The head of a leading abortion provider has admitted that the embryo is a human life but says its value is “relative” to the wishes of its mother.
Ann Furedi, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), made her comments during a debate in Oxford last month.
The question, Mrs Furedi argued, was “not, when does human life begin? but, when does it really begin to matter?”.
This, she said, could only be weighed up “as being relative to the woman who is carrying it”.
She admitted that “the embryo is a living thing”, and that it “is clearly human in the sense that it’s not a gerbil”, but stopped short of according it the same status as “a born person”.
She said: “Obviously we couldn’t allow abortion if we accepted that fetal life had the same degree of value as born human life, and I don’t believe that it does.”
She said that modern society required women to be able to plan when they have children, and said: “Abortion stands as a back-up to birth control, and this is very important for us.”
She added: “Unwanted pregnancy can happen and it does happen, and when it does somebody has to be in a position where they make a decision about what the future of that pregnancy is going to be.”
However, pro-life campaigners say that pregnancies do not just “happen”, and that women and men exercise a choice when they consent to sex.
Mrs Furedi’s comments will fuel concerns that abortion is being treated like an alternative form of contraception as society increasingly separates casual sex from its consequences.
Last week this attitude was highlighted in relation to BPAS’s own campaign to encourage women to keep morning-after pills next to their headache tablets in case they become pregnant over the Christmas period.
Commenting on the scheme, Mrs Furedi said: “It’s easy to get carried away, which is why we advise women to back up their birth control by keeping the morning-after pill at home.
“You don’t wait until you get a headache to buy your pain relief, why wait until you’ve risked pregnancy to get the morning-after pill?”
Mrs Furedi is married to Frank Furedi, the founder of the British Revolutionary Communist Party and currently Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent.
Her view that abortion should be treated as a “back-up to birth control” contrasts with the Government’s stated intention to lower abortion rates; despite this almost 90 per cent of all the abortions BPAS carries out each year are publicly-funded.
This year is set to show another increase in the number of abortions performed in England and Wales, with 105,000 recorded in the first six months.