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ss nucleus - winter 1997,  Thirty years of abortion

Thirty years of abortion

Four million abortions have been performed in Britain since the passing of the Abortion Act in 1967. There is now one abortion for every four live births. The typical woman having an abortion today is single, under 25 and in her first pregnancy. In 98.6% of cases the justification given is 'risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the mother or her existing children', amounting in the majority of cases to little more than failed contraception, social inconvenience or unwanted pregnancy. Only 1% are performed for fetal handicap and 0.013% 'to save the life of the mother'.

All these abortions are performed by doctors, in spite of the fact that the Hippocratic Oath forbids abortion and the Declaration of Geneva (until amended by the World Medical Association in 1983) requires that we 'maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception; even under threat'.

Abortion decisions can be extremely difficult, especially in situations of severe fetal handicap, rape and danger to the mother's life. Those who have the courage to choose life for their unborn children in such circumstances deserve our deepest respect and support. But the fact that caring for children, especially handicapped children, carries a cost, is never a justification for killing them before birth. The Christian ethic is that the strong lay down their lives for the weak.

Abortion has had a major effect on the fall in adoptions from 28,000 per year in 1968 to around 6,000 per year now. Ironically this along with the growing incidence of infertility from sexually transmitted disease has driven the demand for high-tech infertility treatments. Abortion also has significant physical and psycho-social effects on women[1] and is a strong reminder that we live in a society that has rejected God and his laws.

Nucleus has frequently highlighted the issue of abortion by challenging the justifications given for it,[2] looking at difficult clinical scenarios,[3] presenting compassionate Christian alternatives,[4] publishing personal testimonies[5] and dealing with the difficulties of practising medicine in an abortion-driven culture.[6,7]

The Christian Medical Fellowship's ethical affirmation includes maintaining 'the deepest respect for human life from its beginning to its end, including the unborn...' In a recent survey 88% of members believed that CMF should take action against the present abortion situation including professional debate, publicity, education, research, prayer and by supporting pregnancy crisis counselling and support centres.[8] Our own personal response will depend on our gifts and the position God has placed us in.

Taking a stand against abortion inevitably involves personal cost. Christian doctors may suffer anything from personal smears and denial of appointments for which they are well qualified through to being fined and censured by professional bodies for being unwilling to participate. Yet taking a stand is our responsibility as Christians. We must not remain silent.

  1. The Physical and Psycho-Social effects of abortion on women. A Report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Operation and Consequences of the Abortion Act. June 1994.
  2. Dionysius Dialogues. Nucleus. January 1993, pp18-26.
  3. Todd B. Prenatal Testing: An Ethical Problem. Nucleus. January 1994, pp20-23.
  4. Minnis S. GP's and Crisis Pregnancy Counselling Centres. Nucleus. January 1996. pp15-21.
  5. Palmer K. A Life Precious to God. Nucleus. April 1995, pp9-12.
  6. Dionysius Dialogues. Nucleus. April 1994. pp28-34.
  7. Saunders P. Abortion and Conscientious Objection. Nucleus, January 1996. pp9-14.
  8. Members' Attitudes to Abortion. CMF. July 1997.
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