U.K.'s Abortion Law Architect Says Procedure Used as Birth Control
LONDON – The architect of the law governing abortions in Britain said the procedure was too common and that he never expected the number of terminations to rise to their current levels, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
Lord David Steel, who introduced the 1967 Abortion Act, which provided a legal defense to doctors performing the procedure, told The Guardian newspaper some women were using abortions as a form of birth control.
"Everybody can agree that there are too many abortions," The Guardian quoted him as saying.
"I accept that there is a mood now which is that if things go wrong you can get an abortion, and it is irresponsible, really. I think people should be a bit more responsible in their activities, and in particular in the use of contraception."
The number of legal abortions in England and Wales has been on the rise since the 1970s and the number of terminations topped 200,000 for the first time last year, according to government statistics.
Steel told the paper he had no regrets about the law, adding that he did not support efforts to restrict access to abortions. But he called for better sex education and a new debate over Britain's sexual mores to help bring the number of abortions down.
Steel's comments come as Britain weighs the consequences of 40 years of legal access to abortion. Under current rules, women can obtain abortions before their 24th week of pregnancy if they obtain the approval of two doctors, or only one in the case of emergencies. After 24 weeks, abortions are only allowed if there is a grave risk to the mother's health or evidence of severe fetal abnormality.
The British public is broadly supportive of abortion rights, and anti-abortion groups have tended to keep their ambitions modest. In an open letter to the British public published Monday, the Roman Catholic cardinals in England, Wales and Scotland urged Britons to "work and vote for achievable incremental improvement to what is an unjust law."
Abortion rights organizations, meanwhile, have argued for wider access to the procedure. The Voice for Choice consortium, which represents some 13 advocacy groups, on Wednesday announced a push to scrap the requirement for two doctors' authorization and allow nurses to perform abortions in early stages of pregnancy.