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The final votes on abortion at the Report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will take place in the afternoon of next Wednesday 22nd October. It is absolutely essential that we all lobby our MPs to support amendments to liberalise the 1967 Abortion Act and extend it to women in Northern Ireland. Pro-choice amendments include:

New Clause 1, Evan Harris MP – remove the requirement for women to gain the authorisation of two doctors in order to access abortion.

New Clause 30, Diane Abbott MP – extend existing abortion law to NI.

New Clause 2, Frank Dobson MP – enable trained nurses to carry out abortions.

New Clause 11, John Bercow MP – ban deliberately misleading advertising for anti-abortion pregnancy “advice” services.

Anti-choice amendments, focused on obstructing women’s access to abortion include:

New Clause 19, Angela Watkinson – introduce mandatory counselling before women can access abortion, including misleading and biased information on the supposed (and disproved) “psychological risks” of abortion.

New Clause 26, Edward Leigh – introduce seven day “cooling off” period (because women clearly can’t be trusted to make decisions about our own bodies).

New Clause 22, Dr John Pugh – one doctor must be a mental health practitioner in order to ensure that the woman faces “serious” mental health issues which require her to have an abortion. Hint: this isn’t a mental health issue, or rather it only becomes one when you force us to carry an unwanted pregnancy.

New Clause 28, Ann Winterton MP – ban abortion after 24 weeks on grounds of foetal impairment. This would result in women being forced to give birth to children with no chance of survival. As Abortion Rights points out:

This amendment is not about disability equality but about attacking women’s rights to decide, and in very difficult circumstances. We can support disability equality by campaigning for better rights and independent living for disabled people and a change in public attitudes.

There’s more information on the proposed amendments here. You can find a model letter to send to MPs here, and I’ve included my own letter below. Letters should be sent to your MP (who you can identify here) at:

House of Commons

London

SW1 0AA

Get cracking!

Awesome image by bitchplz, shared under a Creative Commons License.

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Dear MP,

I am writing to ask you to support proposals to improve women’s right to choose, due to be voted on next Wednesday 22nd October as part of the HFE Bill. In our previous correspondence, you indicated that you would support a reduction in the abortion time limit. While I fully support the current time limit, I agree that abortion should ideally be carried out as early as possible. The following proposals are designed to ensure women can access abortion without obstruction, resulting in a reduction in waiting times and, therefore, earlier intervention.

New Clause 1, tabled by Evan Harris MP, would remove the requirement for a woman to gain the authorisation of two doctors in order to access abortion, reducing this to just one, as is the case for all medical procedures other than involuntary treatment under the Mental Health Act. This proposal is supported by the British Medical Association. New Clause 2, tabled by Frank Dobson MP, would enable trained nurses to carry out abortions, bringing the UK in line with other countries such as the USA and South Africa. Both proposals are supported by the cross-party Commons Science and Technology Committee, and would improve access to early abortion without compromising safety or quality of care. I urge you to support these amendments.

Proposals to restrict women’s access to abortion, such as the imposition of mandatory counselling, a seven day “cooling off” period and the stipulation that one authorising doctor must be a mental health practitioner (New Clauses 19, 26 and 22 respectively), would prevent women from accessing abortion as early as possible and result in unnecessary emotional distress. They also display a lack of respect for women’s ability to make decisions about our own lives, bodies and health. Furthermore, the existence of so-called “post-abortion syndrome” often cited by anti-abortionists as justification for mandatory counselling, has been widely discredited by medical practitioners in both the US and UK. I hope you will vote against these potentially damaging proposals.

Finally, and most crucially, I urge you to support Diane Abbott MP’s New Clause 30, which would extend existing abortion law to Northern Ireland. Women in NI currently have no choice but to pay thousands of pounds to travel and access abortion abroad, seek out a potentially life threatening illegal abortion or continue with an unwanted pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. The law must be brought into line with that of rest of the UK.

Reducing women’s access to legal abortion will not put an end to the practice. 80,000 women die globally each year as a result of unsafe, illegal abortion. Please support women’s right to choose by voting for the liberalising amendments this coming Wednesday.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.