Thank you for writing to me with your concerns about abortion.
In your letter, you refer to Diana Johnson’s Ten Minute Rule Bill which was debated on the 23rd of October 2018. As you may be aware, the approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged. Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament. It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes.
As referenced in your letter, the Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one of the grounds set out in the Act. I am encouraged that the Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion. Furthermore, I’m aware that in May 2014, following a period of consultation, the Department for Health clarified and strengthened existing procedures and legal requirements that abortion clinics must follow.
You are right to highlight the importance of abortion providers in identifying vulnerable women and providing the necessary support. The Required Standard Operating Procedures monitored by the Care Quality Commission outline the responsibilities of service providers in this area and require providers to have effective arrangements in place to safeguard vulnerable women.
Pregnancies can only be terminated when medical approval has been given. As such, the purchase of abortion pills online is illegal. The Government also has no plans to change the 24-week limit on abortion.
In response to your concerns about medical practitioners that may wish to refrain from participating in abortion, I’m aware that there have been a number of recent legal cases relating to this issue. Whilst there are protections within the Abortion Act for those conscientiously objecting, legal decisions have shown that these safeguards only apply to individuals directly carrying out the abortion, as opposed to extending to further elements of patient care.
In this respect, you may be interested to know that while the Government has no intention of changing the law, the Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill proposed in the House of Lords by Baroness O’Loan is at report stage. This Bill intends to clarify and expand the rights of conscientious objection for medical practitioners.
I understand what an important issue abortion this is for many people in the constituency, and I recognise the sensitivity of the points you have raised. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and, let me reassure you that regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me.