Conservative anti-abortion zealot Nadine Dorries MP is pushing for a Parliamentary showdown on abortion time limits “in May or June next year”.
She got a debate in the House of Commons secondary debating chamber on 31 October, intended as a dress rehearsal for next year’s full debate and vote in Parliament.
The 1967 Abortion Act legalised abortion up to 28 weeks. The time limit was eroded to the current 24 weeks in 1990.
The current goal of Women’s Minister Maria Miller, Home Secretary Theresa May and Dorries herself is 20 weeks.
Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said he would favour a drastic reduction to 12 weeks. David Cameron favours an unspecified “slight reduction”.
Time-reduction proponents cite “scientific advances” in the stage at which a foetus can survive outside the womb. But this is a smokescreen for anti-women, anti-abortion views. Their right-wing, often religious, mindset would see women without control over their reproductive capacity at all.
The Government maintains it has no plans to review current legislation. But senior Cabinet members’ statements indicate that the threat is real and the vote could be close if called.
The campaign to defend abortion rights needs an injection of political ideas. In the recent debate, Dorries’ Labour opponents, led by Diane Abbott, primarily argued on the basis that “there’s no scientific evidence for reducing the time limit”. Abortion Rights, the UK’s main abortion rights campaign, commended this as an “effective strategy”.
But what’s effective in Parliament might not mobilise women on the streets.
We need to revive arguments that motivated women to fight for abortion rights in the first place, and convince people that abortion rights are essential for women’s liberation.