In 1967 — 50 years ago — the UK Abortion Act was passed by Parliament. It was passed in October 1967 and came into effect in April 1968. Since then, although some are pushing for even more liberal legislation, increasing numbers of ordinary people are calling for a radical reversal.
Since 1967, according to UK statistics, well over 8 million unborn lives have been lost. The vast majority — 98 per cent — have been ‘lifestyle’ abortions by women unready or unwilling to carry a child to term, rather than (as posited by those first clamouring for abortion law reform) by women who have experienced the trauma of rape, or by women whose own lives are at risk due to medical conditions like ectopic pregnancy.
In October 2017, Christian advocacy organisation CARE held a gathering at the Emmanuel Centre in central London. Delegates heard from Lord Alton of Liverpool and Fiona Bruce MP, among others. In a statement, CARE said: ‘We must speak out boldly, but with gentleness and grace. We must never forget that women do not make this choice without experiencing pain and regret. Both lives matter’.
The 1967 Abortion Act set strict limits on when abortions are allowed: up to 24 weeks, except in cases where it was necessary to save the life of the mother, or where there was extreme foetal abnormality, or a grave risk of physical or mental injury to the woman. Some campaigners have attempted to reduce the number of weeks to 12, in line with many European countries.
In August 2017, Evangelical Times reported that Baroness Nicholson, a former member of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, had secured a first reading of her Abortion (Foetus Protection) Bill. Her bill is aimed at preventing ‘abortion tourism’ from other jurisdictions in the EU.
Medical advances now enable premature babies, born several months (even 24 weeks) early, to survive and thrive, but the latest abortion statistics for England and Wales show 81 per cent of the 190,406 terminations performed during 2016 occurred at under ten weeks’ gestation or earlier. The numbers of abortions carried out in Great Britain equate to one in every five pregnancies.
But while some are trying to bring the abortion time limit down, others want it to be extended. In September 2017, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) held a general council meeting at which it decided to back the complete removal of all legal restrictions and sanctions regarding abortion. The president of the RCOG, Professor Lesley Regan, was quoted in newspapers as saying getting an abortion should be as easy as other medical procedures.
In response, Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, commented on his blog that doctors advocating abortion were failing to uphold their Hippocratic Oath.
He said: ‘Most doctors today, by their complicity in abortion, are in direct breach of [this oath], which is ironically the main reason the oath has fallen out of use. From being the greatest protectors of innocent human life just 70 years ago, it now seems doctors have become abortion’s greatest proponents and facilitators’.
The decision by the RCOG seems at odds with the consensus of the general public in Britain and beyond.
In October 2017, an Irish Times/Ipsos poll found the majority of Irish voters would reject any move to legalise abortion in all circumstances, up to 22 weeks. Some 57 per cent would only accept it in the case of rape, fatal foetal abnormalities or significant risk to the life of the mother.
Meanwhile, in Sheffield, a new pregnancy advice centre has scheduled a pro-life awareness and information evening. Rev. Dr Kevin Bidwell, board member of Pregnancy Advice Sheffield, said more than 100 churches in South Yorkshire had received leaflets about the event.
Yet, in a radio interview with Rony Robinson of BBC Radio Sheffield, Dr Bidwell was targeted for his views on abortion and same-sex marriage. Dr Bidwell responded: ‘In terms of abortion, the Bible gives an explanation of a theology for life. God is the author for life and the general principle is that we must not take that life away’.
It is for this reason — that human life is God’s precious gift to all of us — that evangelicals can no longer turn a blind eye to what has become a profound cause for national shame and repentance towards God.
The institutionalised human abuse called ‘abortion’ now takes place on the same industrial scale as another national scandal — the eighteenth-century slave trade. Britain was a glad participator in that one too, until shamed out of it through the dedicated campaigning of William Wilberforce and a host of ordinary Christians.