On Monday 6 July, the House of Commons passed the third reading of this Bill without a division. It has been years in the making and is a huge step forward in the protection of victims.
It is right that the progress of the Bill was not knocked off course by an attempt to open up the abortion debate. In the event NC29 was not selected for debate, because it was out of scope of the Bill, and NC28 was not pushed to a vote. It is clear to me that the mood in the Chamber was against NC28 in any event.
My position on this subject is clear and well known. If there had been a vote on NC28 I would have voted against it, not least because:
- It treats women unequally by differentiating between victims of domestic abuse and other women.
- It would allow unsupervised abortions past the current time limit of 10 weeks, which is dangerous and could put women’s lives at risk. I have serious concerns around the care of women’s physical and mental health through the process of ending a pregnancy at home, with only remote medical assistance.
- It puts busy clinicians in the awful position of having to judge in a short telephone call whether the patient they are helping is a victim of domestic abuse within the scope of sections 1 and 2 of the Domestic Abuse Bill.
- It opens up the possibility of women living in abusive situations being coerced into an abortion against their will, without the safeguards offered by a face-to-face meeting with a clinician.
- If they got it wrong, medics could be dragged through the courts.
- Reforming the law of abortion should be a matter of detailed and careful reflection; and I do not believe that shoehorning in last-minute and flawed amendments is fair to victims of domestic abuse or women more broadly.