Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:11 pm on 5th June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green 4:11 pm, 5th June 2018

I think it is the word “restriction” that I have a problem with—I almost choke when I say it. In February this year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women stated that citizens of the UK resident in Northern Ireland

“faced grave and systematic violations of their rights” because of the criminalisation of abortion. The report explicitly called for sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 to be repealed. I hope that, in the summing up, we will hear more substance from the Minister on the way forward so that we can respect both devolution and the fundamental human rights of every single woman in the British Isles.

I am aware that many Members wish to speak, so I will keep my remarks brief. However, I was pleased to hear the Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Wollaston, mentioning the domestic abuse Bill and to see her already thinking ahead. We are living in such interesting times in this Parliament. I wish to encourage the Government to think ahead—not just suddenly to realise that there might be a problem with legislation the day before, but to look genuinely at the issue of women’s health and to think about whether that Bill will be a fitting opportunity for the House to remove the impediment to the decriminalisation of abortion. The Government will indeed bring forward their long-awaited domestic abuse Bill, and I urge them not to delay that legislation or to put it aside, because this is a question of fundamental human rights. We want this Parliament to have a vote and to put the rights of women at the forefront of all our thoughts.