Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
Young people find abortion 'unethical'
Three hundred young people aged between 15 and 24 were surveyed by the Pro-Choice Forum, which favours a more liberal attitude towards abortion.
They were selected from schools and colleges in Oxford and London.
Seventy-six per cent of those questioned anonymously said women should not be restricted by law from having an abortion.
But they found it ethically and morally distasteful that women should terminate a pregnancy because they did not want an unhealthy child.
By law in Britain there is no time limit on abortion for abnormality. Maxine Lattimer questioned the young people in the survey.
"It wasn't thought of as a health issue, it was thought of more as an equality-rights issue," she says. "So there was some concern that if you allow abortion for abnormality, that constitutes some kind of discrimination towards disabled people.
"There was a concern about too much consumerism, too much choice. Why should you be allowed to choose the perfect baby? If it was for the child's sake, yes, OK. But if it was the parents saying 'I don't want to have a disabled child', that was seen as quite selfish."
More than half of the young adults who took part in the survey, to be published next month, saw aborting a disabled foetus on a par with choosing the sex of a child, or the colour of its eyes.
They expressed particular concern about the implications genetic engineering and screening would have for termination.
Colin Frankham is professor of the sociology of health at Middlesex University. He says young adults tend to see things in black and white.
"Teenagers have always been quite moralistic about abortion and more conservative than the rest of society. In a sense, I don't think they realise the problems people can face." He says there may be a movement against a certain amount of consumerism and choice, but this is not the same as saying abortion should be stopped.
"Very few people agree with pro-life position - less than 10% of the population take the absolutist position that there should be no abortion for any reason - but they don't want people to have abortions willy-nilly"
Peter Garrett of the anti-abortion charity LIFE says they have found that tomorrow's parents are reacting against scientific advances and he called on pro-abortion groups to take notice, or risk being out of step with the opinion-formers of tomorrow.
"Young people are saying to them, 'we have come to the point where we realise that the ethical dilemmas are much more sophisticated and the machinery you need for making decisions in this area is much more complicated than that'.
"So that they might find themselves out of step with the people they've traditionally wanted to pander to."
The Pro-Choice Forum say they will now carry out more research into young people's feelings about abortion, and offer them more information about disabilities and the advantages of genetic testing.
News of the survey comes as the latest statistics on abortions in England and Wales are published.
The number of terminations in the last three months increased by more than 1,500.
A total of 45,437 were carried out since January - 3.5 per thousand pregnancies.
The figures have been released by the Office for National Statistics who say the rate of increase is more than four per cent compared to the same time last year.