by Joanna Moorhead THE 1967 Abortion Act has achieved none of the aims its sponsors claimed it would when they steered it through Parliament, according to a report published this week.
The survey, published by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Educational Research Trust to mark the first 21 years of legalised abortion in Britain, says crucial arguments advanced by those supporting the legislation of abortion in the 1960s have proved inaccurate.
In particular, the report entitled Legal Abortion Examined claims that * although proponents said abortion would be largely restricted to cases where the mother faced either risk to her life or serious damage to her health, or where the fetus was likely to be deformed, only a tiny fraction of one per cent have been carried out to save the life of the mother or to prevent serious damage to her health. Less than two per cent of abortions are carried out on the grounds of deformity in the fetus, yet 90 per cent are carried out with reference to vague and undefined risk to the mental or physical health of the mother if the pregnancy were to continue.
* while the in favour of the legislation said abortion would reduce the number of illegitimate births, these have in fact increased threefold betwen 1970 and 1989.
* despite the fact that the Bill's sponsors said abortion would produce a caring society in which every child would be wanted, the incidence of physical abuse of children reported to the NSPCC has doubled in the decade up to 1989.
The report examines trends and figures over the period between 1968 and 1989, during which time the total number of abortions in England and Wales rose from 23,641 to 183,974.
It says that, while the birth rate has been falling, the abortion rate
has been going up. What this means, it claims, is that a child conceived in 1988 was twice as likely to be aborted as one conceived in 1970. And the rate at which conceptions have been occurring in girls who arc under the age of consent for sexual intercourse has been increasing throughout the 1980s. More than half these pregnancies end in abortion.
The figures included in the report also show that the number of abortions performed on women from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, where it is illegal, has been rising more or less steadily since the Abortion Act was introduced. In 1970, of 86,565 abortions in total, 199 were on women from Northern Ireland and 261 on women from the Republic. By 1989, of the 183,974 abortions that year, 1,816 were on women from Northern Ireland and 3,721 on women from the Republic.
In his introduction to the report Hubert Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Medical Statistics at the University of Wales, describes the deaths of three million unborn children as "the record of the saddest of all events in British history".
"We have become inured to the fact that abortion is prevalent in our society, but the sheer scale of the problem is awesome. Five hundred abortions a day equals two Lockerbie disasters; 180,000 a yeamiqoals twice the losses on the Somme; one million every six years equals twice the casualties in the whole of the 1939-45 war.
"Not only are there three million dead, but also three million mothers bereaved and three million occasions on which a gynaecologist has betrayed the Hippocratic oath."
Phyllis Bowman, national director of SPUC, said the report showed the women David Steel had claimed his Private Member's Bill would benefit had not been those affected most by the act.