Senior Labour Figures Debate Abortion Reform Amid Global Shifts in Policy

Senior Labour figures are reportedly grappling with proposed abortion decriminalisation, debating options of reforming the law amidst widespread support from MPs and advocates. Here’s the full story.

Hot-Button Issue

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With the overturning of Roe vs Wade in the US, the right to abortion has become a hot-button issue in many countries. 

Constitutional Right

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Recently, France added the right to abortion to their constitution, and other traditionally Catholic countries, such as Ireland, Argentina and Colombia, have also made abortion a legal right for women in their territories. 

Attack on Abortion

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Following the decision made by the US Supreme Court, reproductive rights campaigners around the world have had a renewed focus on making sure their own countries’ abortion rights don’t come under the same kind of attack from the religious right. 

Decriminalising Abortion

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In the UK, Labour MP Diana Johnson has proposed legislation to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales, aiming to abolish the criminal offence associated with terminating a pregnancy.

24 Weeks

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In England and Wales, having an abortion after 24 weeks constitutes a criminal offence punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Medical Issue

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Johnson’s proposal, due for a free vote in Parliament in the Spring, would see abortion treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal one. 

Cross Party Support

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Incredibly, even in our current age of political polarisation, the plan has support from MPs of both main parties, the Conservatives and Labour, and the backing of medical advocates and doctors groups. 

Fully Decriminalised

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Due to this support, there is a widespread expectation that the proposal will pass, marking a significant shift in abortion law, bringing the law in England and Wales in line with Northern Ireland, where abortion was fully decriminalised in 2019.

However, some senior Labour figures have privately admitted harboring reservations 

Abortion Pills

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Their primary concern revolves around the provision of telemedicine, which allows women to access abortion pills at home without seeing a doctor. 

Not An Offence

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They fear potential misuse, especially concerning abortions beyond the 24-week threshold. For example, should a woman deceive an abortion provider into terminating the pregnancy after the 24-week limit, under the new proposal, that would not be considered an offence. 

Potential Repercussions

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Concerns have also been raised about the potential repercussions that would occur from anti-abortion groups were such a wide-ranging law to be implemented. 

Alternative Amendments

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In response to these concerns, influential Labour backbenchers are contemplating drafting alternative amendments.

Modernize the Law

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These proposals would seek to modernize abortion laws while also addressing the apprehensions of some Labour figures regarding late-term abortions. 

Narrower Approach

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Some senior Labour figures have advocated for a narrower approach, suggesting modifications that ensure women cannot face imprisonment for terminating pregnancies without completely removing the criminal offence associated with abortion.

1967 Abortion Act

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Abortion laws in England and Wales rely on the antiquated Offences Against the Person Act 1861, supplemented by the 1967 Abortion Act. However, these laws are seen as inadequate and fail to grant abortion as a fundamental right.

Carla Foster Case

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Calls for reform have intensified following incidents like Carla Foster’s imprisonment for terminating her pregnancy using pills beyond the legal time limit. Such cases underscore the urgency to update outdated laws that date back to the 19th century.

Matter of Conscience

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Abortion remains a matter of conscience in parliamentary votes, granting MPs freedom to vote based on personal beliefs. 

Strong Chance

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With significant support from various quarters, including health professionals such as the leaders of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Midwives, as well as MPs from multiple parties, Johnson’s amendment stands a strong chance of being selected for a vote in Parliament.

“No Longer Fit For Purpose”

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Johnson said to the Guardian, “These laws are no longer fit for purpose. This is an opportunity to take a step forward and treat a woman’s right to choose as a healthcare matter and not a criminal matter. Society has moved on.”

Other Countries

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She continued, “Other countries around the world – France, Australia, New Zealand – have decriminalised abortion, as we did in Northern Ireland a few years ago. Why should a woman in Birmingham be treated any differently to a woman in Belfast?”

“Every Single Labour MP”

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Rachael Clarke, the chief of staff at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), emphasised, “Every single Labour MP elected in 2019 was elected on a manifesto committed to the decriminalisation of abortion.”

Broad Support 

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While there’s broad support for reform, there are concerns that the troubled consciousness of a few Labour MPs regarding the scope of decriminalisation could potentially derail Johnson’s proposal. 

Backward or Forward?

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As Parliament gears up for a historical debate, the outcome will decide whether the abortion rights and healthcare laws of England and Wales match that of other modern countries around the world or whether we slip backwards towards our American cousins. 

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The post Labour Grapples With with Abortion Reform Amid Global Shifts in Policy first appeared on Edge Media.

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Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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