I entirely appreciate the importance of this issue for so many people. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and regardless of the views of individual MPs, it is treated with the utmost rigour.
The approach to abortion law in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act of 1967 and this remains unchanged. Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament and it is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and decisions are made on the basis of free votes. Furthermore, Government ministers have assured me that there are no plans to change the 24-week limit on abortion.
I believe it is also important to note that prosecutions are currently rare, indeed in some years since 1967, there have been none at all. In the past two years, for example, there have been just two convictions, both in extremely concerning scenarios. Indeed, one involved a man who had attacked a pregnant woman and caused her to miscarry. I believe that prosecution is a clear example of the current law seeking to stand up for a woman and punish someone who has committed a terrible crime against her and her unborn child.
Whilst abortion is undeniably a controversial topic, I believe the present legal position is a fair compromise in a challenging ethical field. Radically changing our laws, which should strive to protect both the viable foetus and mother, is a dangerous step towards undermining both how we value human life and how we treat our patients. It was because of these concerns that I voted against Diana Johnson MP's Ten Minute Rule Bill to decriminalise abortion when it was presented for its first reading in March of last year.
Everyone in society expects to be protected from external threat and damage to their bodies under the criminal law and I therefore believe the a sentient baby in the womb should be afforded similar rights.