Abortion Act 1967

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Services – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th March 1987.

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Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe , Broxbourne 12:00 am, 10th March 1987

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received seeking a review of the working of the Abortion Act 1967; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent representations he has received seeking a review of the workings of the Abortion Act 1967; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

We have received no recent representations seeking a review of the working of the Abortion Act 1967. We have however, received about 15 items of correspondence seeking a review of the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 in the light of its effects on abortion practice.

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe , Broxbourne

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable concern about recent allegations in the press relating to certain tour operators who are arranging package deal trips at an all-in price of about £360 for pregnant Spanish women to come to Britain for a sightseeing tour of London, a shopping expedition and an abortion? Has my hon. Friend had an opportunity to investigate these claims of abuses of the present Abortion Act 1967, and if so is he able to inform the House of his conclusions?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having taken the matter up with us. I hope to be writing to her with the outcome of our investigations shortly. I can tell her that officials, including both a medical and a nursing officer, have now visited both homes and made a thorough examination of numerous records. Those inquiries have produced no evidence that any abortion has been performed for the reasons that were alleged, nor that payment in advance had been made by Spanish patients. I understand that two of the doctors named have put the matter in the hands of the Medical Defence Union. In addition, solicitors acting on behalf of one of the clinics have written to the editor of the paper concerned denying the allegations and requesting a printed retraction and apology, failing which, I understand, they state that proceedings will be instituted.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess , Basildon

Will the Minister recognise that, with the advances in medical science, the 1967 Act is no longer acceptable? Many people in this country view with increasing alarm the number of abortions that have been carried out, particularly those which are late. When will the Government introduce further legislation to protect the unborn child in this country?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend will know that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has issued advice on this matter and we would expect NHS consultants to conform to it. It is a condition of registration that private nursing homes should not perform abortions after 24 weeks. Of course, we have made clear our support of the Bill introduced by the Bishop of Birmingham in another place.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , East Kilbride

Will the hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that he will resist any attempt to interfere with the basic provisions of the 1967 Act? Will he ensure that, at the end of the day, it still remains the woman's right to make a choice?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I can confirm that the Government would expect to maintain the general position that these are matters to be decided by the whole House on free votes.