Catholic MP fights to reduce 24-week abortion limit

Edward Leigh, the conservative MP for Gainsborough and Bishop of  Lancaster, Patrick O’Donoghue
Edward Leigh, the conservative MP for Gainsborough and Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donoghue


The fight against abortion continues in the UK, according to the catholic MP who tabled an amendment under the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill.

Edward Leigh, the conservative MP for Gainsborough, tried to reduce the abortion limit in Britain down to the European average of 12 weeks. He made his comments to the Universe after several cross-party proposals for new abortion limits of 12, 16, 20 or 22 weeks were all defeated in a series of free votes at Westminster last week.

Mr. Leigh, who said that Parliament had defied overwhelming public opinion, undertook to continue pushing for later abortions to be outlawed. “If William Wilberforce were here, he would have voted with us,” said Mr. Leigh. “And he worked to abolish slavery for 30 years.”

Mr. Leigh continued: “I am optimistic. We just need to keep the pressure on. Priests, parishes and the Catholic press need to keep the issue alive, especially in the mind of those Members of Parliament who did not vote to reduce abortion at the top end of the limit.”

The MP explained that 80% of Tory MPs voted to reduce the abortion limit and expressed his sadness that MPs voted to keep the 24-week limit. “It is so clear that the baby is fully human at 24 weeks. It is murder,” added Mr. Leigh, who is a father of six.

Mr. Leigh’s remarks echoed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s comments in the Daily Telegraph recently, when he said he would keep fighting to change the abortion legislation.

The cardinal said he was determined to see the number of abortions in Britain reduced and added that many people in Britain were “deeply uneasy” that more than 200,000 abortions were carried out each year in the UK, one of the highest rates in Europe.

“The politicians may have cast their votes on the HFE Bill but many people are left feeling deeply uneasy and perplexed about the direction we are now taking. However, it would be wrong for us to think that the debate within society is over – a vote alone cannot close the discussion,” he said.

The cardinal is calling for a national bioethics commission to be established for experts and members of the public to debate the ethics of new research.

The bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donoghue, also added his voice to the fight, saying he was “saddened beyond measure” at the second reading debate.

He said: “Again and again the justification given to experimenting on embryonic human beings or killing the unborn was an appeal to ‘science’ or ‘scientific research’ as if it were the only source of objective, rational knowledge.

“It seems that millennia of ethical and religious thought are lightly dismissed as subjective and discredited.”

“During the 19th century, slavers said black people weren’t human. They were wrong. During the 20th century, the Nazis said Jews weren’t human. They were wrong. Since 1967, the House of Commons has said the unborn are not human. They, too, are wrong.”

Story provided in partnership between CNA and the Universe