According to a Daily Telegraph report the suggested amendments to the Human Embryology Bill discussed here will not be supported by pro-choice Labour MPs, although opposition MPs may still propose the changes.
Pro-choice MPs had been confident of success when the Bill returns to the Commons next week, particularly given the forthcoming departure from the Cabinet of Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, who as a committed Catholic had forced Gordon Brown to allow ministers a free vote when it was last debated. But the Ulster political situation has deteriorated recently, with the Executive failing to meet as scheduled as a result of a disagreement between unionists and republicans over the devolution of policing and justice.
While abortion is one area where Northern Ireland’s politicians largely concur – with both Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party opposed to legalisation – ministers fear that forcing the amendment through could undermine their attempts to broker an agreement. As a result, pro-choice Labour MPs have been taken aside and warned not to proceed with their plan.
An amendment may still be tabled to the Bill by an Opposition MP, probably from the Liberal Democrat side, but without the backing of the powerful female Labour pro-choice group, it has little chance of success.