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News – Abortion Act 40th anniversary

December 2007

Abortion Act 40th anniversary 


October saw the 40th anniversary of Parliament passing the Abortion Act which legalised abortion. Many now believe that the bill is being used for purposes never envisaged when it was introduced on 27 April 1968.

When Parliament was debating the bill in 1966, David Steel (now Lord Steel but then an MP and an architect of the abortion law) said, ‘[It is] not the intention of the promoters of the Bill to leave a wide open door for abortion on request’. Yet since the Act became law, 6.7 million abortions have been carried out in Great Britain – 98% of which were for ‘social’ reasons.

Quoted by the Christian Institute, Lord Steel told The Guardian that abortion is being used as a form of contraception in Britain and admits he never anticipated ‘anything like’ the current number of terminations when leading the campaign to legalise abortion.

In England, Scotland and Wales, abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. The consent of two doctors is required. Abortion up to birth is lawful when the mother’s life is at risk, or where the unborn child has a serious handicap (however, ‘serious handicap’ has been taken to include common abnormalities such as a cleft palate). Abortion is unlawful in Northern Ireland, except when the mother’s life is at risk.

In England and Wales 0.4% of abortions were because of risk to the mother’s life; 1.3% were because of foetal handicap; and over 98% were for social reasons. One in five pregnancies in England and Wales ends in abortion.
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