LONDON Abortion is becoming commonplace and
people are insufficiently troubled about terminating
pregnancies, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Sunday.
Writing on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Britain's
Abortion Act, which legalized the procedure, the spiritual head
of the world's 77 million Anglicans said people needed to think
harder about the consequences of their actions.
"Recent discussion on making it simpler for women to
administer abortion-inducing drugs at home underlines the
growing belief that abortion is essentially a matter of
individual decision and not the kind of major moral choice that
should involve a sharing of perspective and judgment," Rowan
Williams wrote in an article published in the Observer
"Something has happened to our assumptions about the life
of the unborn child."
There were nearly 200,000 abortions in England and Wales in
2005, according to the Department of Health, and a recent
survey by the medical journal Lancet reported that one-third of
pregnancies in Europe ends in abortion.
There have been calls in Britain for the upper time limit
on abortions to be shortened from 24 weeks to 21 weeks but a
recent parliamentary bill on the matter was defeated.
The archbishop made no direct call for legislation to be
tightened, but he pointed out the paradox he saw between those
who campaign for greater "fetal rights," condemning women who
smoke during pregnancy, but fail to speak out about abortion.
Abortion is a far less politicized issue in Britain than in
the United States. However, several bills have been introduced
in parliament in recent months by legislators looking to
tighten restrictions and prompt women to think harder about the
Britain has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy
in Europe, and many of those pregnancies end in abortion.
The archbishop said that when the Abortion Act was passed
in 1967, it was never meant to usher in a period of "easy
abortion," but to provide an option for women in extreme cases.
"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 fetus from the moment
of conception was the norm."