The Government did not seek to change the abortion laws using the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, however the bill became the focus of others (both pro & anti- choice) seeking to change the lae.
The Report Stage of the Bill was delayed until the return of the House after the Summer Recess. By this time a long list of amendments had been tabled on the Bill. largely organised by John McDonnell MP. The most widely reported amendments in the press were those that would amend abortion law. These included new clauses to:
• Remove the legal requirement for two doctors’ signatures to authorise abortions.
• Allow trained nurses and other health care practitioners to carry out abortions.
• Extend the locations where abortions can take place to primary care level.
• Remove conscientious objection in respect to providing emergency contraception provision.
•Extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.
The Report Stage debate began with a programme motion that moved debate on new clauses to the end of the proceedings. This effectively prevented any of the abortion law amendments from being heard.
A number of other MPs spoke against the motion; this included the following contribution from Diane Abbot:
“I speak against the programme motion because—and I say this with no pleasure—it and the order of discussion appear to be a shabby manoeuvre by Ministers to stop the full debate of some very important matters. I appreciate that Ministers did not intend this to be a Bill about abortion. I am open to the argument that we should have another piece of legislation that would enable a full debate on most of the matters in relation to abortion that have been raised as amendments and new clauses to the Bill, but there is a special case for debating and voting on the particular new clause that I tabled to extend the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland.”