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United Kingdom Debates Stricter Abortion Time Limits

March 22, 2013 07:12pm  
United Kingdom Debates Stricter Abortion Time Limits


Women's Minister Maria Miller created a controversy by talking about changing the UK's laws on abortion.  However, Health Minister Anna Soubry says that Miller's comments will not have any effect on the current laws as they stand.

According to Miller, society's views on abortion have been steadily shifting over the last decade, as more research has been conducted into fetal pain and more dollars have been spent by anti-choice groups.  Because of this changing consensus, Miller says that she believes it is time to consider moving up the gestational limits for abortions to 20 weeks from 24 weeks.

Even if the United Kingdom changed the limits, there would still be a number of exceptions outlined in the law for women whose health was compromised by pregnancy.  However, abortions would no longer be available on demand for women after week 20 unless they were able to demonstrate that there was some sufficient reason to terminate the pregnancy.

The timing of the abortion debate flaring back up in the UK comes as a high profile tragedy in Ireland has provoked massive protests in Belfast, Dublin, and Galway.  A woman from India who died while vacationing in Ireland could have had her life saved if doctors had been allowed to terminate her pregnancy.

Although the woman in that case had a pregnancy that was only 17 weeks along and the UK has extensive exceptions for the health or life of the mother in later-term abortions, the story has given pro-choice proponents a rallying cry.

The UK's anti-choice forces found their rallying cry earlier in the year, when an investigation by right leaning tabloid The Daily Telegraph showed that doctors were allowing women to have abortions because the baby they were having was not going to be the sex they preferred.

Anti-abortion activists in the UK have claimed that the government needs to revisit its abortion standards because at 24 weeks, some neonates today can be viable, and the improvement in viability requires looking at alternatives.  Miller said that it was “common sense” to re-evaluate abortion procedures in light of convincing new scientific evidence for premature infant survival and new viability limits.

According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, that is not the case: “scientific evidence does not show that survival rates before 24 weeks have improved in recent years.”  While some premature infants are able to survive being born so early, these “super-preemies,” as they are called, have a much higher infant mortality rate than those born even a few weeks later, and are likely to be more medically fragile and have more disabilities throughout their lives.

While the debate has become heated in recent weeks, there are no laws being proposed yet on whether the abortion limit should be moved back.  Conservatives may be trying to gauge public perception of this issue before deciding whether to commit to going forward with enacting legislation.


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