This page describes abortion in terms of:
The unborn child and the right to life
The humanity of the unborn child
Birth is not the start of a new human life--just a change of the baby's
environment. A new life actually begins in the womb (usually in the
womb's fallopian tube) when a single sperm cell from the father
fertilises an egg (ovum
) from the mother.
At fertilisation (conception), a new, unique, living human individual
is present. He or she is not part of the mother any more than he or she
is part of the father. At conception all the hereditary characteristics
of the new human being are established, including colour of eyes,
gender and build. Nothing more is needed to determine the development
of the embryo. All the information about how the baby is to grow and
develop is contained in the original single cell at conception. Nothing
is added after conception except oxygen and nutrients (food and water),
the same essentials that are needed to sustain human life after birth.
The developing baby is known as:
- a zygote at the single-cell stage
- an embryo till the end of the eighth week
- a foetus from nine weeks (when the child's body is essentially complete and recognisable as a miniature human baby) until birth.
Humanity is not acquired but is inherent in all members of the human race, including the unborn from the moment of conception.
Types of abortion
The two types of abortion are:
a natural miscarriage
the deliberate killing of an unborn child.
When most people talk about abortion
, they mean induced abortion--the deliberate killing of an unborn child.
The injustice of abortion
Abortion denies the most basic of human rights--the right to life--which is justly due to each member of the human family.
Abortion is not only itself a grave injustice but it also
perpetuates other social injustices. Abortion does not solve social
problems, such as unstable relationships, poor housing and financial
insecurity, which lead women to seek to end their pregnancies. It
actually undermines the will of society--at the levels of family, peer
group and government--to find humane solutions which do not involve
killing a baby.
The life of the mother
All human life is of equal value. The life of the child in the womb is
neither more nor less important than that of the mother. There is
therefore no moral objection to measures aimed solely at curing a
life-threatening condition in an expectant mother, even if this leads
to the child's death. In such circumstances (for example, ectopic
pregnancy in the fallopian tube), treatment that is ethical does not
involve deliberately killing the baby.
If an unborn baby is old enough to survive outside the womb, and if
it is thought that there will be problems later in the pregnancy, the
baby can be delivered early and steps should be taken to sustain the
If there is disability, social problems or difficult
circumstances surrounding the child's conception, the right response is
one of compassion for the parents and the child. It can never be
compassionate deliberately to take innocent human life.
Abortion is typically carried out by
the dismemberment, poisoning and/or premature expulsion of the unborn
child. It is usually an invasive procedure for the mother which, even
in the best hospital conditions, presents risks to her physical and
psychological health. Fathers and other family members may also suffer
after an abortion, the ethics of healthcare professionals who take part
in abortions are compromised, and society as a whole is harmed by the
toleration of violence against the unborn child.
Abortion can be caused in the first two
weeks of life by birth-control methods which prevent the implantation
of the embryo in the mother's womb. Although many advocates of such
techniques refer to this action as contraceptive, it actually involves
the death of an embryo in the womb and is therefore abortifacient.
Abortion can be caused by:
- birth control implants
- birth control vaccines
- intra-uterine devices (coils)
- the morning-after pill
- other forms of contraceptive pill.
Abortion is contrary to the medical ethics in the Hippocratic oath,
both in its original version (derived from ancient Greece) and modern
reformulations such as the World Medical Association's 1948 Declaration of Geneva. The declaration states: "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of conception."
The right to life of all members of the human family is acknowledged in
internationally-agreed conventions and covenants such as:
- the 1949 Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which explicitly refers to such rights as applying to the unborn
- the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
SPUC's opposition to abortion is based on ethical principles
that have received universal approbation, not on religious teaching.
While all major world religions promote the value of life, and while
SPUC's membership includes people of various religions, SPUC is not a
The United Kingdom
Estimates of illegal abortions
The alleged number of illegal abortions was used as a reason for
legalising abortion in Britain. Before legalisation, pro-abortionists
claimed that there were 100,000 illegal abortions each year. In 1966
the council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
(RCOG) offered evidence to indicate that there were some 15,000 illegal
abortions annually in England and Wales. Subsequent events suggest that
these estimates were excessive.
Actual numbers of legal abortions
The Abortion Act was passed in 1967 and became effective the year
after. It applies to England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern
Ireland. During the 30 years after the implementation of the act, the
total number of abortions performed annually rose by nearly 700% such
that some five million abortions were performed in Britain. During the
last 15 years of that period, the annual total of abortions exceeded
170,000. In 1998 it was over 187,000--more than 510 a day--which is 87%
greater than the pro-abortionists' estimate of illegal abortion in the
1960s and over 1,100% greater than the RCOG's estimate.
Reasons for abortion
Although more than 90% of abortions are certified as being done to
safeguard the mother's physical or mental health, it is widely
recognised that the majority of these abortions are actually performed
in response to social rather than medical problems. Abortion in Britain
is effectively practised on demand.
The prohibition of abortion in the Hippocratic oath
450 BC) suggests that terminations were performed by some in ancient
times. However, abortion only became widely practised in the latter
part of the 20th century.
Contraception and abortion
While contraception seeks to prevent sexual intercourse from
resulting in the conception of a child, abortion involves the taking of
the life of the child after conception. Some methods of birth-control (e.g.
sterilisation) are solely contraceptive while others (e.g.
the mini-pill) can also cause an early abortion.
Birth-control and attitudes to human life
Contraception does not reduce the number of abortions. Countries in the
western world have freely available contraception as well as widespread
abortion. Ms Jean Malcolm, director of a Brook Advisory Centre, told
the Edinburgh and Lothian Post
"It's partly because of a greater availability of contraception that
there are more pregnancies. I suppose it's almost inevitable." (11
Contraception may also result in an anti-child mentality, such that
unplanned babies are regarded merely as the undesirable results of
The population control movement is the world's largest and most
powerful promoter of abortion. Many countries have legalised abortion
because of concern at alleged over-population. Population-growth is
said to be the cause of poverty, famine and environmental degradation,
and governments have used this to justify controlling the sizes of
families. Such measures infringe human rights, including unborn
children's right to life.
Population control is sometimes wrongly described as family
planning. While family planning consists of couples' making decisions
about when to have children, population control consists of governments
or other agencies deciding how many children couples can have, and
enforcing such decisions. Population control which masquerades as
family planning involves pressure and coercion, whether through media
propaganda, financial incentives, peer group pressure, intimidation or
physical force. Those who implement population control have identified
abortion as a critical factor in their work.
Forced abortion in China
Chinese government economic policy has had disastrous effects on
the country's agricultural system, particularly the major famines of
the late 1950s. Population growth was falsely blamed for these
disasters and a notorious population control programme was introduced.
From the late 1970s, parents were forbidden to have more than one
child. Chinese law refers to abortion "as required by the family
planning programme." There is abundant evidence of forced abortion and
sterilisation, yet the Chinese government's population control
programme has been supported by assistance from the United Nations
Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation
since 1979. Britain and other western countries make substantial grants
of taxpayers' money to both of these organisations.
The programme has led to a resurgence of female infanticide
which has caused an imbalance in the ratio between males and females,
which has, in turn, seriously affected fertility rates. Female and
disabled infants are left to die of neglect in some estate-run
The United Nations
United Nations conferences on:
- the environment
- social development
- the status of women
- urban settlements
have been platforms for attempts by wealthy nations to impose
abortion and population control on developing countries. The rationale
for this appears to be the ideological commitment of the population
control lobby and economic self-interest on the part of Western
governments. National delegates opposed to abortion on demand and to
population control have had some success in amending pro-abortion
language in conference documents, which do not have force of law but
which are used to exert pressure on developing countries which have
The attack on the young
The population control lobby is also promoting, through the United
Nations and national organisations, the provision of abortion and birth
control to adolescents, including those under the age of consent to
sexual intercourse, without parental knowledge or consent. T he Brook
Advisory Centres, which pioneered abortion referrals for, and
contraceptive provision to, adolescents in Britain, began as an
offshoot of the Family Planning Association, one of the founding member
organisations of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Young girls are particularly vulnerable to pressure to undergo
abortion. Officers of the Brook Advisory Centres have on occasion
acknowledged that the provision of birth control to the young has
aggravated the rise in underage conceptions and abortions. Certain
forms of sex education which promote such practices also contribute
greatly to the problem. They should be replaced by approaches which
respect the dignity of young people, the rights and responsibilities of
parents and the inalienable right to life of the unborn baby.
The eugenics movement
The population control movement--and thus
the organised promotion of abortion--grew out of the eugenics movement
of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Eugenics
is derived from a Greek word meaning good birth. Professor Jacqueline
Kasun, the pro-life economist, has said that concern for eugenics has
fostered an attitude characterised as: "a view of individual human
beings--not as creatures of innate worth and dignity, regardless of
their earthly condition--but as factors on a scale of social value." (The War Against Population
, Ignatius Press, 1988)
Eugenic principles are the reverse of the principle that all human
beings are of equal value, which is enshrined in religious creeds,
political philosophies and judicial systems. The eugenic mentality
judges others to be inferior on grounds of race or on grounds of
physical, mental or social condition. This has led to attacks on the
right to life of those groups, especially those deemed racially unfit,
the disabled and the unborn.
Abortion and disability
All abortion involves an
assumption that the lives of unborn children are of less value than
other human lives, and are therefore expendable. Abortion of the
disabled is not only an attack on the most vulnerable and most in need
of protection, but it is also an affront to all members of the
community who are disabled. It sends them the message that they are
inferior to, and of less value than, the able-bodied.
Attitudes to the disabled child in the womb, particularly among the
medical profession, show how the abortion-mentality saps the will to
cope with the difficulties which the arrival of a child may bring. An
expectant mother faced with the news that her child may be disabled is
likely only to be guided towards abortion by her medical advisers, with
no other options presented.
Pre-natal testing, which is routinely
offered to most expectant mothers in Britain, is a significant way in
which a large number of women come under pressure to have an abortion.
Such tests are typically offered with the sole purpose of providing a
reason to abort babies if they are found to be disabled. The fears of
many parents about having a disabled child can only be worsened by the
implicit negative attitudes.
At least some types of pre-natal screening were not developed with
the intention of facilitating abortion. Amniocentesis, a technique
which involves testing cells from a sample of the fluid around the baby
in the womb, was developed by Professor Sir A W Liley to diagnose
babies at risk of death from anaemia. In 1963 Liley became the first
physician successfully to perform a blood transfusion on a child in the
womb at 32 weeks' gestation. Amniocentesis is not the most widely used
test, but it is employed if other types of testing indicate that the
child may be disabled. Sadly, amniocentesis is almost invariably used
now to detect disability with a view to aborting the child.
Screening with a view to abortion amounts to lethal
discrimination against the disabled in the womb. There is a 1% risk of
amniocentesis' causing miscarriage and the procedure can also injure
the unborn child and thus cause disability. Although pre-natal
diagnosis is not always wrong, it can only justified if the risks to
the child of the procedure are outweighed by the prospective benefits
to the baby.
In vitro fertilisation involves screening before implantation,
during which test-tube embryos are examined to ascertain their sex and
certain genetic conditions. Embryos with a disabling condition or who
are of the gender which is associated with transmitting a disability
can then be discarded. This practice is incorrectly said to prevent
disability. It actually prevents embryos from continuing to live.
Genetic science can be used to further the
wellbeing of mankind through, for example, research into gene therapy
to treat people with cystic fibrosis. However, this technology can also
be misused in order to manipulate human life. Genetic engineering
involves attempts to produce babies to order, whose genes would have
been manipulated in the laboratory. These and other manipulations, such
as human cloning, deny the respect which is due to human beings. The
information from the genetic mapping undertaken in the human genome
project could be misused by, for example, an increase in the number of
the categories of babies to be killed by eugenic abortion.
Foetal tissue in medical research
Babies killed by induced
abortion are the principal source of foetal tissue for research, and
such research includes the human genome project. The bodies of the dead
may only properly be used for research if consent is given, but a
mother aborting her baby cannot ethically provide such consent. The use
of foetal tissue in research appears to justify abortion on the grounds
that it contributes to preserving the lives and health of others. Such
research is, however, quite unethical and immoral because it ignores
the unborn baby's right to life.
Infanticide and euthanasia
Legalised abortion has led to
increasing contempt for newborn babies who are disabled. Some doctors
in Britain have admitted killing disabled babies by methods including
sedating and starving them to death; this is still against the law. In
some countries, including Britain, courts have approved the starvation
of brain-damaged adult patients. The same attitude to human life is
apparent in eugenic abortion, infanticide and the pressure to