Anglican Communion Criticizes 'Normalization' Of Abortion

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'Normalization' Of Abortion

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion,criticized what he said is an increasing "normalization" of abortionand called for a review of the United Kingdom's 1967 Abortion Act, BBC News reports (BBC News, 10/21).

Williams in an opinion piece in London's Observerwrote, "Recent discussion on making it simpler for women to administerabortion-inducing drugs at home underlines the growing belief thatabortion is essentially a matter of individual decision and not thekind of major moral choice that should involve a sharing of perspectiveand judgment." He added, "Something has happened to our assumptionsabout the life of the unborn child."

According to Reuters,the archbishop did not directly call for further restrictions on accessto abortion, but he criticized people who campaign for greater "fetalrights" but do not speak out about abortion (Reuters,10/22). "The pregnant woman who smokes or drinks heavily is widelyregarded as guilty of infringing the rights of her unborn child,"Williams wrote, adding, "Yet at the same time, with no apparent senseof incongruity, there is discussion of the possibility of the libertyof the pregnant woman herself to perform the actions that willterminate a pregnancy" (BBC News, 10/21).


U.K. Law, Reaction

Currently, a woman in the United Kingdom can obtain an abortion up to24 weeks' gestation, but the law requires consent from two physiciansstating that the procedure is in the woman's best medical interest.Abortions are allowed after 24 weeks' gestation only in cases where thepregnant woman's life is in jeopardy or other severe cases. Someantiabortion advocates have said that the time limit should be reducedto 21 weeks' gestation because of advancements in perinatal care.

Inaddition, some antiabortion advocates have said women should berequired to wait one week before undergoing an abortion. Members ofParliament in June voted 182-107 against a bill that would haverequired women to wait one week and receive counseling beforeundergoing the procedure (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).

According to Reuters, several bills seeking to tighten restrictions on abortion have been introduced in the U.K. Parliament in recent months (Reuters,10/22). Evan Harris -- a member of the Liberal Democrat Party and amember of a parliamentary committee considering changes to the timelimit -- said, "For most women facing the dilemma of an unwantedpregnancy, the decision about abortion is not 'normalized' or 'routine'as the archbishop claims in his remarks about so-called 'home'abortions early in pregnancy." Harris added, "For many women it is adifficult choice and the [Anglican] Church should offer support ratherthan trying to make abortions as difficult and inconvenient aspossible" (BBC News, 10/21).

There were nearly 200,000 abortions in England and Wales in 2005, according to the U.K. Department of Health, and a recent survey by the Lancet reported that one-third of pregnancies in Europe end in abortion (Reuters, 10/22).

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