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Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Abortion pill: Should it be made more widely available?
Women are to be offered greater access to abortions under new UK Government plans.
The Department of Health has confirmed that some family planning centres will, for the first time, be able to offer the so-called "abortion pill".
The pill has so far been available only in hospital wards and special day units but ministers believe if it was more widely available it would reduce distressing waits of up to five weeks to end a pregnancy.
But pro-life groups believe the government is being irresponsible and is not taking abortion seriously.
They believe having less time to think about an abortion and reflect can actually make a woman more pressured and more distressed.
Do you agree women should have greater access to abortion? Should family planning centres be able to offer the abortion pill? Or can the government be accused of not treating abortion seriously enough?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Matt Carpanini, UK
Aside from Europe's "deflating morality" the point is that women will seek abortions whether they are legal or not. Is it not a better idea that abortion is made available in its most simple and least harmful form?
Surely many people debating here are missing one simple fact - women who want to abort will do so whether it is legal, illegal, expensive, free of charge etc etc. As this is the case it is only right to allow them to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. To force women to go through increased emotional pain or financial cost when the outcome will be the same is more inhumane than any abortion.
In the United States we have a law that if a man kills a pregnant woman, he will be charged with TWO counts of murder. In fact, most polls show that a majority of Americans feel abortion is truly unfortunate. May we never become like Europe whose deflating morality and indifferent masses look at abortion pills as they would a laxative. The destruction of a fetus at any point is the death of a person.
Until a community raises a child and helps every family (two parent or single parent) raise thier children, that community should not have any say in the decision of whether or not to have a child. People have mentioned adoption, but no one mentioned the statistics from before abortion was legal. The number of babies placed into orphanages is horrifying! And since the parents never had any intention of reclaiming the children, the children were left to the whims of the their caregivers. Hardly a responsible choice for a parent.
Are people really suggesting that all "unwanted" children are better off dead than in care? I'd like to thank my biological mother for bringing me to term and giving me up for adoption. By all means put the health of the mother ahead of that of the child. But is there not a case for putting the life of the child ahead of the convenience of the mother? Also, if the mother chooses to bear and care for the child then the father is liable for support payments irrespective of his wishes regarding the pregnancy, and he is therefore made a financial slave on the wishes of another.
Just because something is legal does not mean that it is right in an absolute sense, and you can be sure that the current abortion law is far from perfect.
Ed Karten, UK
I am all for freedom of choice; I believe that it is better to abort an unwanted child than to bring it into the world where it may not be loved; I agree strongly that easier abortions will not make them more common. But until Northern Ireland is equal with the rest of the UK on this issue, a medical abortion pill probably isn't going to make a lot of difference to women here.
It's unfair to point out that it's mainly men that oppose the abortion pill. It's mainly religious men.
Britain, as the head of the Commonwealth, should set a good example when it comes to safe sex and birth control. In a world with over 6 billion people and limited resources, Britain's acceptance of this abortion pill is the right decision. As a citizen in a Commonwealth country I applaud the British Government's decision and ask other Commonwealth countries to follow suit.
I would advocate the complete absence of government from this very personal issue. Abortion is a woman's right. Rights only apply to persons, who have been born and have already completed the reproductive cycle, not potential persons still being reproduced. So, if a woman determines through her own morals, values and conscience that RU-486 is what is needed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, then the government should respect that decision. Women are not stock farm breeding pigs!
So Simon R, what choice does the unborn child have or is that too awkward a question to be answered in this "rights and no responsibilities" era we live in.
After a quick read through this topic I notice that most of those opposed to the pill are men, and most who support it are women. I think I will agree with the genuine experts here. No amount of pontificating about the rights of the unborn should allow the state to inflict its opinion on a woman's body. Freedom of choice is just that.
Gill Duval said: "What are we saying about our women that we are so unprepared to have children?". Perhaps instead we should be taking a long hard, critical look at why our society is so hostile, overly moralising and downright unhelpful to women with children, particularly single mothers and those who wish to work. Then we may see why one in five women of childbearing age decide (by whatever means, abortion being the most desperate of them) not to have children.
Are not 600 abortions a day (in England and Wales) already enough? What are we saying about our women that we are so unprepared to have children?
Personally I think a woman has the right to control whether she has a child or not. Making the pill more widely available is not forcing women to use it, it is still their choice.
Jane, Wales, UK
The people that seem to have such strong opinions about this subject are people who have never been, and probably never will be in this situation. They should open their eyes and face up to what is happening in today's society, and stop living in the past, when abortion was still happening, but was done in such an 'underground' way that it led to the physical and emotional damage of women. Nowadays, women are offered more emotional support, to make a decision that is right both for the unborn child and herself at that time. These people should get out more, visit a family planning clinic and meet these women themselves before they make any judgement.
To Samantha and Phoebe - you are missing the point completely! My husband and I have been trying for over a year for a baby and are now being considered for IVF and we can definitely see the connection between an unwanted pregnancy and a childless couple - it's called adoption!
How much more of their responsibilities do some women want other people to take on for them? There is contraception available in every high street, supermarket and most clubs and bars, then there is the morning-after pill and now the abortion pill.
And for those who say anti-abortionists have never been in the distressing position of "needing" an abortion - have you ever been in the distressing position of being infertile and then being told it is virtually impossible to adopt in this country because abortion is so accessible?
It sickens us that so many people are throwing away the one thing we want most and would do anything for.
I cannot see the connection between childless couples who want a baby and a woman, who for whatever reason, takes the decision that an abortion is the only option for her. I do not see, as some do, that this proposed measure to introduce the pill will be a slap in the face. The issues are unconnected. Why would it help the couple if another unwanted child is born into this world? Surely a baby should only be born to someone who loves and wants a child and who is able to care for it both mentally and financially. If this pill enables a woman to avoid an operation then it is surely a good thing. If you are to have an abortion then you have surely already exhausted all other options.
I think that if people had more faith in God, anything would be possible. And if they feared God more, there would be no need for abortions. People treat sex and the potential to create a new life too carelessly. People look to abortion when their sins have led them to such a situation. And to those sins they respond with even greater evil. I just hope God will be merciful to us.
It's the woman's right to choose, but every baby has the right to have a chance in life also. So, every baby is a wanted baby, I say.
It is not right for women to say they have a right to do whatever they like with their own bodies. A foetus is not part of their own body, it is the body of a new human being and should be treated with as much respect as we are taught to treat humans outside the womb. If women morally reordered their lives and outlawed sex before marriage then I'm sure the number of unwanted pregnancies would plummet.
We should spend more effort on the message that sex is special and should be saved for couples that will commit to each other for life if at all possible. There is so much material around that promotes the abuse of sex. If someone does accidentally get pregnant we should value the life of the child as much as the adult and only in exceptional circumstances go down the route of abortion. It seems strange that some would so easily throw the life of an unwanted child away, when others have great difficulty in having children and try everything in their power to conceive. All life is special, have we any right to just throw it away?
If there is proper control of the drug - i.e. not over the counter. This is great. It's a woman's body, it's up to them. This is a good thing if it's properly regulated.
It strikes me as appalling that the government is making abortion easier without any Parliamentary debate. Why can't there be time for debate and consultation. At a time when the government ought to be looking at why women are driven to seeking abortions and providing support so that women don't feel that killing their baby is the only way they can act, this new initiative is irresponsible and immeasurably destructive. It seems that human life is so cheap in England that pilot schemes allowing babies to be killed in the comfort of your home don't even merit debate in Parliament. Shame on the government for its cavalier disregard for human life and its willingness to trample over democracy, women and children. This is not a government that deserves any power over human life.
Men haven't got the right to interfere in an issue that must be exclusively dealt with by the ones who will in fact feel its effects. Women should decide what to do with their bodies and be supported in case they decide to terminate a pregnancy.
Making abortions easier and quicker will not drop the numbers of those using protection by a significant amount as the decision of whether or not to use protection involves other factors such as STDs and is not solely based on pregnancy. Abortion cannot be made any harder until contraceptives are made fail proof and the government can guarantee that any "unwanted" child will be sent to a loving family where they will receive all the care they need.
Why can't the so called "pro-life" groups concentrate on resolving the issues faced by today's children in care and/or poverty instead of seeking to aggravate the situation by introducing more innocents to the "care" system
John, ex-pat USA
Abortion should be ended once and for all, as it is nothing more than infant murder. No woman or any other person has the right to kill a living human being. Life begins in the womb, and anybody who terminates a pregnancy is guilty of murder.
Anything which causes a careless attitude to contraception is to be avoided - or will this abortion pill also cure venereal diseases and HIV as well?
Clare Alexander, UK
Let's face it: if a woman wants an abortion, she will get it. Restricting access serves nothing except to put women at risk. I would have done anything to have an abortion but I was fortunate enough to obtain one on the NHS where my treatment was second to none.
As for psychological after effects, my experience was a singular sense of relief, and that feeling remains steadfast almost 10 years later.
Sure, some women may regret their decision, just as some may regret marrying the wrong person, quitting their job, or any number of decisions. However, as a society we must regard women as adults responsible for their own decisions or else we'll slip into the horrific litigation mania that has infested the US.
Yes, make it more easily available. An unloved child is sadly rarely given a new start through adoption.
At the same time we need to educate people that prevention is always better than cure - if you can not abstain, then at least know and use contraception...
I am the only person on this earth who can decide what is right or wrong for me...no-one else has the right to do that! At the end of the day, I am pro-choice, but I cannot imagine having an abortion myself - however that does not give me the right to tell others that they can't have an abortion.
I think that anything that makes the whole experience less painful and drawn out for women in the unfortunate position of needing an abortion, is a good thing.
Jen needs to get into the 21st century - for every man who wants "five minutes of fun" there are plenty who'd like the chance to be a proper father in a proper relationship - even (clap of thunder) a marriage, and never having had the chance to see their child born would also be a hurt to get over.
It's very easy to say "woman's body woman's choice" if it's not your child getting aborted.
Having the emergency contraceptive pill widely available encourages young people to engage themselves in unprotected sexual intercourse. Couples should be more precautious and use other forms of contraception rather than kill an innocent unborn child who does not have an option to speak for it self. I strenuously feel that the availability of abortion pill is a ludicrous idea.
Women do have the right to choose what they do with their bodies, but taking the life of an innocent other is murder in anyone's language.
I'm not a religious person, but I do believe strongly in the sanctity of human life. It's not just a 'woman's issue' as some respondents claim - it's an issue of an individual's right to life. When a society and a government permits the termination of the life of an unborn child for reasons of inconvenience, it is making a serious statement about the value of individual rights. Of course unwanted pregnancies are a huge problem for those concerned, but who really should have the right to deliberately end the life of a fellow human being?
Women have the right to chose what happens in their bodies - contraception isn't 100% effective. Women need to be able to make informed choices !!
Furthermore, it is vital to consider when discussing the availability and access to abortion, that almost three quarters of women who seek abortions in this country do so not because they have not bothered with contraception, but because it has failed. Until women can be offered a failsafe method of contraception, abortion should remain available -albeit responsibly- to all women.
The issue of abortion should be between a woman and her own conscience. No one else has the right to interfere. I don't like abortion, but who am I to say what another should do with their own body.
The more easily women can access abortions and the less the government is involved in this issue, the better. As a bonus, the women who decide to have abortions would also not have to deal with the protesting crazies at the clinics.
By making abortion that much more easily available to those that want it, it's an absolute travesty, a slap in the face, for those that cannot have children (for whatever reason). To create a new life and then to take it away so suddenly when other people try for years without success is the ultimate in selfishness.
Will people even bother to use contraception now that it you can simply take a pill to do away with your unwanted child? When teenage pregnancies are still on the rise, this is the worst thing the government can do. Education and better access to contraceptives is the best way forward.
In the first place abortion destroys God given human life, and now making the abortion pill more widely accessible, will lead to more abortions which is a great sin in the sight of God. No, No, No to abortion.
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