BY A STAFF REPORTER THE Earl of Longford, -ILeader of the House of Lords, led the opposition to the Abortion Bill when it went before the Lords on Wednesday for its Second Reading. The Bill was passed in the Commons last Friday by 167 votes to 83 after an all-night sitting.
Since the Bill—officially designated the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, was first introduced in the Commons a year ago by Mr. David Steel, Liberal M.P. for Roxborough, Selkirk and Peebles, it has been altered in detail quite considerably as a result of amendments pressed by its opponents.
64-HOUR DEBATE Prominent among these has been Mr. Norman St. JohnStevas, Conservative M.P. for Chelmsford, who organised the last-ditch opposition during last Thursday's all-night sitting. Altogether the Bill had occupied more than 641 hours of Commons time during its long passage.
The Government, which has given the Private Member's Bill extra time in the Commons, is now hoping that the measure can become law by the end of October. Prof. J. S. Scott, of Leeds University, a member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said last week: "The Bill comes close to what the Society would accept, but it could be improved in its passage through the Lords."
Seven Cabinet Ministers were among those who voted for the Bill on the Third Reading, but another, Mr. Anthony Greenwood, Minister of Housing, voted against. Other Government members to oppose the measure included Mr. R. Mellish and Mr. McColl, both Parliamentary Secretaries at the Ministry of Housing; Mrs. Shirley Wilhams, Minister of State, Department of Education; and Mr. O'Malley, a junior whip.
Four Conservative cxMinisters who voted against were Mr. Enoch Powell, Mr. Deedes, Mr. Duncan Sandys and Mr. Boyd-Carpenter. Mr. fain Macleod, another former Tory Minister, voted in favour.
Mrs. Knight, Conservative M.P. for Edgbaston and a leading opponent of the Bill, moved an amendment to remove from the Bill the clause which put on a doctor the onus of proving he had a conscientious objection.
Mr. Snow, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health, opposed the amendment, which was defeated by 139 votes to 70.
One of the most outspoken critics of the Bill was Mr. Peter Mahon, Labour M.P. for Preston South, who said the choice facing the House was between life sanctified by God or legalised infanticide. He said the House had voted against capital punishment, but it was now prepared to turn turtle and accept that it was right to kill an unborn child.