, she added. “I stand by my faith and I stand by the word of God that says Man was created in the image of God and woman was created from the rib of Adam,” she told the House.

“She became the helpmate and the companion of Man. It is the natural progression of procreation.”

(from the Male –

Sarah // Posted 21 May 2008 at 6:58 pm

So relieved today, but I can’t see that my MP (George ‘I’ll be the cat’ Galloway) voted. Annoying because he didn’t email me back when I emailed him about the vote and now he has hidden his stance once again. Still, maybe a good thing if he didn’t vote, have heard he’s ‘a lost cause’ when it comes to abortion rights.

katherine // Posted 21 May 2008 at 7:09 pm


Until anomaly scans become more sophisticated meaning that they can be carried out earlier, the 24 week limit must stand. Having heard a woman commentator state that they should just offer anomaly scans at 16 weeks…they cant, because they are not as accurate. If we find out that our babies are not viable at 21 weeks as is the current norm, would you wish us to be forced to carry a non viable foetus for 19 weeks, in the full knowledge that it is not viable, then birth a 40 week baby just to watch it die? Try to imagine being in that position for a moment and you may realise why we need the limit to be 24 weeks.

Lara The Second // Posted 21 May 2008 at 7:12 pm

My MP (Jacqui Lait, Conservative) was a party rebel, thank god. She always votes pro-choice, so I can’t quite bring myself to dislike her!

Legible Susan // Posted 21 May 2008 at 10:38 pm

If I read the list right, “my” Lib Dem MP voted for 12 weeks! and “rebelled” on all the other votes as well (but it says “both” on one – how can you vote both ways?)

I hope the Greens stand here next time. I can’t plausibly threaten to go back to “Labour” since anyone NuLab put up here will be a stooge.

I might try for “miffed” but will probably rant incoherently.

harpymarx // Posted 22 May 2008 at 12:29 pm

But why are women controlling their bodies and lesbian and gay rights reduced to conscience/”free vote”?

Why is it a matter of “conscience” and all this hand-wringing.

Why not privatisation, for example. It that not morally unethical as well.

Lesbian and gay activists have been, rightly, arguing that sexuality shouldn’t used as a “conscience” issue.

I believe that “free votes” elevates essentially reactionary points of view above criticism and without basis.

And thay includes the likes of Geraldine Smith with her homophobic stance, Ruth Kelly and also so-called left wingers like David Drew and Bob Wareing.

And as a Labour Party activist, I believe they should be held to account over this.

When you are an elected public official why should your own morality/ethics/religion come into play?

People have their own personal views who are MPs but is that allowed to influence their voting/policies? Should there be this dilemma?

No, it shouldn’t.

You shouldn’t be copping -out by hiding your true political, usually reactionary, beliefs under the guise of “conscience”..

Lindsey // Posted 22 May 2008 at 12:34 pm

thanks for putting the link up – I have emailed my MP thanking her for voting to keep 24 weeks :)

harpymarx // Posted 22 May 2008 at 12:50 pm

Btw: My Tory MP, Jacqui Lait, voted to keep 24 wks and opposed the anti-choice amendments.

But she was opposed (no surprise there as the Tories are biggin’ up trad family values..) the “parent” clause.

Helen S // Posted 22 May 2008 at 12:59 pm

Check out – the source of all knowledge about your MP! Even has a breakdown of expenses, you can get alerts when they speak (or if anyone mentions something you’re interested in, say abortion). I love it.

PS I am not a bot :)

Soirore // Posted 22 May 2008 at 1:00 pm

I forgot to put that my MP is Labour which made me even more annoyed that she voted yes.

Hannah // Posted 22 May 2008 at 1:43 pm

My MP voted no, which is great, but I wrote to him to ask him to vote no and he sent me a waffley letter that said nothing about his views at all and pretty much ignoring the abortion part of the bill. At the time I assumed that meant he was avoiding telling me that he was going to vote yes. I don’t understand!? Why send a letter like that when it was the perfect opporunity to agree with his voters?

Carol // Posted 22 May 2008 at 2:03 pm

What a good idea! I just wrote to my female Lib Dem MP to thank her for voting No.

Northern Jess // Posted 22 May 2008 at 2:37 pm

I think it is important to choose your doctor carefully, not just because they would know your medical history best so that if you are wanting an abortion (is that an ok way of saying it?) then they would be the best person to do it, rather than recommending another doctor like most of the doctors who will not perform or sign off abortions would do, but also because you don’t know if they are allowing themselves to be sponsered by a drug company. My last doctors surgery, all the notepaper, calenders, mousemats etc was covered in Glaxo Smith Kliene logos, so I left for one who if it was sponsered at least wasn’t as blatent about it, which I know is a bit naive but made me feel a bit more confident abot my doctor. And this one didn’t give me anti-depressents strait away but pushed councilling and CBT first, unlike my first doctor, so I think I was right. Don’t Nestle now do something like this? Print logo-headed notepaper out and give them to health centres for free in developing nations so that when the health worker gives the woman a list of things to buy for the baby, the woman who might not be able to read would just see the recognisable Nestle logo and buy that?

Shea // Posted 22 May 2008 at 3:32 pm

@Eleanor– I *love* Evan Harris too, he seems to have been the sole voice of reason in this whole debate. I wish he would swap to the Green party………

@ Anne Onne, I’m in total agreement with you about the docs. Other than the technical advice, I don’t see that a GP can offer a huge amount to women seeking abortions. It has to be her choice and hers alone. The medical establishment has always had a far too proprietary attitude to women and their bodies, especially regarding the reproductive system.

Lauren // Posted 22 May 2008 at 4:44 pm

My local MP, Eleanor Laing for the Conservatives, didn’t vote – even though she is or was the shadow minister for women and equality. Unbelievable.

(This is my first comment, though I’ve been a long time lurker – hello!)

Laura // Posted 22 May 2008 at 8:33 pm

Northern Jess – you’re right about Nestle, see here:

My right wing dominated, undemocratic student union council are voting this minute on whether to repeal our nestle bad, and it’s not looking good. Blergh.

Julian Todd // Posted 23 May 2008 at 12:14 pm

Thanks for being one of the very few groups to use The Public Whip exactly as it was intended for.

If you have any specific (design) suggestions to improve the website for this purpose, please send me a comment:

aimee // Posted 23 May 2008 at 7:37 pm

“I don’t see that reducing the limit to 20 weeks is anti-women, 20 weeks is a long enough time to make that decision.”

Can I just add something to the fantastic response already given RE this point? I dicovered, after being told by the doctors that I was not pregnant, that I was in fact 20 weeks pregnant. I was told that if I wanted an abortion I would have had to travel to Brighton – a very many miles away and at my own expense. I kept my baby, however this is irrelevant, I simply didn’t have the choice. The fact that the choice was denied me was fundamentally anti-woman. I am happy I have my son, but if I had been in different circumstances (the circumstances were difficult enough as it was!) this lack of choice would have been devestating and debilitating. This is why we need to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, or in fact, do away with the time limit altogether, and if the pro lifers really want to limit abortion, make childcare affordable, effective, and remove the onus of child rearing from women. A child is a financial and emotional liability. No one should have to undertake that against their wishes, ever.

Amanda // Posted 25 May 2008 at 5:59 pm

Bit late on this one but my MP (David Lidington) has just replied to the angry but articulate email I sent him on finding on he voted to reduce the limit to 12 (!!!) weeks. His response: “We shall have to differ on this. I have never made any secret of my opposition to abortion. I believe that abortion is the killing of a child and that the current law is too lax.”

And thats it. What a prick.

John Bercow (my other MP) however was a tory rebel and voted against all the motions, so he got a lovely email and I’ll forgive him for not replying yet.

Laura // Posted 25 May 2008 at 6:14 pm

Mmm, democratic representation in action right there. Grrr.

Rad // Posted 27 May 2008 at 5:21 pm

Thanks for the responses to my earlier comment.

I posted on a day when I’d just discovered my friend’s baby was born at 24 weeks and that had a massive impact on me.

My issue is less with the 24-week limit (Although I still have doubts, but having discovered more about the 20-week scan I can see why 22, 23 or 24 weeks is more appropriate than I first thought, and if the limit were reduced to, say 22 weeks – which I would now favour over 20 weeks – there would need to be exceptions made for some circumstances to enable people to abort at 22 or 23 weeks if appropriate) but with the vitriol on here towards people, and particularly MPs, who advocate a limit under 24 weeks, accusing them of being anti-women.

Surely the central questions in the whole debate are whether a child has rights and at what stage the foetus becomes a child?

Of course the mother and father have rights, but do those rights supercede those of the child? Surely that is the issue MPs were voting upon – what the rights of the unborn child were, and at what age they had rights? It is not neccessarily about being anti-women.

Having said that, I do agree with the posters who say the system isn’t set up to support women properly. I think there need to be more ways to support pregnant women who choose to keep their child, abort their pregnancy, or carry the pregnancy to term but then have the child adopted or fostered. We don’t have a great system now, and if we were to stop women aborting at 22 or 23 weeks, we would need to support them more than we do.

I don’t support a 12 or 16 week limit for abortion, but could someone support that and still be a feminist? I believe so. Feminism surely encompasses a plurality of perspectives.

monty // Posted 28 May 2008 at 1:28 am

rad, your considered and composed approach is a credit to feminism.

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