Abortion debate rages in Britain on 40th anniversary of law

April 28, 2008

23-week-old foetus in ultrasound scan, 23 April 2008/Create Health Clinic handoutBritain passed its law legalising abortion 40 years ago today. But the controversy has not died down. Parliament is again besieged by two camps of activists, one keen to stop what they say is murder and the other defending what they see as a women’s right. Judging it too difficult to have the law overturned, the anti-abortion camp aims to lower the 24-week limit for the termination of pregnancy to 20, 18 or even fewer weeks.

For more, read Kate Kelland’s feature here. We also have a factbox on abortion laws around the world and the story of a boy born at 22 weeks — probably the most premature baby to have survived in Britain — and now thriving.

The factbox shows a wide spectrum of legal positions, with differing rationales producing different conditions, especially on the time limits. Britain is clearly in a minority with its 24-week limit; many other countries set the bar at 12 weeks, with possible exceptions.

Do you think Britain should reduce its 24-week limit?


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At 24 weeks a baby is definitely viable. Technology makes the age of viability earlier and earlier. Fertilization can now take place in a test tube and the fertilized ovum is kept alive until it is implanted. Life is life. No woman is ever a little bit pregnant. It is an all or nothing deal. Allowing abortion up to any number of weeks is just trying to water down the truth about abortion. Dr. Suess, in his children’s book, HORTON HEARS A WHO, teaches us “a person is a person no matter how small.” If you doubt that try looking at a sonogram. I don’t support taking the life of a baby at 24 weeks or 12 weeks. I do support programs that help mothers through difficult pregnancies and difficult life situations.

Posted by Betsy | Report as abusive

Actually, even when it’s nothing to do with whether an abortion could/should be performed, a woman isn’t *always* pregnant in law when you think she is. For example, in English law, you could be undergoing IVF treatment, have had your egg fertilised but not yet had it implanted and therefore technically you would have ‘conceived’ but not yet be ‘pregnant’. So perhaps a woman can, depending on which standpoint you have, be ‘a little bit pregnant’. I’d be most interested to know if this is mirrored in any US state.

However, you’re not really as logical as that are you, Betsy? Anyone who quotes a character from Dr Suess tells the world “I take my views based on the words in children’s books”. Oh dear. That’s actually worse than holding all your views based on the Bible. No wonder you’re a pro-lifer! I hope you don’t take the contraceptive pill, otherwise, if you ever bother to look up how that works, you’ll be very upset…

Posted by Rupert | Report as abusive