In the News 2008
The Tablet

Abortion rate hits record high


CATHOLIC PRO-LIFE campaigners say the Government is to blame for a rise to a record high in the abortion rate.

According to new government figures, the number of women having abortions last year rose to 198,500 in 2007, an increase of 2.2 per cent on the previous year. But more alarmingly there was a 10 per cent rise among under-16s and a 21 per cent rise among under-14s. This is despite the overall conception rate among under-18s being at its lowest level for 20 years.

Michaela Aston from the charity Life said women were being encouraged by the Government to treat abortion as a “lifestyle choice” with no consequences.

“The reality is that every abortion takes the life of a baby, which is the reason why so many women experience pain and regret. By continuing to make abortion quick and easy, the Government has closed its eyes and ears to the reality of abortion and the real needs of vulnerable women,” she said.

The number of abortions among teenagers was the result of “condom-rich and value-free sex education”, she said. One in three secondary schools now offer on-site sexual health services, including condoms and free pregnancy test kits, according to the results of a survey by the Sex Education Forum.

This week, Ann Furedi, chief executive of the abortion provider BPAS, said anti-abortion campaigns led by the Church may have contributed to the increase in abortions by raising awareness of the services available.

“The intention may have been to dissuade women from abortions, but in fact, because these types of attack attracted so much publicity, it fixes the idea in women’s minds that abortion is an option, and oddly enough, that may well reduce the stigma about it,” she said.

The Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien was criticized last year after he compared the abortion rate in Scotland to “two Dunblane massacres a day”.

During the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill last month, MPs rejected a series of amendments aimed at reducing the abortion time limit to between 12 and 22 weeks. Further amendments likely to be debated next month would allow an abortion to be approved by one doctor, instead of two, and permit a nurse to carry out the surgical procedure.

Jon O’Brien, president of the American group, Catholics for a Free Choice, warned against the politicisation of abortion as had happened in the United States.

“Catholic politicians are legislating in light of the reality of people’s lives, it’s only the Catholic hierarchy that takes a narrow view. We have to ensure politicians know that when Catholic bishops speak on this issue they don’t speak for all Catholics,” he said.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at a London conference on the future of abortion this week, Mr O’Brien called for a more pastoral approach and argued that many Catholics no longer believed forcing a woman to give birth was the right thing to do.

This article originally appeared in the 28 June 2008 edition of The Tablet.

Catholics for Choice