Abortion row moves to Westminster

MPs will vote whether to restrict abortion access this week, as another senior religious official says MPs who support abortion rights cannot fully participate in the Catholic Church.

Ann Winterton’s ten minute rule bill will go before the Commons on Tuesday June 5, marking the third attempt in six months to restrict the abortion rules.

The bill requires all women seeking an abortion to be counselled and briefed on potential ill-effects, than have a week-long cooling off period before seeking an abortion.

Ms Winterton believes abortion is a long-term threat to women’s mental health, but pro-choice campaigners say the bill marks a further attempt to restrict abortion access.

Termination of pregnancy (counselling and miscellaneous provisions) bill would also require doctors to record whether the abortion was sought on emotional or physical grounds.

Even if MPs vote for the bill tomorrow, it is highly unlikely to pass into law without government support.

Past attempts to curb abortion rights have been rejected by MPs. Nadie Dorries bill to cut the time limit to 21 weeks and Angela Watkinson’s attempt to require parental notification among under-16s were both rejected.

The issue comes before parliament as a second senior Catholic figure warns that MPs who vote for abortion should not come forward for communion.

Peter Smith, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, said he would not ban Catholic MPs from communion, but advised them not to seek it if they voted for abortion.

He rejected the argument MPs have to reflect the interests of their whole constituency, not just the views of the Catholic church.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he acknowledged MPs are placed in a difficult situation, “But I would say that, because at the end of the day this is a question of a fundamental human right to life – which we all have and on which all other rights are based – if a politician said ‘I must go along with the majority view of my constituents’ then he ought to consider his position both as a Catholic and a politician.”

His comments followed Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who urged Catholics in Scotland not to vote for politicians who supported abortion rights, claiming abortion was comparable to “two Dunblane massacres a day”.

Nearly 25 per cent of all pregnancies in England and Wales end in abortion.