Richard Ottaway proposed an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act) to reduce the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 22 weeks. Speaking in May 2008 in the Commons debate before the vote, he said:
- I appreciate the briefings that have been given by the BMA, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Nursing, which conclude that there is no evidence of a significant improvement in the survival of pre-term infants at below 24 weeks' gestation in the past 18 years. I have no grounds on which to dispute that, and I accept their evidence, but in my judgment that is not the point. The question is whether 24 weeks is the right threshold.
- In 1990, the House reduced the threshold from 28 weeks to 24 weeks. If the report of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is right and the situation is the same now as it was then, I am not sure that I would have supported 24 weeks then.
He further noted that:
- The evidence from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states that, at 23 weeks, the survival rate is about 7 or 8 per cent., with improved survival prospects thereafter. The evidence also states that there is no survival at 22 weeks, and that there has been no change in that regard. To me, that 7 or 8 per cent. is statistically significant. There is a choice between survival at 23 weeks and no survival at 22 weeks. It is my judgment that this is where the science comes in, and that viability lies somewhere between 22 and 23 weeks—hence my amendment proposing a limit of 22 weeks.
When Desmond Turner noted that in medical records 23 weeks means any time within the 23rd week, Richard Ottaway said that this point "bears no resemblance to anything that I was talking about".
Much of the evidence discussed had been examined in the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report of October 2007, which had found no good evidence of change since the limit was set in 1990, and hence no new reason for a reduction. However, it acknowledged that this was only one of many factors to be taken into account when legislating, and did not make any recommendations as to how MPs should vote.
In the vote, Richard Ottaway voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 22 weeks. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.
In February 2015 Richard Ottaway voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease. An October 2014 briefing report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (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. After clearing both Houses mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.
When asked by journalist Tom Whipple what evidence the MP had used in deciding to support the motion, Ottaway responded, "personal experience."
In March 2010, following the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report "Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy", Richard Ottaway signed Early Day Motion 908: Science and Technology Committee Report on Homeopathy, which was critical of the report.
- http://www.richardottaway.com/ - MP website
- http://www.richardottaway.co.uk/ - campaign website