Thank you for your email and for taking the time to contact me.
I understand what an important issue this is for many people and one on which strong opinions are held on both sides of the argument, hence I have already received representations both for and against Diana Johnson’s 10-minute rule bill.
Given the issues it involves this is an incredibly delicate area of law and, regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour and respect when debated. The current approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967, although it should be noted that this area of law is now a devolved matter in both Scotland (Under the Scotland Act 2016) and Northern Ireland (Where the 1967 Act does not extend).
It is accepted Parliamentary practice that any proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members, not the Government, given that feelings cut across party lines and any decisions are taken on the basis of free votes for all MPs.
The Department of Health issued guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act in 2014. These made clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful and further sets out how the law is interpreted by the Department of Health. Full details can be found online here:
The Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one and the same ground set out in the Act. I am encouraged that the Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion.
I believe that altering the law in the way Diana Johnson is proposing would be the wrong approach as medical advice should be sought before an abortion, even if a woman feels she is sure of her decision, and those tempted to provide services such as Abortion based on gender (in breach of the law) should face criminal sanctions for doing so. I particularly believe that allowing abortion via the ordering of medicines online would be the wrong approach and the law rightly bars this, as it does the supply of many other medicines without seeking professional medical advice first.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.