Call to consider abortion equal to birth control
LONDON: Abortion should be regarded as no more than another form of birth control, the head of one of Britain’s biggest abortion organisations says.
Termination of a pregnancy should not be seen as exceptional but merely as “birth control that women need when their regular method lets them down”, Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said.
The organisation, which carries out 60 000 abortions a year, called for an end to restrictions after carrying out research that showed half of all the women who went to its clinics were using contraception when they became pregnant. Nearly one in four were on the pill or similar hormonal contraception, or were using supposedly highly effective long-acting reversible methods such as implants, injections or IUDs, the pregnancy advisory service said in a report.
Pushing for abortion to be considered another form of contraception would call into question the law governing the termination of pregnancy for the past 50 years in the UK.
The 1967 Abortion Act says abortion is a crime unless approved by two doctors and in cases where there is a risk to the health of the woman or her children. Since 1990, there has been a time limit of 24 weeks’ gestation, after which a termination can only be carried out if there is a grave threat to life or of severe foetal abnormality.
Last year, there were 185 596 abortions among women who lived in England and Wales under the terms of the law.
The new initiative for abortion on demand follows the vote by doctors at the British Medical Association conference last month to decriminalise abortion. That would make abortion freely available and could lead to the abolition of the 24-week limit and an increase in late stage abortion.
Furedi said legalised abortion was necessary in order to allow women to control their fertility. “When you encourage women to use contraception, you give them the sense they can control their fertility, but if you do not provide safe abortion services when that contraception fails, you are doing them a great disservice,” she said. “Our data show women cannot control their fertility through contraception alone, even when they are using some of the most effective methods.”
She said: “Family planning is contraception and abortion. Abortion is birth control women need when their regular method lets them down.”
The report pressed for an extension of the 24-week limit. It said women who used contraception were less likely to realise they were pregnant at an early stage. But calls for an end to the 24-week rule come as medical evidence has shown babies born even earlier in pregnancy are surviving without disability.
The new pressure for abortion to be available as freely as condoms provoked alarm among pro-life MPs and campaigners. Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, said: “I strongly disagree that abortion should be used as a form of birth control. When a foetus is viable after 20 weeks, it cannot be right that they can be aborted so easily.”
Anti-abortion campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool accused the British Pregnancy Advisory Service of trying to “capitalise on recent weakness of the government surrounding abortion”.
Prime Minister Theresa May headed off a backbench Tory rebellion last month by ordering the National Health Service in England should provide free abortions for women living in Northern Ireland where abortion remains effectively illegal.
Lord Alton said “demanding the ability to kill viable babies later in pregnancy is unconscionable and redolent of a violent ideology that no civilised society should entertain”. Mark Bhagwandin, of anti-abortion counselling charity Life, said: “Finally, an admission by the abortion industry that it sees abortion as birth control. It is an abhorrent and morally repugnant idea.” – Daily Mail
‘Women cannot control fertility only through contraception’
CHOICE MATTERS: A British Pregnancy Advisory Service report states that abortion is birth control women need when regular methods fail.