UK votes on abortion law

By Rebecca Davis 9 September 2011

The UK pro-abortion lobby won the day on Wednesday, when the British parliament shot down a bill which proposed to strip abortion counselling from the abortion process. But the "spirit" of the proposal is being retained in a consultation which will necessitate a further MP vote. By REBECCA DAVIS. 

Abortion has been legal in the UK since 1967, making it one of the European pro-choice pioneers. But a Conservative MP called Nadine Dorries aims to significantly amend the process in a way which would give strength to pro-life groups. Dorries’ amendment seeks to stop non-state affiliated abortion providers like Marie Stopes clinics from offering counselling to women seeking abortion. The purported motivation for this is to provide greater opportunities for independent counsellors. What concerns reproductive rights activists, however, is that many of these independent counsellors are influenced by pro-life groups.

Dorries insists she is “pro-life”, but the subtext of her proposal is that she feels groups like Marie Stopes encourage undecided women to pursue an abortion because they have a financial motivation to do so in terms of their funding. “If an organisation is paid that much for abortions, where is the incentive to reduce them?” she asked The Guardian.

Dorries won support for her bill from some influential corners, including Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, and Liam Fox, the defence secretary. In the end the bill was outvoted by 368 to 118, but the UK health minister, Anne Milton, gave a boost to Dorries’ case by announcing that the “spirit” of her plans would be embodied in a consultation on the issue. MPs will be presented with the findings of this consultation and vote on it again before the next general election. Dorries told the BBC: “We lost the battle but we have won the war”. DM

Read more:

  • Dorries abortion amendment defeated in House of Commons, in The Guardian.



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