Britain's Parliament Tempted by Abortion Lobby's Trojan Horse

John Smeaton, national director of Britain's Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), warns of a trap.

In late June Lord (David) Steel, the pioneer of Britain's 1967 Abortion Act, called for a re-think of abortion law, ostensibly to ban abortions performed on social grounds after 12 weeks of pregnancy. His comments have been seized upon by the media, already exercised by the broadcast two weeks before of new 3-D ultrasound pictures of the unborn. This has started a push for a bill to amend the law.

However, the pro-life movement has been led into this trap before. Some NRLC supporters may recall that the revision of abortion law sparked by David Alton's Abortion (Amendment) Bill of 1988 backfired. Two years later the Government exploited the proposal to legalise abortion up to birth.

If one looks more closely at Lord Steel's comments, one can spot another such attempt by the pro-abortion lobby to dupe pro-lifers into welcoming a Trojan horse into Parliament.

"I am certainly increasingly drawn to the continental experience of making early abortions (up to three months) easier - - and later ones more difficult, including bringing down the upper limit to 22 weeks" (The Guardian, July 6). "If it's simply the decision of the mother then the limit should be 12 weeks" (BBC, July 4).

But Lord Steel is actually calling for a liberalization of abortion law. Under the media cover given to him through superficial reportage of his misleading comments, he is explicitly calling for a right to abortion on demand before 12 weeks.

Currently, there is no "right" to abortion under British law. Abortion is a criminal offence unless the conditions of the Abortion Act which permit exceptions are met. The "letter" of the Abortion Act only allows abortion for health reasons, albeit in general terms which are routinely flouted.

Steel himself admits that his comments on post-12-week abortions have misled people into believing that restrictions to the law are in the cards: "Incidentally, I was misreported in one Sunday paper as advocating a lower limit for 'social' abortions," he said. "There should be no such distinction - - proper medical care takes all social considerations into account. None of this, I suspect, will alter the numbers [of abortions]."

What he seems to be saying is that abortions performed on social grounds after 12 weeks would still be regarded as medically appropriate. This is precisely the way in which the 1967 Abortion Act has been flouted. Doctors have been allowed to blur the line between social grounds and medical ones. Far from calling for a more restrictive law, Lord Steel is really using easily misinterpreted remarks as a smokescreen to get the pro-life lobby to welcome the pro-abortion lobby's Trojan horse into Parliament.

The current frenzy is occurring not only in reaction to Lord Steel's proposals, but also in response to a cleverly disguised exploitation of the remarkable new 3D ultrasound pictures and a recent court case about a late-term abortion of a baby with a correctable facial disability. The message the pro-abortion lobby wants the public to absorb is: "you should only want a baby if it's beautiful." Or as Lord Steel puts it: "we should not deny mothers and their doctors the option of late abortion incases [of severe abnormalities].[I]t is surely for the mother and her medical advisers to decide whether to proceed with a defective pregnancy."

Yet it is not only Lord Steel's agenda that has to be scrutinised closely but the proponents of that agenda also. Liberal newspapers such as the London Times and the weekly The Tablet share the thinly disguised objective of convincing the pro-life public to concede a right to abortion on demand before 12 weeks in exchange for the prospect of restrictions on later abortions.

This is proving a temptation to some pro-lifers who, weary from repeated defeats in battle, wrongly assume that abortion law and practice can't get any worse but simultaneously clutch at any straw to prove that the tide is turning in the abortion debate in Britain.

Those tempted to dismiss SPUC's warnings must first dismiss objective political reality. The current parliament is the most anti-life in British history. The government, dominated by pro-abortion members of Parliament, has a massive parliamentary majority which is unlikely to be overturned at the next general election.

Lord Steel's friends in the pro-abortion lobby are already working hard to liberalise the law in many ways which have gone unreported in the current media frenzy, such as extending the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland and obtaining permission for nurses to perform abortions.

Nor can Conservative Party parliamentarians be relied upon protect human life. It was a Conservative government that facilitated the liberalisation of the law in 1990.

The former health spokesman and now co-chairman of the Conservative Party, Liam Fox, a physician, has retreated so far from his previously outspoken anti-abortion stance that he now sponsors parliamentary motions on behalf of the International Planned Parenthood Federation's UK branch. And the other main opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, has an official pro-abortion policy.

Furthermore, the pro-life movement across Europe received a smarting blow recently when the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that a French doctor who aborted an unborn child of six months' gestation without the mother's consent could not be prosecuted for homicide because the unborn child (baby Vo) did not have the right to life. The ruling in the Vo case makes David Steel's agenda even more dangerous. It could be taken as a cue for parliamentarians across Europe to introduce such Trojan horse proposals into national parliaments as the means of enshrining the Vo judgement in national laws.

Although the Vo judgement requires time for careful analysis before an accurate opinion can be formed about its scope, our worst fear is that it could be used in combination with the new European Constitution (if ratified) to achieve a Roe v. Wade-type legal situation at the European level. Articles 1 and 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights contained within the European Constitution gives citizens "the right to dignity" and "the right to physical and mental integrity." I do not need to remind NRLC supporters of how such nebulous concepts have been used to enshrine "safe and legal abortion" in America.

So those tempted to back another amendment to UK abortion law owe it to the smallest and most vulnerable human beings not to take up proposals such as those advocated by Lord Steel, which may well lead to even more killing by abortion. There is great wisdom in the adage, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."