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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Bid to change abortion law fails
There have been three abortion bills since October
An MP's bid to introduce compulsory abortion counselling and a week-long "cooling off" period has been defeated.

Tory Ann Winterton said women should be made aware of the risks, such as potential mental health problems.

She also said records should be kept of the reasons for abortions, arguing they were currently carried out "on demand".

But Labour's Laura Moffat said the proposals were "an attack on women's productive rights". Mrs Winterton's bill was defeated by 182 votes to 107.

Mrs Winterton, who is vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary pro-life group, said whatever her personal feelings on the issue she was not seeking to "tighten" existing laws on abortion.

Crisis management

She said research showed that women with a history of psychiatric problems should not have abortions, and even those without were at risk of "psychological ill effects".

Mrs Winterton, MP for Congleton, said women needed to be properly informed and given "crisis management", as well as a short period of reflection.

Women would not be forced to undergo counselling, but would have to sign a document saying it had been refused - to ensure doctors were offering it in the first place, she said.

When a women is facing an unwanted pregnancy she will already be under great stress
Laura Moffat

She said anybody who sought to change existing laws on abortion were immediately subject to the "ludicrous claims" from abortion groups.

Among them was the claim that women were being "kept waiting" for the procedure and any delay could pose a greater risk, she said.

Mental risk

She told MPs the latest figures showed 67% of abortions were carried out before the 10th week, and 89% before the 12th week.

The bill also aims to ensure "proper records" are kept of the reasons for abortion, saying "abortion on demand" was being carried out on the "catch-all ground" of risk to the physical or mental health of the women.

Mrs Moffat, in response, said she was concerned about the motives behind the bill - in the 40th anniversary year of the Act - and said it would push more women into late abortions.

Ann Winterton
Ms Winterton is a leading opponent of abortion

The Labour MP for Crawley argued it would lead to delays for women seeking abortion - which would hit the poorest women the hardest, as they would be required to make several trips to the doctor for counselling.

And she said there was no such thing as "abortion on demand" in Britain, as all women seeking abortion had to first go through their options with two medical practitioners.

"When a women is facing an unwanted pregnancy she will already be under great stress, to create further obstacles for her is completely unethical in my view," she said.

There are about 190,000 abortions a year in England and Wales.

There has been speculation that, in the 40th anniversary year of the 1967 Abortion Act, both sides of the debate will try to further liberalise, or curb it, through amendments to the forthcoming Human Tissues and Embryos bill.

Mrs Winterton's Termination of Pregnancy (Counselling and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is the third abortion-related Ten Minute Rule Bill to be introduced in eight months - all have which have been rejected by MPs.

Ann Furedi, chief of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: "This is a welcome vote, based on medical evidence and good sense in the face of repeated attempts at political point-scoring."

She added: "We already know this is a difficult enough time for women, and this would have made things even harder for them."

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