The Labour Party would decriminalise abortion in Britain, making it legal to have an abortion for any reason up to the birth of a child, a party spokeswoman has confirmed.
The party’s manifesto, launched today ahead of the December 12 general election, says: “We will uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions.”
A Labour spokeswoman confirmed to the Catholic Herald that this would mean the repeal of the relevant sections of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which currently bans abortion.
The 1967 Abortion Act, which sets out the broad exceptions to the previous Act, would therefore become redundant.
Pro-lifers described the proposal as “extreme” and lacking in public support. Catherine Robinson, from the campaign group Right to Life, said in a statement: “Polling shows that this extreme proposal is not supported by women, with only 1 per cent of women wanting the abortion time limit to be increased right through to birth.
“We would be left with the most extreme abortion law in the world. The change would further position England and Wales drastically away from most countries in the European Union, where the most common abortion time limit among EU countries is 12 weeks.”
Backbench Labour MPs have led efforts to decriminalise abortion. One, Diana Johnson, introduced a bill last year to repeal the 1861 Act. But the bill did not receive government support and ran out of time.
Labour is currently well behind in the polls. However, Robinson said that whether or not the party forms the next government, the manifesto pledge “confirms that the abortion lobby will be back in full force in the next parliament, pushing to introduce new extreme legislation.”
A Labour spokesman told the Catholic Herald that there would still be regulation of abortion provision. “Abortion procedures and those performing them must be properly regulated but vulnerable women should be advised and assisted rather than criminalised.”
The spokesman said there would be “wide public consultation on the detail of new laws and regulations”.