“CAN THE ABORTION ACT BE REFORMED”
Report from the MEA meeting in Birmingham, May 3rd
Mrs Domenica Roberts supported the proposition that the time was right for a new attempt to change the Abortion Act 1967. Towards this end a new organisation was launched last year known as “Alive and Kicking” Its aim was to halve the current number of abortions carried out. f
She felt the time was right because the public were now more aware of the possibilities for neonatal care which together with the new 3 D ultra sound imaging which had been in the media, were now much more aware of the humanity of the unborn.
The disability rights groups, though they did not have one position on abortion as such, were united in their opposition to abortion on the grounds of disability alone. The recent publicity surrounding Joanna Jepson`s objection to abortion for cleft palate had resonated with the public. She felt that under current practices, only the letter of the current law was being observed and that the official medical reasons given for most abortions were fallacious.
She also referred to the publicity surrounding a recent talk given in Parliament by a woman who survived an attept to abort her in the womb. There was a growing awareness of the damage suffered by women who had had an abortion. Recent research had proved that the complications were not only psychological but physical with an increased risk of premature birth with future pregnancies, and breast cancer.
She concluded by saying that a survey had shown a majority of MP s in favour of lowering the gestational age limit for most abortions and more regular parliamentary reviews of the law.
Dr Greg Gardner in reply expressed the objection that any law which still permitted abortion at any gestational age was unjust and contrary to morality. He feared that given the present Parliament, to reopen the abortion law with new primary legislation could lead to a legal right to abortion on demand.
The current membership of Parliament was particularly pro abortion, and even given the distinction between civil and moral law, it would be unwise to reopen the whole debate. On the other hand, secondary legislation which directly addressed certain defects in current practise could be acceptable. One example of this would be a requirement to give truthful and accurate counselling which enabled women to make properly informed decisions. It was accepted by both speakers that what passed for counselling now was woefully inadequate
Religiously he felt that that there was a duty on believers to be prophetic and uncompromising on eternal values and that abortion was fundamentally unjust, involving the killing of human beings at their most vulnerable.
There was a good discussion in which it was said that in order to achieve Alive and Kicking`s objective of halving the number of abortions, the gestational limit would have to be well below 12 weeks. Doubts were expressed that MP s voting intentions on this. There was much support for a more gradual approach of seeking to change public opinion and proceeding by secondary legislation.
It was a well attend meeting with many doctors, clergy, students, nurses and members of University staff present.