British lawmakers reject new abortion restrictions

British lawmakers reject new abortion restrictions

London, May 21, 2008 / 04:39 pm (CNA).- The British House of Commons has rejected proposals to reduce the 24-week limit on legal abortion procedures.Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has spoken out about the results saying that many people will be "very disappointed" the outcome.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries, a former nurse, had proposed a 20-week limit, the BBC reports.

"There comes a point when it has to be said this baby has a right to life," she said. "I believe a baby has rights. Those rights kick in if that baby were born it would have a chance of life and if it feels pain as part of the abortion."

Dorries' proposal failed by 332 votes to 190. Another proposal reducing the limit to 22 weeks failed by 304 votes to 233.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, voted for the 24-week limit to be maintained. Conservative leader David Cameron voted for the 22-week limit. Catholic cabinet ministers Ruth Kelly, Des Browne, and Paul Murphy voted for a proposal that would reduce the limit to 12 weeks.

Former minister Edward Leigh had pressed for the 12-week limit, saying it would bring Britain into line with the rest of Europe.

"In modern Britain the most dangerous place to be is in your mother's womb. It should be a place of sanctity," Leigh said. He said 98 percent of abortions are “social” and argued the nation should give a voice to the “silent child.”

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said there was no evidence requiring a change in abortion laws, saying there was no new research contradicting scientific evidence that established 24 weeks as the “threshold of viability.”

David Jones, a professor of bioethics, said research on the survival rates of extremely premature babies was “disputed.”

In a Wednesday statement Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of London, called for societal change to reduce abortions.

“Many people of all faiths and none will have been very disappointed by the result of last night’s votes on the abortion time limit,” the cardinal said. “But this issue will not go away. Whilst the law affects attitudes, it does not in itself compel anyone to have an abortion. Even without a change in the law there is much we can all do to change the situation.

“There are many people on all sides of this debate who agree that 200,000 abortions a year is far too many, and abortion on this scale can only be a source of profound sadness and distress to us all.

“Abortion is not only a personal choice. It is also about the choices our society makes to support women, their partners and families who face difficult decisions. For the sake of our common humanity, and the lives at stake, we must work to foster a new understanding and approach to relationships, responsibility and mutual support. Even without a change in the law we can and should work together at least to make abortion much rarer.”

The votes on abortion limits followed intense debate concerning the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill. MPs considering the bill rejected a requirement that doctors consider a child’s need for a “father and a mother” before allowing IVF treatment.

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