Rees-Mogg criticised after ‘harmful’ comment comparing morning after pill to method of abortion

Jacob Rees-Mogg has compared the morning after pill to a method of abortion, as he answered calls for a debate on proper funding for contraception advice for women.

Mr Rees-Mogg described the emergency contraceptive as an “abortifacient”, a term describing drugs which induce abortion.

But his remarks were criticised as a “harmful clinical falsehood”, with an MP calling for Mr Rees-Mogg to correct the record.

The Commons Leader (pictured) was asked for a debate on “proper funding and accessibility for women’s contraception and health services”, after Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson highlighted the “sexist surcharge” of high prices some pharmacies charge for the morning after pill.

Hull North MP Dame Diana said: “I am sure that the Leader of the House will be delighted to know, following a campaign from the women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, the journalist Rose Stokes and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Boots have announced they are slashing the price of their morning after pill from £15.99 to £10.99, removing the sexist surcharge which is attached to this medication.

“It is interesting to know that Superdrug are still charging £13.49 whereas on the Chemist4U website you can get a generic emergency contraceptive at £3.99.”

Dame Diana added: “The reason I am raising this is because of cuts to public health budgets and the fragmentation of the NHS, it has meant it is more difficult for women to access contraception advice.

“I wonder if we could have a debate about the report that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health produced with clear recommendations about proper funding and accessibility for women’s contraception and health services?”

The Commons Leader replied: “The right honourable lady cannot expect me to speak in favour of abortifacients.”

Dame Diana later called for Mr Rees-Mogg to come back to the Commons and correct the record on his claims.

She told MPs: “The World Health Organisation say that emergency contraception pills prevent pregnancy by prevention or delaying of ovulation and they do no induce an abortion.

“Emergency contraception cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo.

“How can I ensure that the Leader of the House corrects the record, as what he said I think is a harmful clinical falsehood and I am sure does not represent the Government’s policy?”

Deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing said: “It is open to her to simply ask the minister to correct the record.

“It does appear to me that if there is a factual inaccuracy in the matter to which she has just referred, it is rather an important matter and one in which I would judge that anything that is said in this chamber ought to be 100% correct, because it is not a matter on which we should allow people who will be affected by it to be misled, and that the facts ought to be straight.”

Mr Rees-Mogg is a practising Catholic and has previously expressed a strong anti-abortion viewpoint.

In 2017, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that he was “completely opposed” to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.

The morning after pill is considered to be a contraceptive medicine because it prevents conception, rather than a method of aborting a pregnancy.

Superdrug’s Online Doctor website defines the difference as follows: “The morning after pill is emergency contraception that stops the egg inside your body from being fertilised. When taken correctly, the morning after pill prevents a pregnancy from taking place.

“An abortion is a termination of an egg that’s already been fertilised.”

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