British Lawmakers Don’t Favor Changing Abortion Law’s Limits

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Lawmakers Don’t Favor Changing Abortion Law’s Limits

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
July 12, 2004

London, England ( — According to a poll by a British newspaper, lawmakers do not want to change the country’s abortion law by prohibiting abortions without a serious medical reason after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

According to The Independent, of 150 members of Parliament surveyed, 62 percent responded that the current 24-week limit was "about right," 37 percent said it should be shortened, and just three MPs, representing 2 percent, said the limit should be increased to allow for abortions later.

The majority of respondents also said that they would oppose any attempt to ban abortions after 24 weeks in order to prevent the birth of a disabled baby.

British law only allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy to be performed only to preserve the health of the mother or to prevent a child being born with a serious handicap.

Last week, Lord Steel of Aikwood, one of the original drafters of Britain’s abortion law, suggested that the legal limit for abortions for non-medical reasons be reduced to 12 weeks, as medical advances have made in-utero diagnosis of disabilities more accurate earlier in the pregnancy.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has voiced his support for a review of the abortion law.

"I have not had an opportunity myself to study in detail the evidence that has been provided," Blair said of reports that unborn children have been seen "walking" in the womb as early as 12 weeks into a pregnancy thanks to new ultrasound technology.

"But I am sure that if the situation does change then it would be advisable for us to have another look at the whole question," Blair said. "If the scientific evidence has shifted then it is obviously sensible for us to take that into account."

While encouraged by Blair’s support, pro-life groups are concerned about only changing the period of time when an abortion can be performed on demand.

"Lord Steel is trying to lead parliamentarians into the trap of repeating the mistake of 1990, when a bill to restrict the time-limit for abortions backfired and led to the legalization of abortion up to birth for handicap," said Anthony Ozimic, political secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). "Parliamentarians owe it to the smallest and vulnerable human beings not to back half-baked proposals which will lead to even more killing by abortion."

"It is essential that legislative proposals aimed at changing the abortion law are not put to parliament in this the most anti-life parliament in history because we are certain that a majority of MPs would vote to make abortion even more widely available," added Ozimic, who called Lord Steel’s proposal a "Trojan horse."

LIFE, the UK’s largest pro-life organization, sharply criticized Lord Steel for his proposal.

"Of course we welcome any measure which reduces the amount of destruction of unborn children. But David Steel is not repenting of the slaughter which his bill unleashed," said LIFE in a statement. "He is simply saying that, since fatal abnormalities can now be detected earlier than hitherto, his eugenic purpose no longer requires a law which allows disabled children to be killed up to birth."

Lord Steel presented the abortion bill in 1966, which became law in 1967, legalizing abortion until the 28th week. In 1990, the law was revised again to allow abortions until the 24th week, unless the abortion was to prevent a child being born with severe disabilities.