Late Term Abortions in UK Up to 3000 a Year

 By Hilary White

LONDON, March 10, 2008 ( - Britain set a new record on late-term abortions last year, with 3000 children over 20 weeks gestational age being aborted, the Daily Telegraph reports. The official statistics show that the great majority of these abortions were for what is termed "lifestyle reasons," with less than a quarter conforming to the rules for eugenic abortion for "foetal abnormalities".

The number of abortions carried out at more than 20 weeks’ gestation rose from 2,041 to 2,948 between 1997 and 2006.

Under current British law, abortion is legally available for any or no reason up to 24 weeks gestation. Eugenic abortion can be legally carried out up to the point of natural birth with the confirmation of two doctors.

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries told the Daily Mail this weekend that she supports a reduction in the gestational age limit for legal abortion, currently set at 24 weeks without restriction. She said that as a young nurse, she had herself witnessed the "horror" of late term abortion, but, paradoxically, maintains that abortion should remain legal in general.

Dorries said that at 19 she helped a doctor carry out abortions on a 24-week-old and a 28-week-old foetus. "In one instance," she said, "a hormone was injected into the mother to put her into spontaneous abortion. It was meant to be a dead baby." But the child was born alive and was breathing when he was placed in a bed pan and Dorries was instructed to allow the child to die.

But Dorries concluded the story of her experience by endorsing legal abortion. "What got me was the total lack of regard for human life. I have no issue with abortion at the right time. But this is murder," she said.

Dorries has said she intends to introduce a bill in the House of Commons regarding gestational age limits, seeking "a middle way". She said in a letter to colleagues that the "pro-choice and pro-life groups had ghettoised the arguments into two intractable positions." She argued that to "understand the issues fully, one (had) to be a woman and one who had been pregnant"

Dorries’ suggestion was criticised by MPs who said that her bill would make little difference to the numbers of abortion since most abortions in Britain are committed before 12 to 14 weeks. Dorries also reassured pro-abortion MPs saying that under her bill, abortion for eugenic reasons or "foetal abnormalities" would continue to be allowed up to birth under ground E of Section 37 of the 1990 Act. Despite this, she maintained that her bill would stop 3000 abortions annually.

But pro-life advocates at Westminster say Dorries has no support among them for her bill. Jim Dobbin, head of the All-Party Pro-Life Group said that he could not support the bill in its present form.

Further, objectors warn that such a bill would play directly into the hands of the pro-abortion lobby, by making abortion under 20 weeks a "woman’s right" and removing the requirement for a doctor’s endorsement for abortion under 12, 14 or even 16 to 18 weeks.

Labour Party policy, which is carried into the government through a strong Labour majority, is that abortion is a "woman’s right" up to at least 14 weeks and that, at most, only one doctor should be required to be directly involved, and only to confirm the stage of pregnancy. An abortion bill attempting to limit the gestational age limit would be used by Labour as a means to bring in an amendment strengthening the legality of abortion up to as much as 18 weeks. Opponents to Dorries’ bill say it would allow the law to be amended to make abortion the legal right of every woman and leave no grounds for protest.

John Smeaton, the Director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, wrote that Dorries’ position is an example of MPs’ "muddled thinking" on abortion and that attempts to introduce gestational time limits would backfire.

Smeaton pointed out in a letter to the Catholic Herald this weekend that recent votes in Parliament show that the majority of MPs support the pro-abortion lobby.

"With the numbers stacked against us, it makes no sense at all to add to the calls of the pro-abortion lobby for Parliament to amend the abortion law."

In 1990 - the last time the House voted on the upper limit for abortion - amendments were included that created the exceptions that resulted in the legalization of abortion up to birth.

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