For the one in fifty-five

I am the one in ten a number on a list,
I am the one in ten even though I don't exist
Nobody knows me but I'm always there
Statistical reminder of a world that doesn't care.
~ UB40 - One in Ten

40,000 - Reported death-toll for the Chinese earthquake (source BBC News)
78,000 - Official death-toll for the Burma Cyclone (source Boston Globe)
193,700 - Number of abortions in the UK in 2006 - 1 in every 55 pregnancies. (Source Department of Health)

Here in the UK, the emotive subject of abortion has been back in the news as MPs voted not to lower the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 22 weeks.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert on the subject of abortion. I do believe in the sanctity and intrinsic value of every human life that is beyond price. I do believe and understand that in some exceptional and tragic circumstances a termination of pregnancy can be necessary. Most of all, I would say, I understand statistics... and as I have looked at the figures, I have to say, I think the battle that was lost in the Commons was the wrong battle in the first place...

The number of abortions in the UK that occur at over 20 weeks is around 1.5% and it is likely that most of these late abortions will be for medical reasons that are not bound by the time limit anyway. So even if the time limit had been dropped from 24 to 22 weeks it would have barely made a dent in the UK's shamefully high abortion rates. Now, I'm not saying these lives are not worth fighting for, every life is worth fighting for, it's just I think the most obvious problem lies elsewhere.

Of the seven legal grounds for an abortion in the UK, the one that covers serious illness or handicap in the unborn child only accounts for 1%. This means 99% of all abortions in the UK are of healthy children! The ground that is the most common is ground C - "The continuance of the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman". When you unpack what this means in practice, it is considered that the mental stress caused by carrying an unwanted child falls into this category! So these are basically (with doubtless a few exceptions) the numbers of pregnancies aborted simply because the child is unwanted - these account for 97%! Of these the highest section, by far, is among teenage girls, with the peak at age 19.

I would seem to me, that if we want to make a real difference for the voiceless one in fifty-five, the real issues are a tightening up of the wording of ground C to bring it back in line with its original intention and prevent it being used merely for unwanted pregnancies, and a tackling of the thorny issue of teenage pregnancy.


SLW said...

Interesting. Here in America, a woman can have an abortion throughout her pregnancy for whatever reason she chooses. Any legal necessity for a reason would be an improvement. The slam dunk legal question, imho, is when does human life begin? It never gets on the docket, however, because the sheer weight of logic would inpinge upon the convenience of the unbelieving masses who find it convenient to kill unwanted children. God help us!

Anonymous said...

I want to be really gentle here, if I can, because there is another form of abortion that we can't do much about, that would happen even if they were illegal. But I am actually talking about those times that the mothers uterus automatically aborts their child. If life begins at conception, then how do we justify what happens to these children? The fate of the stillborn and those who die as children is not directly dealt with (as far as I know), by the bible, but I wonder if even considering it softens our "hard-line" attitude? Is it merely their misfortune to be born in a sinful world? Can the mother be blamed? I hope they never would be, but I find it hard to make the distinction between the two. I think I will find it difficult to condemn abortion until I am willing to adopt their children, or support those who do. Because then I could say "You do not need to do this" with confidence.

Chris HH said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment. I'd agree with you in as much as this is definitely a topic that needs much sensitivity, gentleness and an ability to engage in an informed and measured way.

However, I think there is a very big difference between "abortions" that happen due to a miscarriage, and those that are induced or surgically performed by the hands of men. The fact that people die every day through various circumstances outside of our control in no way could ever be used as a justification for homicide. Neither could the absence of sufficient care homes ever be used as a basis for euthanasia.

The question we must answer is the one you allude to: when does human life begin. The most obvious answer is that it begins when it begins - life begins with life, not when that life could survive for itself outside of the womb.

This is another reason why, IMO, the 24 to 22 week argument was flawed from the outset.