Abortion Buffer Zones

In response to the campaign on buffer zones outside abortion clinics, David said:

"I am aware of a number of recent protests outside some abortion clinics which is a very serious matter. This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. However, while I should make it clear from the outset that the policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police, I am pleased to say that the law does currently provide protection against such acts.

The police have a range of powers to deal with protests outside clinics. Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, makes it an offence to display threatening, or abusive words or images that, within the sight of someone, is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place conditions on the location, duration or numbers attending a public assembly. This can be applied where the police believe that the assembly may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, serious disruption to the life of the community, or that the purpose by the assembly organisers is to intimidate others to compel them not to do an act that they have a right to do.

The police also have dispersal powers (in public places) under sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, to remove or reduce the likelihood of members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed, or to prevent local crime or disorder. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 includes criminal offences that protect individuals, who are conducting lawful activities, from harassment by protestors."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Abortion in Northern Ireland

In response to the campaign on abortion in Northern Ireland, David said:

"I recognise that this is a very delicate and sensitive issue. Abortion access is the topic of contentious and emotive debate. For this reason all MPs are free to vote with their conscience on abortion matters, rather in line with their parties, and I support this convention wholeheartedly. The Government wishes to see safe abortion services provided within the law to women who need them.

The provision of abortions is a devolved issue. Devolved NHS authorities are responsible for providing healthcare to those resident in their regions.

However, following a recent Supreme Court judgement, which outlined the law surrounding the provision of abortions to Northern Irish women in England, the Government has announced that payment for abortions for Northern Irish women in the NHS will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding.

This development does not alter the fact that the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland is a devolved issue, and the responsibility of politicians in Northern Ireland. The funding of NHS abortion services for Northern Irish women by the Government Equalities Office ensures these women safe access to legal abortions in England, without compromising the devolution of NHS services in the UK.

In response to the case of the mother being prosecuted under the 1861 Offences against the Person Act in Northern Ireland, a judge in Belfast has granted permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, as he believed that the case raised issues of considerable public importance and public debate. This will now be held in the autumn."

More information about the campaign can be found here.

Abortion on Demand

In response to the campaign on abortion on demand, David said:

"I understand what an important issue abortion is for many people in the constituency. This is an incredibly delicate area of law and, regardless of the views of individual MPs, one which is treated with the utmost rigour.

The approach to abortion in the UK is set out in the Abortion Act 1967 and this remains unchanged.  Abortion legislation can only be changed by Parliament.  It is accepted Parliamentary practice that proposals for changes in the law on abortion come from backbench members and that decisions are made on the basis of free votes.  Whenever this issue has come before Parliament I have consistently voted for stricter laws on abortion.  

I am aware that an update to the procedures that detail the conditions that independent sector abortion clinics must adhere to was published in 2014, to take into account a number of regulatory changes and to bring the requirements in line with current policies and guidance.

The Department of Health issued guidance for doctors on how to comply with the Act in 2014. This makes clear that abortion on the grounds of gender alone is unlawful and further sets out how the law is interpreted by the Department of Health.   Full details can be found online here:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-doctors-on-compliance-with-the-abortion-act

The Abortion Act sets out that two doctors must certify that in their opinion, which must be formed in good faith, a request for an abortion meets at least one and the same ground set out in the Act.  The Department of Health has taken the view that registered medical practitioners should be able to show how they have considered the particular facts and circumstances of a case when forming their opinion."