A future Labour government would “totally decriminalise” abortion, making it legal for a woman to get an abortion up to birth for any reason, their manifesto reveals.
The Labour manifesto, launched last week, said that they “will uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions.” A Labour spokesman confirmed to the Catholic Herald that the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act that bans abortions would therefore be repealed, but that abortion provision would still be regulated:
Abortion procedures and those performing them must be properly regulated but vulnerable women should be advised and assisted rather than criminalised… [There would be] wide public consultation on the detail of new laws and regulations.
Abortions in the UK are currently legal based upon the 1967 Abortion Act, which creates wide-ranging exceptions to the 1861 Act, and allows abortions in many cases up to 24 weeks if two doctors sign off on it. This twice the average time-limit in mainland Europe. Labour’s stance on abortion would allow it to happen for any reason, and with no time limit.
Catherine Robinson, from Right to Life, attacked the policy in a statement:
Polling shows that this extreme proposal is not supported by women, with only 1 per cent of women wanting the abortion time limit to be increased right through to birth. We would be left with the most extreme abortion law in the world. The change would further position England and Wales drastically away from most countries in the European Union, where the most common abortion time limit among EU countries is 12 weeks. This confirms that the abortion lobby will be back in full force in the next parliament, pushing to introduce new extreme legislation.
The poll Robinson referred to was conducted by YouGov in 2017, and showed that 70% of British women were in favour of reducing the current time limit on abortion further, with only 1% wanting to increase the limit.
Writing in The Daily Mail, Melanie McDonagh said Labour’s policy could take the UK to “a very dark place”:
If the proposal does mean doing away with the upper time limit, that would mean aborting foetuses at the same age as much-wanted premature babies, which we go out of our way, quite rightly, to keep alive. We can keep a baby alive at 23 weeks, which is already less than the existing limit. It is abhorrent to be countenancing increasing the limit — we should surely be thinking of decreasing it. There is a real danger that Labour’s plans would make Britain’s abortion law one of the most radical in the world… This move by Labour to decriminalise the procedure takes us into a very dark place where the humanity of the foetus isn’t acknowledged and prenatal human rights count for nothing. It’s also at odds with developments in neonatal care that make it possible to keep premature babies alive at younger ages… That’s the rational approach, not this extremist, dogmatic policy. For me, it’s a reason not to vote Labour.