As I look ahead, if I was to pick two significant future challenges, they would be start-of-life law change and end-of-life law change. It is not implausible that there could, within months, be major votes at Westminster on legalising both assisted suicide and also the ‘decriminalisation of abortion’.
In March, the Home Secretary introduced a Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Commons. It is a Government Bill and so will be given plenty of time for debate and will be considered a priority. It’s also what is called a ‘Christmas Tree Bill’.
What that means is that is it a very broad Bill, with a wide scope. For example, if passed, it will lead to tougher sentences for child sex offenders. It will give the police more powers to tackle protests that prevent businesses from carrying out their work. The age of retirement for judges will be raised to 75, and there is a whole host of other measures, too.
A Bill like this, with its wide range of ‘reforms’, is as a result more open to being amended on a range of other issues. Given the nature of this Bill, it is our assessment that there’s a much stronger possibility that it could be used to change the law on abortion. We’ve already witnessed attempts to put amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill to make abortion in England and Wales more widely available. Back then, the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that amendment as outside the scope of the Domestic Abuse Bill and so it was withdrawn. It is much less likely that a similar amendment would be out of scope of this new Bill.
At the moment, there are certain legal safeguards in criminal law. It is, for example, legally necessary to get two doctors to sign off an abortion. It’s legally required that it meets certain specific grounds. Now of course, sadly, the interpretation of this law is very, very broad and, tragically, it’s been used to perform 9 million abortions since records began. But if you removed the final legal safeguards that do still exist, you open the door to abortion on demand, for any or no reason. If we’ve had 9 million abortions under the already very liberal laws since 1967, imagine how much worse the situation will be if it becomes all the more available.
The challenge on assisted suicide could come via an amendment to the very same Bill. This raises the highly disturbing idea that you could see votes on legalising assisted suicide and making abortion more available around the same time.
Then there is the rumour of an upcoming Queen’s Speech. This would set out the UK Government’s post-Covid-19 legislative agenda. A new NHS Bill is expected which will introduce various reforms. Once again, such a Bill will be fairly broad in scope and as such, it could see an assisted-suicide amendment tagged on.
Pray for God’s wisdom
This is the ‘mucky business’ of politics. It’s a world of deals, strategies, feints and counter-feints. But knowing about challenges ahead of time means we can be praying and preparing. Perhaps the most important way of helping is to pray for God’s wisdom, grace and favour as ‘onside’ MPs seek to persuade colleagues to reject dangerous changes in the law when it comes to assisted suicide and abortion.
It helps, when facing challenges like this, to remember God is sovereign. King Jesus is on the throne and His agenda will ultimately win the day. In fact, the biggest game-changer is the Lord Himself and so, despite these two significant and serious challenges, we can still face the future with faith, hope and expectation that, whatever the outcome, God can still bring good, even from evil.
James Mildred is the Communications Manager for CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) http://www.care.org.uk