In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Gerald Howarth voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 22 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.
Mr Howarth voted for Nadine Dorries’s amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill on 7 September 2011, which was ultimately defeated by 368 to 118 votes. This amendment would have stopped BPAS and Marie Stopes from providing counselling for women with unwanted pregnancies and allowed ‘independent’ counselling including that provided by faith-based organisations.
In February 2015 Gerald Howarth voted against allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease. If allowed, mitochondrial donation would be regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) meaning that there would be ongoing assessment of the safety and efficacy of such procedures. An October 2014 briefing report by the HFEA, which had been investigating the issue for three years, stated that there was no evidence to show that mitochondrial donation was unsafe. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed. The majority of MPs voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation.
Nomination of David Tredinnick for Health Committee Chair
In June 2015 Gerald Howarth was one of 19 MPs to nominate David Tredinnick for the position of Chair of the Health Select Committee. Mr Tredinnick's advocacy of alternative medicine is well known and only four months earlier his view that astrology could have a role in reducing pressure on doctors had been widely reported (e.g. here).
In May 2013, during the debate on the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Mr Howarth, in response to question from Margot James, said:
- "I greatly respect my hon. Friend, whom I consider to be a very decent person and who has expressed her view very courteously. However, I warn her, and Members in all parts of the House, that I fear that the playing field is not being levelled. I believe that the pendulum is now swinging too far in the opposite direction. There are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this is as but a stepping stone to something even further."
He later amended this, saying "militant" was a better description than "aggressive", and elaborated on these "further steps" by quoting Chris Ashford on further reforms relating to sexuality, and Peter Tatchell, who "proposed a radical alternative to marriage".
Gerald Howarth is a member of the Cornerstone Group, a group within the Conservative Party that describes itself as believing in "the spiritual values which have informed British institutions, our culture and our nation's sense of identity for centuries, underpinned by the belief in a strong nation state.". Their website includes articles on Conservative and Christian political issues.
Faith based Adoption Agencies
In 2007, Gerald Howarth signed Early Day Motion 742 calling on the government to exclude "faith based" adoption agencies from the Equality Act to avoid such agencies being forced to consider gay couples.
On 6th May 2008, Gerald Howarth voted (as a teller) against a Lords amendment to abolish the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. The amendment was nonetheless passed by a vote of 378 to 57.
In the debate on blasphemy, when a report was presented describing how not changing the blasphemy laws would potentially leave them in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights (as implemented in the Human Rights Act), he responded by saying that he was "a simple sort of chap, and a member of the Church of England" and that such problems with the existing law are of no interest to him: "I am afraid that I am not interested in the Joint Committee on Human Rights or the European Court of Human Rights; I am interested in my views and beliefs, which are profoundly held and shared by a lot of people in this country"