Abortion off the agenda as MPs vote on fertility bill

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Amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that would have legalised abortion in Northern Ireland will not be discussed at the third reading in the Commons today.

Leader of the House Harriet Harman has introduced a procedural device to ensure that amendments about abortion will not be introduced during this afternoon’s debate.

Liberal Democrat science spokesman Evan Harris told the BBC:

“It seems that this is simply a device by government to deny Parliament a say on a free-vote issue and it’s control freakery at its worst.”

The bill removes the requirement for doctors to consider the ‘need for a father’ when deciding whether to offer women fertility treatments.

Debate in May on the issue was heated, with some MPs, who were given a free vote by the three main parties, insisting that lesbians and single women are less able to raise children than heterosexual couples.

Two amendments that would have retained a reference to fathers or ‘male role models’ were rejected in the Commons.

Doctors will consider whether the child will receive “supportive parenting.”

If the bill passes today unamended, there will be no need for it to return to the Lords and it will proceed to Royal Assent.

During the debate in May attempts to lower the legal limit for abortions from 24 to 22 or 20 weeks were rejected by MPs.