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MP Jess Phillips condemns UK abortion laws as 'backwards and draconian'

An aerial view of tents on the second day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 27, 2019. See PA story SHOWBIZ Glastonbury. Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

By Claire Hayhurst, PA
Page 1: 11:14

MP Jess Phillips has criticised UK abortion laws as "backwards and draconian" ahead of her appearance at Glastonbury Festival.

The Labour MP said being tough on abortion had become a "cool identity" for the Conservatives after leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt backed the legal time limit being reduced from 24 weeks to 12.

Ms Phillips, who represents Birmingham Yardley, added: "I would fight with every bone in my body to stop Jacob Rees-Mogg having anything to do with my womb."

She made the comments in an interview with the Glastonbury Free Press ahead of speaking at the White Ribbon Alliance's Parlay Parlour on Saturday afternoon.

The White Ribbon Alliance's campaign asks "What Women Want" and Ms Phillips' answer was "Abortion for women in Northern Ireland".

She said: "What I find absolutely amazing about the outrage about (US President Donald) Trump and Alabama changing their abortion laws is that in our own country we have even more draconian laws.

"The UK Government make a huge song and dance about putting money into helping women have reproductive rights abroad, but some of those countries have more progressive rules around abortion than exist in our own country. We are backwards."

The Abortion Act 1967 covers England, Scotland and Wales but does not extend to Northern Ireland.

It allows for abortions to be performed under certain circumstances, with the authorisation of two doctors and carried out by a registered medical practitioner.

Asked about Mr Hunt's view that the legal time limit should be reduced, Ms Phillips agreed that women's reproductive rights were under threat.

"Being tough on abortion has become a cool identity for the Conservatives," she said.

"What I loathe about abortion policy in the UK is it shouldn't be a matter of conscience, it's about evidence-based health policy.

"It's not a matter of morality. Women die unless they have reproductive rights."

She was asked if it was difficult to be friends with members of the Conservative Party given issues such as abortion.

"I would fight with every bone in my body to stop Jacob Rees-Mogg having anything to do with my womb but we can still have a civil conversation," she told the paper.

She will take part in a discussion entitled Our Bodies, Our Rights, with Betsy McCallon, Diana Flores, Kaveri Mayra and Fiona Mann at the Parlay Parlour on Saturday at 1pm.

Emily Eavis officially opened the tent on Wednesday afternoon, and it will host daily debates on issues such as the environment and sexual rights.

Ms Phillips said it is "important to see politics as part of our everyday lives", adding that festival-goers are more "politically active" then when she last attended the event.

She described seeing David Bowie as "cool" and admitted breaking her ankle jumping the fence.

Asked whether she had taken drugs, she said: "Of course I have. Quite a lot when I was younger, but I've certainly not been hypocritical about how we need to change drugs policy - unlike Michael Gove.

"I'm not yet of the totally 'legalise everything' view, but I do hope this will start a conversation."

On Thursday, thousands of people are expected to take part in an Extinction Rebellion march at the festival, before attempting to create the largest human sculpture of an hourglass.

Crowds will march to the Stone Circle in the 900-acre site and attempt to form the symbol to represent extinction.

Climate change and the environment is at the centre of this year's festival, which has banned single-use plastic bottles.

Festival co-organiser Emily Eavis told the Glastonbury Free Press: "While people are here, we want to inspire them to live more sustainably.

"That's one reason we banned the sale of single-use plastic drinks bottles.

"We're all realising that we need to shift our thinking from simply recycling to actually reducing what we use and reusing instead.

"If we are more aware of our lifestyles and make better choices about how we live, we can make a huge difference."

Music officially begins at the festival on Friday, with headline performances by Stormzy, The Streets and The Cure.

Pic by Aaron Chown/PA Wire