Creator of abortion law wants ‘abortion on request’

An architect of Britain’s abortion law, Lord Steel, wants to scrap the need for two doctors to give permission for early abortions.

Under the existing law, introduced by Lord Steel when he was an MP in the 60s, two doctors must agree to a termination. Abortions are allowed for ‘social reasons’ up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

In 1966, when Parliament was debating the Bill, David Steel said: “[It is] not the intention of the promoters of the Bill to leave a wide open door for abortion on request.”

But speaking yesterday Lord Steel contradicted himself by saying he wants to create a regime of “abortion on request”. He wants to remove the ‘two doctors’ rule for abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Last October Lord Steel admitted that abortion is being used as a form of contraception in Britain. He said he never anticipated “anything like” the current number of terminations when leading the campaign to legalise abortion.

About 200,000 abortions are carried out each year in Britain and almost 7 million since the Abortion Act was passed in 1967.

Changes to the abortion law are expected to be attempted in May as the Government’s embryology Bill makes its way through the House of Commons.

MPs on both sides of the abortion debate say they will table amendments. Pro-life MPs are likely to attempt to reduce the 24-week limit and push for better advice to be given to women considering an abortion.

Recent evidence from a leading international expert in foetal pain shows that babies may feel pain in the womb at a much earlier stage than was previously thought.

Other research has demonstrated that survival rates for babies born earlier than 24 weeks are improving significantly in specialist units.

In March the Royal College of Psychiatrists changed its policy on abortion. They said that having an abortion can damage a woman’s mental health and women should be told the risks before proceeding.

However, pro-abortion MPs are likely to resist moves to lower the abortion limit and give women better, more independent advice on the risks of abortion. They are also likely to attempt to make early abortions even easier.

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