Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A remarkable change of opinion

Fiona Bruce, a former lawyer, entered the House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 2010. She is pro-life. In November last year she proposed abortion law should be clarified to make it clear that abortion purely on the ground of the child's sex is illegal.

The Abortion Act did not specify this, because scans to determine sex were not available when the law was passed. The Government insisted that sex-selective abortions were illegal, but the British Medical Association and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said such abortions were sometimes justified. Sex-selective abortions were happening.

Ms Bruce's bill was passed by 181 votes to 1. Quite a majority. The BBC said it was unlikely to become law because of a lack of time.

On February 23 this year, Ms Bruce proposed the measure as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill. The amendment was defeated by 292 votes to 201. A review of sex-selective abortion was agreed on instead.

What happened in the meantime?

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper wrote to Labour MPs saying new legislation was not needed, and attempts to outlaw abortion on grounds of gender could have "troubling consequences."

Labour MP Robert Fiello said "It is concerning that an amendment that clarified what should be the law anyway is meeting with such vehement opposition. The reasons they have given are scaremongering nonsense."

 "Given how modest the amendment was, the sudden defeat was very strange indeed," wrote Dr Tim Stanley in the Telegraph. A number of charges had been made by MPs against the amendment that were based on either misunderstandings or outright falsehoods. "On the day of the vote, according to sources present, Ms Cooper stood by the entrance to the lobby telling MPs that 'We are voting no on this one.'"

Her office claimed she had not said this, but confirmed that she was strongly opposed to the amendment, and also favours putting "buffer zones" around clinics to stop people protesting outside them. (A campaign named "Back Off" has been organised to prevent people offering help to women approaching clinics. Not all women want abortions. Some do not see any other option.)

In the two weeks since the vote, I have pondered the change of mind. The abortion lobby generally favours abortion at any time for any reason. I am forced to the opinion that those in favour of abortion consider any attempt to change the law an attack on their efforts to achieve that goal. .

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