Pro-lifers rally in London amid consideration of abortion amendments

London pro-life rally Representatives from the pro-life movement and their supporters gather to demonstrate in Parliament Square on May 15, 2024, in London. | Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A large number of pro-life people rallied May 15 outside the Houses of Parliament in London to protest a set of amendments that if passed would further liberalize the U.K.’s abortion laws, including one that critics say would allow abortions up to the point of birth.

As reported by the Catholic Herald, the rally in Westminster was coordinated by a variety of organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom UK, Christian Concern, March for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard, and 40 Days for Life. Participants held signs and wore shirts with the phrase “No to abortion up to birth.”

At issue are a number of proposed amendments to a Criminal Justice Bill under consideration in the U.K. Parliament, one of which would amend U.K. law such that “no woman would be liable for a prison sentence as a result of seeking to end her own pregnancy.” The amendments were originally scheduled to be voted on Wednesday but are now scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, June 4.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), abortions in the U.K. can be carried out after 24 weeks only in very limited circumstances — for example, if the mother's life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.

In a May 8 statement, Bishop John Sherrington, lead bishop for life issues and auxiliary bishop of Westminster, expressed support for an amendment from member of Parliament Caroline Ansell that would reduce the gestational limit for abortions from 24 to 22 weeks. Another amendment, brought by member of Parliament Sir Liam Fox, represents a step toward ending the U.K.’s current laws that allow for babies with Down syndrome to be aborted up until birth. 

However, Sherrington said he is “deeply alarmed” by two other amendments to the same bill. The amendment proposed by member of Parliament Dame Diana Johnson related to liability would remove any legal protection for unborn babies when a woman seeks to bring about her own abortion at any stage of pregnancy, he said.  

“A further danger presented by this amendment is that women could abort their own pregnancies at home through the use of abortion pills at any point in the pregnancy, which could seriously endanger a woman’s health and life. Moreover, the risks of coerced or forced abortion would only increase as the legal safeguards around abortion decrease,” he noted. 

The second amendment by member of Parliament Stella Creasy includes proposals to decriminalize abortion up to the 24th week for any party involved. 

“The Church recognizes the struggle and trauma which may lead some pregnant women to consider an abortion. Such difficult situations require pastoral and medical care for vulnerable women in their time of need. When cases of illegal abortions are prosecuted, it is for the judge to decide the appropriate balance of justice and mercy for all involved,” Sherrington said. 

“Our current legislation provides some level of protection for pregnant mothers and unborn babies by keeping abortion within the criminal law. Relaxing abortion legislation further would be a tragic mistake for both mother and child.”

“As Pope Francis has said: ‘It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.’ In England and Wales, both unborn child and pregnant mother deserve full protection under our laws, as some of the most vulnerable in our society,” the bishop concluded. 

This story was updated on May 17, 2024, at 3:15 p.m. ET with the information on the June 4 vote.

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