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Abortion Rights - Please email or call your MP urgently

We now know that the committee stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, where we expect amendments to restrict abortion to be tabled, will be on the 20th May.

The committee stage will be on the floor of the House of Commons, meaning that all MPs will be able to vote on each clause and amendments. We have to make our argument to MPs on this issue, and the other vital issues in the Bill - including the "father clause”. The timetable is much shorter than expected, as the bill has been brought forward in parliament. So, if we are to maintain the current abortion time limit, the time to act is now.

A range of campaign actions can be undertaken from the Abortion Rights website - we are affiliated to Abortion Rights and they are leading this campaign. www.abortionrights.org.uk/content/view/221/1/

We are encouraging as many members as possible to write to their MP. Please email Abortion Rights to ask for as many of their postcards as you can use, distribute them in workplaces, do street stalls, whatever will work. The phone number and email form are on this link. www.abortionrights.org.uk/component/option,com_contact/Itemid,3/

We are obviously dealing with a very tight timescale here. As the votes will not be whipped it is vital that we work to ensure that our MPs know that they cannot stay away in this vote, that they must be there to stand up for a woman's right to control her own body and fertility. Some of the work on lobbying and briefing will obviously be done nationally, on all the important issues in the Bill, but volume in postbags matters a lot.

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Previous news

Abortion Rights' update on proposals to change the abortion law going through parliament

From www.abortionrights.org.uk/

Following the Queen's speech on 6th November the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has had its First and Second Readings in the House of Lords on 7th and 19th November respectively.

Although the Bill itself does not address abortion, it is expected that anti-abortion Peers and/or MPs may table a number of damaging amendments to restrict women's rights to abortion. In the Lords Second reading debate a stream of anti-abortion Peers took part in the debate and attacked current rights with pro-choice Peers speaking in defence of the 1967 Abortion Act.

Pro-choice MPs are planning to table amendments to improve the law during the course of the Bill in the Commons. Amendments in the Lords Anti-abortion amendments that are anticipated are likely to include:

* Reducing the abortion time limit from 24 weeks to 22, 20 or even 13 weeks. Any such measures would have appalling consequences for the women who need later abortion. Particularly over 20 weeks this is a small number of women but each faces difficult and individual circumstances. Women would be forced against their will to carry on with a pregnancy. Or, if they can afford to, women will travel abroad. Some may try more desperate measures.

* Imposing a 'cooling off' period and compulsory counselling for all women seeking abortion. Both measures assume women are not capable of making their own careful decision, creating further distressing delays and adding pressure at what can be a difficult time.

We believe women should be trusted with this personal decision. Amendments in the Lords can be tabled at the Committee stage, which can begin as soon as the second week in December, and also at the Report stage and Third Reading which is expected to take place in January 2008. Pro-choice Amendments in the Commons After the House of Lords, the Bill will go the House of Commons around February 2008 where amendments to restrict rights are expected again as well as a number of positive amendments to reform the law and improve abortion access for women These are likely to include:

* Abortion to be available at the request of the pregnant woman within existing legal time limits by removing the need of two doctors' signatures.

* Abortion services to be subject to the same statutory regulations as other medical services (i.e. ending the need for detailed notification to the Department of Health and certification by doctors of all abortions; and removing the need for premises to be specially licensed by the DOH to carry out abortions).

* Suitably trained nurse practitioners to be allowed to carry out early medical and surgical abortions, in both the NHS and non-NHS sector.

* Ensuring accurate information and non-directive support be available for all women facing an unintended pregnancy.

* The law in Northern Ireland to allow access to abortion commensurate with rights in the rest of the UK. More detailed information on timetabling and amendments will be known as we go along. Campaigning The anti-choice lobby has called upon its supporters to lobby Peers and MPs. They are arranging for a briefing of Peers where Professor Stuart Campbell will show his emotive '4D' scan images. Many Peers and MPs have not yet decided how to vote. They need to hear from pro-choice supporters URGENTLY.

Abortion Rights is lobbying Peers and MPs directly and in alliance with other pro-choice organisations. We will be organising a public initiative for pro-choice supporters to make their voices heard during the course of the Bill's passage in the Lords. Details to follow. We are also planning a series of public initiatives during the Bill's passage in the Commons, including a lobby of Parliament and public meeting. You can help by writing directly to your MP TODAY.

A model letter to help with this is below and attached. The Bill is expected to take only six months to pass through Parliament. This provides a relatively short window of opportunity to mobilise the pro-choice majority and ensure we are successful in opposing any restrictions to the 1967 Abortion Act and extending women's reproductive rights.

Please speak to your trade union branch, student group, colleagues and friends to ask them to get involved, pass a resolution or organise a discussion or event. Everyone can sign up for updates and action alerts on the Abortion Rights website www.abortionrights.org.uk or by joining the Facebook group Abortion Rights UK. Add your voice to the pro-choice majority: www.prochoicemajority.org.uk Louise Hutchins Campaigns Coordinator, Abortion Rights

WRITE TO YOUR MP!

The time has come for a concerted effort to lobby MPs throughout the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The anti-choice lobby is already very active - MPs are receiving dozens of letters, cards and e-mails. We cannot allow this vociferous minority to dominate the abortion debate. The most effective and successful way to lobby MPs is to write them a personal letter, ideally in your own words. Handwritten letters have a strong impact on MPs - below is a model letter showing an example of what you could write and some of the points you should raise. Encourage your friends / family / colleagues to write too!

To find out who your MP is and their address go to www.upmystreet.com/commons or call the House of Commons on 020 7219 3000. Write to them either at their constituency address, if you know it, or at: House of Commons London SW1A 0AA

You can also contact them directly at www.writetothem.com which is a really useful campaigning website.

To make a lasting impact, meet your MP face-to-face during their weekly surgery. Let them know your concerns about the anti-choice campaign and the importance to defend the time limit and existing law. We can provide evidence based briefings and advice to help prepare your visit. For more information on the issues to send to your MP download our briefing paper or other resources from the website.

You could also point them in the direction of the recent Science and Technology Committee report, or contact Abortion Rights for further information. Please forward any replies you receive to Abortion Rights to help us build up a picture of parliamentary opinion. You can email us at choice@abortionrights.org.uk or post copies of replies to 18 Ashwin Street, London E8 3DL.

MODEL LETTER:

To .........................MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Date:

Dear . . . . . . . . . . . .MP,

I am writing to you about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which is expected to receive amendments on abortion. Improving abortion law for women Forty years since abortion was legalised in Britain, the majority of public opinion supports the right to choose but women continue to face unnecessary and sometimes distressing barriers to access.

These could be easily remedied by reforming the 1967 Abortion Act. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will provide a unique opportunity for MPs to support pro-choice amendments, which are in line with the recommendations of the Commons Science and Technology Committee report further to their enquiry into the scientific advances relating to the 1967 Abortion Act.

These will include:

* Abortion to be available at the request of the pregnant woman within existing legal time limits by removing the need of two doctors' signatures.

* Abortion services to be subject to the same statutory regulations as other medical services (i.e. ending the need for detailed notification to the Department of Health and certification by doctors of all abortions; and removing the need for premises to be specially licensed by the DOH to carry out abortions).

* Suitably trained nurse practitioners to be allowed to carry out early medical and surgical abortions, in both the NHS and non-NHS sector.

* Ensuring accurate information and non-directive support be available for all women facing an unintended pregnancy.

* The law in Northern Ireland to allow access to abortion commensurate with rights in the rest of the UK.

Defending current rights

I also wish to voice my concerns that anti-choice MPs will attempt to restrict women's abortion rights, including reducing the legal time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 22, 20 or even 13 weeks. Any such measures would have appalling consequences for the small number of women who need later abortion - each facing very difficult and individual circumstances. Women would be forced against their will to carry on the pregnancy.

Or, if they can afford to, women will travel abroad. Some may try more desperate measures. Other anti-abortion amendments expected would impose a 'cooling off' period and compulsory counselling for all women seeking abortion causing further delays and distress. I urge you to vote against such damaging amendments for women.

As a constituent, I would be grateful if you could let me know your views on these matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require further information. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

(Sender's signature)

Name
Address
Postcode

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