Labour MP in bid to include right to abortion in British bill of rights

Stella Creasy says she expects MPs to be given free vote on amendment as a matter of conscience

The Labour MP Stella Creasy has said she will table an amendment to the forthcoming British bill of rights to give women the fundamental right to an abortion.

Creasy said she would expect MPs to be given a free vote on the issue, as a matter of conscience. She told the Guardian the amendment would be tabled when the bill is published at second reading.

“Most women in the UK do not realise abortion is not a right but there is only a law giving exemption from prosecution in certain circumstances,” she said. “What the US teaches us is that we cannot be complacent about entrenching those rights in law.”

In a complex legal situation, only women in Northern Ireland have the guaranteed right to an abortion, after an amendment backed by MPs at Westminster in 2019 to the NI executive formation bill.

Despite that, abortions in Northern Ireland remain difficult to access. The UK government has put in place a legal framework for the services but so far they remain restricted due to an impasse at Stormont.

In England and Wales, the 1967 Abortion Act made terminations legal in Great Britain up to 24 weeks in most circumstances. But the law is framed in terms that mean abortion is not a right, but an exception when two doctors agree it would be risky for the mental or physical health of the woman. That phrasing has come under renewed scrutiny from campaigners.

Speaking in a parliamentary debate on the overturning of Roe v Wade by the supreme court, which had given US women the constitutional right to an abortion, Creasy said: “Roe versus Wade gave American women a constitutional right to have an abortion. Currently here in the UK, only women in Northern Ireland have their constitutional rights to an abortion protected as a human right.

Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am

“I ask the minister a direct and simple question – if an amendment is tabled to the forthcoming bill of rights by those of us who recognise this will be a conscience issue and so a free vote, to protect a woman’s right to choose for every single woman in the United Kingdom, will she join me in voting for it?”

Speaking for the government, the Foreign Office minister Amanda Milling said she would not “pre-empt” the legislation. “As we have discussed, this would be a matter of conscience,” she said.

The justice secretary, Dominic Raab, has published the new bill of Rights but the Commons is yet to debate it at second reading, expected in the coming weeks.


Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
US supreme court overturns abortion rights, upending Roe v Wade
Biden calls ruling in pivotal case Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization ‘a tragic error’

Jessica Glenza and Martin Pengelly in New York, and Sam Levin in Los Angeles

24, Jun, 2022 @6:03 PM

Article image
MPs to argue Northern Irish women have right to abortion on NHS
Cross-party MPs want amendment to Queen’s speech to act as warning to government over DUP pact

Jessica Elgot Political reporter

23, Jun, 2017 @7:22 AM

Article image
Dominic Raab says right to abortion does not need to be in bill of rights
Deputy PM says matter is ‘settled in UK law’ and he would not want Britain to be in same situation as US

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

29, Jun, 2022 @12:47 PM

Article image
MPs back plans for abortion clinic buffer zones in England and Wales
Amendment to public order bill would make harassment of women by protesters a criminal offence

Nadeem Badshah

18, Oct, 2022 @6:58 PM

Article image
‘Blood on their hands’: world’s medics condemn US overturn of abortion rights
Statement signed by more than 100 global healthcare groups says US court decision ‘will cost lives for years to come’

Lizzy Davies

24, Jun, 2022 @4:30 PM

Article image
Woman with Down’s syndrome takes Sajid Javid to court over abortion law
Heidi Crowter alongside Máire Lea-Wilson and her son Aidan argue the 1967 act is discriminatory

Haroon Siddique Legal affairs correspondent

06, Jul, 2021 @1:08 PM

Article image
Labour MPs to press May for Commons vote on Northern Ireland abortion ban
Diana Johnson to table bill aimed at forcing government into allowing proper Commons vote

Dan Sabbagh

21, Oct, 2018 @6:31 PM

Article image
Northern Irish doctors’ group to fight abortion pill prosecutions
Pro-choice organisation opposes medics being forced to report women to the police

Henry McDonald

11, Aug, 2019 @5:17 PM

Article image
Woman with Down’s syndrome loses court of appeal abortion law case
Heidi Crowter argued that the law was discriminatory and stigmatised disabled people

Matthew Weaver

25, Nov, 2022 @2:38 PM

Article image
The supreme court just overturned Roe v Wade – what happens next?
Court’s move will allow more than half of states to ban abortion, with an immediate and enduring impact on tens of millions of Americans

Jessica Glenza

24, Jun, 2022 @2:15 PM