The abortion debate has got stuck in the 1960s with rival Pro-Choice and Pro-Life lobbies saying nothing new. Can the two sides agree on a different strategy to reduce the 200,000 abortions carried every year in Great Britain without changing the abortion laws?
VIDEO SCRIPT: Abortion is an emotive subject and politically contentious in countries like the USA and Ireland. So, is it time for us to re-examine the issue of unwanted pregnancies?
I’m Leon Hawthorne. We’re talking about abortion, the termination of unborn babies as a form of legal birth control.
Last year, 200,000 abortions were carried out in Great Britain. That’s about one in four of all pregnancies.
Behind each of those numbers is a sad story for the woman concerned and, obviously, for the life of the unborn child.
Let me state from the start. I believe abortion should remain legal. We don’t want a return to backstreet abortions that can maim or kill the mother.
Nor do we want to export the issue to other countries where abortion is legal. That’s the hypocritical policy in Ireland, where pregnant girls simply buy a Ryanair return ticket for £30 and have their abortions in London.
But just because something is legal doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.
200,000 abortions a year is both a tragedy and a national crisis.
The goal on which the Pro Life and Pro Choice lobbies surely can agree is we should try to bring down the number of unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing the number of abortions.
The whole abortion debate, especially in America, has got stuck on arguments about women’s rights that belong in the 1960s. Abortion is not a women’s rights issue. It is a human rights issue; and both genders have a right to express an opinion.
When abortion became legal in Britain in 1967, there was virtually no other way for women to control their reproduction. The contraceptive pill, though invented, was not widely available at the time. So, you could argue, back then, abortion rights were a necessity, of sorts.
But the pill and the morning after pill have made those arguments redundant. There is absolutely no reason why any British woman, engaging in consensual sex, should get pregnant if she doesn’t want to.
The pill is available free of charge on the NHS, even to under-aged schoolgirls, without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
The morning after pill is effective up to five days after intercourse. But it does cost around £25 from a high street pharmacy. That makes it unaffordable for many young women. I believe the morning after pill should be available free of charge at all pharmacies, thus making it rapidly and easily available.
Emergency contraception, to give it its proper name, is not morally comparable to abortion. Firstly, the woman in most cases doesn’t KNOW she is pregnant, only that she had unprotected sex and there’s a chance she might be. And secondly an embryo that is 1-5 days old is not the same as a foetus that is up to 24 weeks old.
So, if the morning-after pill were free and more widely promoted, it could vastly reduce the number of abortions. I think every woman should have a packet of morning after pills in her bedside draw, just in case.
An average abortion costs around £700, whilst each morning-after pill costs the NHS just £5.50. So, the financial as well as emotional cost-savings would be significant.
So, who are the women having abortions?
The most common age to have an abortion in England and Wales is 21. Teenage abortions are dropping while the group showing the fastest increase is women aged in their 30s.
38% of women having abortions have had one before.
9 in 10 abortions (92%) are carried out in the first trimester, inside 13 weeks.
And 2% of abortions are carried out after the foetus has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition.
But the total of 200,000 abortions in Great Britain is rising. What’s needed is a sense of urgency to do something about these huge numbers, instead of complacency among politicians, presumably afraid of being attacked by women’s rights activists.
Again: I am not some religious nut; nor am I calling for policies that restrict or ban abortion. Also, I do not seek to castigate any women who have made that choice.
I am calling for policies that significantly reduce all these unwanted pregnancies because none of us should be happy living in a society that needlessly terminates so many potential lives.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.