§ Order for Second Reading read.2.26 pm
§ Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have a few minutes in which to introduce the Bill. The Bill seeks to reintroduce the provisions of the Abortion (Amendment) Bill that was brought before the House last year. Our reasons for doing so are simply that last year, despite widespread support for that Bill, we were unable to obtain a final vote despite having concluded the debate on Report. It is our belief that, in the interests of parliamentary democracy and in the light of the considerable interest in this subject in the country, there should be an opportunity to vote on the Bill.
At the moment this country has a law that allows one child to be kept alive in an incubator, to be loved and cherished and to have all the resources of medical science poured upon it, and a child of identical age, gestation and sentience to be dismembered alive in its mother's womb. That is not a civilised law. It is those excesses and abuses of the Abortion Act 1967 that many hon. Members who would not support me in my absolute stand on abortion nevertheless wish to see eradicated.
Our first duty is to the unborn children who suffer horribly from some of the methods of abortion that are most commonly used in the private clinics where 88 per cent. of late abortions are carried out. We have a duty to them to introduce a law that will afford them exactly the same protection as we afford to children of the same age who are in incubators, that we afford to children when they are born, and the same protection that we afford to children regardless of what tragedies might strike them in later years.
The unborn have no less right to protection than the born. The unborn who have developed to a stage such that once born we would recognise them as fully human, with full civil rights, should have exactly the same protections. What we would not do to a child in an incubator we should not do to a child in the womb during abortion.
Our law asks for equality of treatment between children. It is a law that would recognise the rights of the mother not to be pressurised or misinformed. It is a law that seeks to protect those least able to look after themselves—that is, not only unborn children who have no voice and who rely entirely on us to protect them, but pregnant women who want to continue with their pregnancies but who sometimes find that the pressures of society, particularly eugenic pressures, combine to force them into operations which they later regret and frorn which they suffer continually.
One of the good results of the extensive debate on this subject last year is that at last we are beginning to recognise the effects on mothers who suffer—
§ It being half past Two o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker interrupted the business.
§ Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 7 April.