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BPAS supports public debate on the ethics and morality of abortion

Published 31 October 2008

On Saturday 1st November, as part of the 'Battle of Ideas' public debate weekend, a public audience will hear a major debate on the issue of abortion, with support from the sexual healthcare charity BPAS.

Increasingly the public debate on abortion has been focused on public health and medical arguments, with politicians, campaigners and commentators less willing to take an ethical position on whether abortion is right or wrong.

Anti-abortion campaigners, having lost the moral argument for an outright ban on all abortion, have shifted their focus to issues such as the abortion time limit by claiming they have evidence to show that babies can survive after birth at ever-shorter intervals in the womb, and putting forward contested concepts about the psychological effects of abortion.

Pro-choice campaigners have also been accused of avoiding putting forward the morality of the availability of abortion, by concentrating instead on addressing anti-abortion criticism on medical and scientific issues and failing to make a moral case for the need to have abortion as an option for women.

‘Abortion: the hard arguments’ will see the politics and morality of the abortion discussion debated from contrasting viewpoints, with both sides taking an ethical position on abortion. Speakers will be Ann Furedi, the Chief Executive of the sexual healthcare charity BPAS and Professor John Wyatt, Professor of Ethics and Perinatology, University College London and Chairman of the Christian Medical Fellowship's study group. 

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service said

‘Abortion is a part of modern life; we need it as a back up to contraception if we are to plan our families. It’s time to stop being apologetic and to accept that women need access to safe, legal abortion if they are to play a full part in public life.’ 

The debate will include questions from the floor and is chaired by Maria Grasso, Politics Lecturer at the University of Oxford.


  • On October 22nd 2008, the UK government blocked Parliamentary debate on abortion-related amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill by using a whipped vote to change the Parliamentary timetable in order that the amendments were not reached. The proposed changes which could have updated the 1967 Abortion Act, were supported by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Nursing and British Medical Association and the findings of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s 2007 report ‘‘Scientific Developments Relating to the Abortion Act 1967’. New clauses were aimed at modernising the law to give women access to abortion earlier on.
  • In May 2008 MPs rejected attempts to lower the abortion time limit, keeping the upper time limit for most abortions at 24 weeks. A proposed amendment to drop the time limit to 22 weeks was defeated by 304 votes to 233, a majority of 71. Other gestations voted on were 12, 16 and 20 weeks, all of which were defeated. 
  • In a opinion poll conducted by on June 18th 2008 people were asked ‘Do you think the government should be involved in trying to discourage abortions or do you think the government  should leave these matters to the individual?’ The majority of those surveyed in countries including France, USA, Mexico, China and the UK believed that it should be leave to individuals.
  • BPAS is the UK’s leading not-for-profit sexual healthcare provider, 92% of which care is provided on behalf of the NHS. Typical non-NHS funded clients seeking abortion have travelled to BPAS from Northern Ireland, or the Irish Republic where access to safe, legal abortion remains restricted by law, usually arriving at later gestations as a consequence. As well as contraceptive advice and treatment, BPAS carried out around 55,000 terminations of pregnancy in 2007. BPAS has centres across England, Wales and Scotland and is a specialist provider of early and late abortions.

For information on press attendance please contact Shirley Dent at the Institute of Ideas or call 020 7269 9229. To request an interview with Ann Furedi, please call the BPAS press office on 020 7612 0206 or 07788 725 185. Ann Furedi will be available on the day for interviews.



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