Roe v. Wade and the abortion debate in the UK and Republic of Ireland


By Simon Calvert, Deputy Director (Public Affairs)

The leak of the US Supreme Court’s draft ruling on Roe v. Wade has sparked a furious reaction among pro-abortion campaigners.[1]

The 1973 decision enshrined abortion as a ‘constitutional right’ in the US and drastically limited the ability of individual states to restrict abortion. But the draft ruling would reverse this, allowing individual states to once again introduce their own abortion laws as they see fit.

The reaction from pro-abortion activists in Britain is particularly revealing because it shows that the abortion debate in the UK is in the wrong place.

Listen to what columnist, Melanie McDonagh, wrote in the Spectator:

“the inability to raise the fundamental question of whether abortion is homicide because it involves the destruction of a human being – without even going on to ask whether, even if it is, it should be legal to avoid worse outcomes – is dishonest”.[2]


Unlike in the US where there is some discussion on the status and rights of the unborn child, abortion in the UK is talked about almost entirely in euphemisms that don’t acknowledge abortion as the death of a human being.[3]

For example, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this week that she is “a passionate believer in a woman’s right to choose”.[4] A right to choose what? This well-worn pro-abortion slogan is really just a way of changing the subject, dragging the debate away from the central issue. It’s a sleight of hand.

Abortion debate in the UK fails to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn.

The reality is, we all believe in choice – and we all believe in limits on choice, especially on choices that seriously harm other people. The slogan also begs the question: what about the unborn child’s choices? Aborting it means he or she will never get to make any choices about anything.

As Christians our obligation is to uphold truth, justice, and compassion – for the unborn, and for the women that seek abortions. The key question that we must bring to the debate is this: when does human life begin?

From conception

In previous centuries people believed the human soul came into an unborn child at a stage some time after conception called ‘quickening’. But this idea has long since been rejected. Scientists have never identified any point in the gestation period during which an embryo turns from non-human to human.

The Bible is clear that human life begins at conception. In Psalm 51 David refers to himself coming into existence at the point of his conception.

The clearest example is the incarnation. Christ was present in Mary’s womb from the moment the Spirit of God visited her. The baby didn’t become the God-man at a later stage. He was human from being a single cell. Had the embryo of Christ detached from the lining of Mary’s womb, Christ would have died. And Christ was made like his brothers in every way, as Hebrews says. So we too were human from the moment of our conception.

Yet instead of focusing on the central question of when does human life begin, discussion around abortion in the UK is largely focused on the convenience, speed and ease with which it can be done, with no acknowledgement of the humanity of the unborn.

We should pray for wisdom for all those who believe in the sanctity of human life, – Christians and non-Christians – that we would know how to help our fellow citizens to think again about abortion. Perhaps one day, our society will look back and wonder how we ever allowed the unborn to be treated with such contempt.

WATCH Choose Life stories

When does human life begin?

When does human life begin?

Christian thinking and contemporary opposition

John R Ling

When does human life begin? It is a fundamental and decisive question because your answer reveals your understanding of the nature and status of the human embryo. It also shapes your stance on the big bioethical issues of the day such as abortion, cloning and embryonic stem cell research. There are many voices sowing confusion, but the Bible is unmistakably clear that human life begins at conception. In this booklet, John Ling provides a wide-ranging explanation of biblical truth, the historical Christian perspective and evidence from modern science to support this position.

This was first broadcast on TWR’s In My Opinion 14 May 2022 and features here with permission.


[1] The Spectator, 4 May 2022, see as at 11 May 2022

[2] The Spectator, 3 May 2022, see as at 11 May 2022

[3] ‘Britain needs an honest debate on the nature of abortion’, The Christian Institute, 6 May 2022, see as at 11 May 2022

[4] BBC, 9 May 2022, see as at 11 May 2022