I see I was one of the seven ministers identified by The Sunday Times this morning as preparing to vote to reduce the 24-week upper limit on abortion. I was actually called by them yesterday afternoon while I was trying, with limited success, to calm a distressed two-year-old who had only just woken from a deep sleep as I lifted him in from the car. So the phone conversation was conducted with very loud screams in the background, though I did find myself, for the first time, verbalising a position which has been developing for a few days since my last post on this subject.
I feel that it’s important that the debate on abortion moves completely away from whether a foetus is “viable” at the point where abortion remains legal. In other words, I am uncomfortable with the notion that a 24-year-old foetus can be both “viable” and can also be legally terminated. Surely better to remove this argument altogether by making sure that no “viable” (I hate the term but can’t think of an alternative) foetus could ever be terminated. The argument for abortion – and I remain convinced that women must continue to have access to legal abortion services – has been fossilised in recent years by an obsession over “viability”. But perhaps public acceptance of abortion can be further secured once we remove that nagging doubt that a baby, and not a “foetus”, is being aborted.
It may be I don’t even get back to the Commons on Tuesday for the vote – I’ll be in Crewe that day.