Anti-abortionists bombard MP with hate mail and death threats

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An MP who called for Parliament to debate abortion limits has been bombarded with hate mail and death threats, forcing him to take stringent new security precautions.

Dr Evan Harris has been told by senior police officers to take measures to protect his staff after receiving piles of abusive messages from anti-abortion activists. The former hospital doctor was sent the abuse after calling for a "review" of abortion limits.

In a House of Commons debate, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon called for the latest scientific evidence on the viability of premature babies, to be debated by MPs. He also said there was a case for very early abortions to be made more easily available.

The MP, who comes from a Jewish family, was sent dozens of abusive messages, including some comparing him to "Dr Mengele" and accusing him of being "a murderer". Others said "Satan is awaiting your demise" and "You must be afraid of dying".

Anti-abortion groups singled out Dr Harris after he called for a parliamentary inquiry into the 24-week limit. He said MPs should discuss the issue in the wake of developments in science on when children can survive outside the womb.

Anti-abortion groups including the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) reacted angrily to the MP's intervention. The UK Lifeleague, another anti-abortion campaign group, also criticised the MP in a briefing paper.

However, both SPUC and the UK Lifeleague unreservedly condemned the abusive messages and said they would not have been sent by their supporters.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: "What all of us want to see is a rational debate. This is an issue that people get inflamed about, but in our experience it doesn't go further than that. In Britain it has not yet become like America."