In the 1960s when British lawmakers were drafting the Abortion Act 1967, they assured the public that the new law would only permit abortion under very strict conditions, and that there would be no slippery slope to abortion-on-demand. The purpose of this law, they claimed, was to end the small number of dangerous backstreet abortions. Tragically, 50 years later their assurances have proven hollow and worthless.
Even though the British law requires that two doctors certify that an abortion is needed on medical grounds, no one seriously denies that abortion-on-demand is the current practice in the UK. The weak link in the Abortion Act was the clause allowing abortion if a pregnancy carried a “risk of injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman”.
A similar change to the law can now be seen in Ireland. In the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, health is defined as both mental and physical. In this Act an abortion can be carried out when there is a “there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant woman”.
What do these words even mean? What constitutes a risk to mental health? What qualifies as a ‘crisis pregnancy’? Did our political leaders not learn anything from the example of other countries?