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The 1967 Abortion Act 50 Years on. Is it time for change?

There has been debate in the press about the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists supporting the decriminalising of abortion. They are advocating abortion on demand no matter what the circumstances so long as it is before the 24th week of the pregnancy. Here I am continuing the debate, purely on ethical grounds.

These are the grounds for abortion under the 1967 Abortion Act:

Two Doctors must agree that one or more of the following conditions exist for an abortion to be granted:

a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or

b) that the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or

c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated; or

d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped."

There is no time limit on the term of the pregnancies to which grounds (b) – (d) may apply.

The law has been in place for 50 years. Over that time, we have seen it become much easier for women to get an abortion free on the national health. Talking to young people it seems that you can get an abortion very easily these days. It is not difficult to convince a doctor that the continuation of the pregnancy will cause mental distress.

These are some of the questions we need to answer before we change the law to allow abortion on demand

  • What about the views of the father?

  • Who is protecting the life of the unborn?

  • Will you be able to terminate a pregnancy if the baby will not be the gender you want?

  • Are we on the slippery slope to where we will choose to continue pregnancies only when they will provide us with babies who have certain characteristics?

  • When does life begin? Has this changed since 1967?

  • One of the key functions of the law is to protect human life. Is abortion on demand a contradiction with this?

  • Whilst the NHS is struggling financially changing the law would undoubtedly mean more abortions and less money to spend on treating and saving the lives of babies born early or needing life-saving treatment. Is this an acceptable situation?

  • Will there be contradiction and conflict in the maternity ward where doctors are saving a baby at one end of the ward while a termination is taking place at the other?

What are the reasons why some people want the law changed?

  • Is it feminist rights?

  • Is it because in the 21st century, society accepts that life begins at birth?

  • Have scientists discovered something new about the unborn baby that leads us to the conclusion that the termination of a pregnancy is not as serious a decision as it was in 1967?

  • Is it because in the 21st century, life is no longer sacred?

I am not saying we shouldn’t change the law. Where the law may need changing is in section a) where abortion cannot take place after 24 weeks. With modern technology and science, we can save babies who are born prematurely at 24 weeks and it may be that we need to reduce the number of weeks when an abortion can take place and lower that number.

I am posing the questions. What do you think?

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