At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the British government railroaded some emergency abortion legislation through Parliament. Passed on March 30th, 2020, it allowed women and girls for the first nine weeks of pregnancy to take DIY abortion pills in their own homes, rather than requiring them to have the pills administered at an in-person clinic or hospital.
The legislation had been due to expire in England at the end of March this year until it was extended a further six months to end at midnight on August 29th. But now, as of MArch 30th, following the example of Wales, MPs have voted by 215 to 188 to grant the at-home abortion measures a permanent status in English law. Given the moral nature of the issue, Parliament gave both Labour and Conservative MPs an unwhipped free vote in line with convention.
The Conservative peer Baroness Sugg, who had brought the matter to a head in Parliament, tweeted: “Delighted is an understatement.” In the immediate aftermath of the vote, the Telegraph reported: “Downing Street earlier in the day had declined to say which way the Prime Minister wanted MPs to vote on the measure, leaving his exact views on abortion unclear.”
In the end, 72 Tory MPs voted for a continuance of the at-home abortion services, including four government ministers: the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, the Leader of the Commons Mark Spencer, and the Minister for Policing Kit Malthouse. The prime minister himself abstained, despite the fact that official government policy was for the legislation to end in line with its expiry date. The very low turnout—403 out of 650 MPs—illustrates how lacklustre the Conservative Party’s attempts were to secure victory on the matter.
Pro-abortions groups such as Marie Stopes International (MSI) have demanded such an outcome for some time, having condemned the British government’s decision to go ahead with an expiry date as “indefensible.” MSI is Britain’s leading provider of abortions both medical (involving pills) and surgical. Since the emergency 2020 authorisation of at-home abortion services, MSI has allowed women to self-refer via phone consultation—known as ‘telemedicine’—to have the pills sent directly to their homes. Charging £85.00 for the virtual consultation and an added £475.00 for the pills themselves, the decision to make it permanently easier to kill unborn children by such means is a further boon to the MSI business model. Indeed, the additional licence since April 2020 to offer telemedical abortion services has coincided with a 17% increase from 2019 to 2021 in the number of babies being killed by MSI’s deadly drugs.
2020 saw as many as 209,917 abortions, both medical and surgical, in England and Wales—the highest number in one year since the 1967 Abortion Act. This latest move by MPs now constitutes the most significant legal change to impact the lives of unborn children in over five decades.