Mal Fletcher comments

Mal Fletcher
Mal Fletcher

Having recently celebrated the life and work of William Wilberforce, some religious leaders have called abortion-on-demand the 'new slavery'; the human rights issue that will define our generation's place in history.

It is forty years since abortion became legal in Britain.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has warned that abortion is increasingly being seen as the easy option for women, perhaps just another form of contraception. In the process, he says, British people risk losing sight of the sanctity of life.

This last statement is supported by the fact that some notable supporters of a lower legal age limit for abortion are also vocal campaigners for voluntary euthanasia.

In 1967, when the act legalising abortion was passed, says Dr. Williams, 'what people might now call their "default position" was still that abortion was a profoundly undesirable thing and that a universal presumption of care for the foetus from the moment of conception was the norm.'

'There has been an obvious weakening of the feeling that abortion is a last resort in cases of extreme danger or distress. Nearly 200,000 abortions a year in England and Wales tell their own story. We are not now dealing with a relatively small number of extreme cases.'

Recently, several British newspapers carried stories of babies who were aborted for nothing more than having club feet or cleft lips or palates - minor disabilities which can be corrected with surgery after birth.

In an age where people love to jump on the high horse of this human rights issue or that, surely we should defend the rights of the most fragile among us, the truly voiceless in our midst.

We talk about human rights, but where is the right in this: we kill unborn babies while we fight to save forest trees?

Abortion has not been debated in the British Parliament since 1990, yet politicians have spent almost 800 hours debating the killing of foxes.

Even now, any new debate has only started because some people want to lower the age limit; the debate is not about abandoning abortion-on-demand.

In conducting a recent TV interview, author and broadcaster Clive James made the observation that the liberals of the 60s - himself among them - called for the liberalisation of everything. Now that they've achieved it, he said, they find it has also brought a liberalisation of violence.

Western societies are, for the most part, more violent than they were four decades ago. In the end, abortion as we now know it is about violence; it is the ultimate form of bullying.

Illegal and dangerous abortions have been carried out for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. And the terminating of a pregnancy when the mother's life is in danger is nothing new. But abortion-on-demand - where there are no other issues than a woman's choice involved - is a relatively recent development, having found wide favour only from the late 60s and early 70s.