Scottish Cardinal calls on British Prime Minister Brown to review U.K.'s abortion laws

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics, in an open letter published in the Scotsman called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to review the efficacy of the United Kingdom's abortion law, the Scotsman reports.

Currently, a woman in the United Kingdom can obtain an abortion up to 24 weeks' gestation, but the law requires consent from two physicians stating that the procedure is in the woman's best medical interest. Abortions are allowed after 24 weeks' gestation only in cases where the pregnant woman's life is in jeopardy or other "severe" cases, according to the Scotsman. Some antiabortion advocates argue that the time limit should be reduced to 21 weeks' gestation because advancements in perinatal care make it possible for 26% of infants to survive outside the womb at that time.

In addition, some antiabortion advocates have said women should be required to wait one week before undergoing an abortion (McGinty, Scotsman, 7/6). Members of Parliament in June voted 182-107 against a bill that would have required women to wait one week and receive counseling before undergoing the procedure (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/7).

O'Brien Letter

In his letter, O'Brien described Brown as a "man of principle and deeply-held moral convictions" for his work as chancellor of the exchequer in reducing the debt of developing countries. However, he added, "Our compassion towards the newborn and starving child in Darfur or Eritrea is surely hypocritical and hollow if we wantonly ignore the needs of their unborn counterparts in Dunfermline or Edinburgh, who, through abortion, face the end of their short lives just as certainly as if they were born into poverty and malnutrition on the other side of the globe." O'Brien added, "I believe the time has come for wide-ranging and open debate in the country about abortion."

The number of abortions in Scotland has increased for four consecutive years, the Scotsman reports. There were 13,081 abortions in Scotland in 2006, compared with 12,603 in 2005, according to data released in May. The figures also showed that the number of abortions among girls ages 16 and younger increased from 341 in 2005 to 362 in 2006. According to the Scotsman, 90% of abortions in the United Kingdom occur in the first trimester of pregnancy (Scotsman, 7/6).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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