Sunday, 27 April 2014

Pro-Lifers (including MPs) Must Do Their Homework and Get Their Facts Right

Mark Pritchard MP
On 9th April 2014 the following question and answer was heard at Prime Minister’s Question time:

Q12. [903609] Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): 
In 1967, the abortion term limit was set at 28 weeks. In 1990, it was reduced to 24 weeks. Given that it is now 2014, a quarter of a century on, and given recent breakthroughs in antenatal and neonatal care, does the Prime Minister agree that it is now time to reduce the abortion term limit to 22 weeks?

The Prime Minister
I have always made my own personal views on this clear. There have been opportunities recently in Parliament to vote on this issue. It is always open to Members of Parliament to bring forward legislation, to amend existing Bills and for the House to debate this. That has happened relatively recently, but it continues on the Government Benches, as I am sure it does on the Opposition Benches, to be an entirely free vote issue.

One does not doubt Mr Pritchard’s sincerity in asking this question nor his genuine desire to raise the subject of abortion in such a public forum - Mr Pritchard is Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group - but since the basis of his question was factually wrong in several particulars it is not surprising that David Cameron was able to swat it aside.  

Mr Pritchard's mistakes:

1. “In 1967, the abortion term limit was set at 28 weeks.” - WRONG.  

Contrary to popular belief there never has been a 28 week time limit for abortion in the UK.  The Association of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn (ALDU) wrote explaining about this on many occasions, for example here.  People, including pro-lifers, continue to perpetuate this myth and the abortionists laugh their cotton socks off at this pro-life idiocy.

Mark Pritchard appears not to have looked at the 1967 Abortion Act (copy here with text of other relevant abortion Statutes).  The Act does not even mention 28 weeks and had Mr Pritchard looked, this might have given him a clue that what he was saying was incorrect.

2.  “In 1990, [the abortion term limit] was reduced to 24 weeks.” - WRONG.  

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 introduced a 24 weeks time limit - there was no “weeks limit” beforehand.  Further this 24 week limit applies only to certain circumstances and whilst this admittedly covers the vast majority of abortions it does not apply to all.  In particular the 24 week limit does not apply to the abortion of children whom some unspecified person believes may be at risk of some unspecified disability.

Even more important is the fact that the changes in the 1990 Act resulted in an increase not a reduction of the time limit.  This is explained in the ALDU article mentioned above.  The thing to note is that the introduction of the 1990 amendments was made at the request of the then pro-life MPs, following the failure of David Alton’s Abortion Amendment Bill 1987.  ALDU wrote here and here about Mr Alton's Bill, pointing out its merits but also its serious and dangerous defects.   The second article, following the defeat of Mr Alton's Bill, concluded:

"In the event of pro-life Bills coming before Parliament in future, it is up to all of us to test them by the principles set out above.  If they fall short then we must point out their dangers and weaknesses without delay.  Never again does one wish to see large numbers of pro-life people blindly supporting a Bill so fundamentally unsatisfactory as that of Mr. Alton."

And yet the pro-life politicians of the day would not let it go and pressed the government to include in the HFEA a clause amending the Abortion Act and giving MPs the opportunity to vote on "time limits".  Unfortunately since the pro-life MPs (and most other pro-lifers as well) did not understanding properly what the abortion law actually said, the amendments made by this clause in the HFEA were disastrous.  In the face of a determined Department of Health and an equally determined Secretary of State for Health (Ken Clarke) the pro-life Parliamentarians were simply not able to oppose effectively the amendments to the law which the then government introduced.  

Sadly, Mr Pritchard’s question seems to show that well over 20 years later MPs have learned nothing.  Despite most of the pro-life movement having woken up to the truth, MPs are still fixated upon time limits and continue to pursue their ideas with incorrect data.  Mr Pritchard’s suggestion to reduce the 24 week limit to 22 weeks is, at best, irrelevant but is more likely would make matters worse.

Changing Unjust Laws
In the first place, the majority of abortions are carried out before 12 weeks so that 24/22 weeks means very little.  Secondly, for the few abortions that are carried out later, a reduction in the time limit of 2 weeks is as likely to result in an increase in abortions as it is to produce a reduction, because women would be rushed into making abortion decisions earlier.  Even more important is the fact that Mr Pritchard’s argument, even if he were correct, is not a pro-life argument - abortion is as wrong at 22 weeks as it is at 24 or any other time.  

All of this ignorance presents no problem for the politicians who want to sideline the issue, as David Cameron did on 9th April; it is also a great benefit for the abortionists who carry on their grisly business.  But it is not good enough for pro-lifers to carry on their activities without being prepared to get their heads down and understand their subject.  One cannot hope to change the law effectively if one does not know in the first place what the law says. Making public speeches, standing outside abortion clinics, writing indignant letters and so on is all very well but one has got to do the study also.  Obtain and read Colin Harte's book.

For Catholic pro-lifers, this is even more urgent because we are told by our Church that sloth is a capital sin and that such sins are called capital
"because they engender other sins, other vices." (CCC 1866).  
For us there is no alternative to hard work.

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