New Clause 1 — Amendment of the law relating to abortion

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 20th May 2008.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Committee 7:15 pm, 20th May 2008

That is the hon. Lady's view. I think that everybody knows where I stand, and many people in the Chamber will have religious convictions. As we know, the fact is that politics is about practical realities.

The practical reality is that in this country we have a 24-week abortion limit, which is one of the highest in Europe. As public opinion changes, we as parliamentarians are entitled to give the House a chance to vote on various options to reduce it, from 12 weeks to 22 weeks. That is all we are doing. We know that whatever our personal views, religious or otherwise—many people who believe strongly in abortion are not religious—we know that abortion on demand up to 10 or 12 weeks is the reality in every country in Europe, apart from Ireland and Malta. It is not a question of chipping away; we are giving the House the opportunity to vote.

There are double standards about the unborn child. Whatever one's views on abortions—I understand the strongly held views of many people who feel that they have to defend the rights of women to make a choice about something in their own body—surely everyone in the Chamber feels depressed about what is going on in Europe. It presents a bleak picture of our country that we have one of the highest abortion rates in Europe—200,000 a year. In modern Britain, the most dangerous place to be is in one's mother's womb, which should be a place of sanctity. Ninety-eight per cent. of abortions are social. Only 1.3 per cent. are because of foetal handicap and 0.4 per cent. are because of the risk to the mother's life. It is a bleak picture of modern Britain.

We read in our newspapers this week that some women have multiple abortions: 4,000 women have had four abortions, and scores have had eight. Is that the sort of Britain to be proud of? I know that I will not get the support of many people when I say this, but fewer abortions will mean fewer women suffering. It is pro-women to take the position that we take. The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently issued a statement about the mental and physical damage to women's health caused by abortions.

That is our principled stand. We have set it out, knowing that it is not shared by everybody, but it is the view of many of our fellow countrymen and country ladies, and that view must be put forward.

Why do I speak of 12 weeks? I know many hon. Members will be doubtful about voting for the motion. They will say that it represents an extreme point of view, but is it so extreme? The limit of 10 to 12 weeks applies in France, Portugal, Slovenia—although in Slovenia there is an appeal to a committee—Austria, Belgium. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia and Spain. In Romania the limit is 14 weeks, and in Sweden 18 weeks.

The 24-week limit applies only in the United Kingdom, Holland, Latvia, Lithuania and Cyprus. Do we want to be up there in that league? Germany, Austria and France are great countries with wonderful Parliaments and democracies. They debate these matters and, after mature debate, they have all taken the view that a limit of 10 or 12 weeks is about right.

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