LONDON – Abortion is becoming commonplace in today's society and people are now becoming insufficiently troubled about terminating their pregnancies, expressed the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
"Recent discussion on making it simpler for women to administer abortion-inducing drugs at home underlines the growing belief that abortion is essentially a matter of individual decision and not the kind of major moral choice that should involve a sharing of perspective and judgment," wrote Archbishop Rowan Williams in a special newspaper feature coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Britain's Abortion Act, which legalized the procedure.
The spiritual leader of the Church of England and the world's 77 million Anglicans said people needed to think hard about the consequences of their actions.
"Something has happened to our assumptions about the life of the unborn child," he stated.
Across England and Wales, there were just under 200,000 abortions in 2005, according to the Department of Health. Furthermore, a recent survey carried out by the Lancet medical journal revealed that thirty percent of pregnancies in Europe now end in abortion while one in five pregnancies worldwide end in abortion.
William's statement comes also amid public debate in Britain over the upper limit on abortions. Pro-lifers have been expressing their dismay over how the limit could still remain at 24 weeks, one of the highest in Europe, when current figures reveal that about 50 percent of extremely premature babies born at 24 weeks were able to survive.
There have been calls in Brtian to shorten the upper time limit on abortion from 24 weeks to at least 21 weeks. However, a recent parliamentary bill on the matter was defeated.
Although Williams, in his feature for the U.K.-based Observer newspaper, did not make any direct call for the upper limit to be reduced, the Archbishop of Canterbury did highlight the paradox between those who campaign for greater "foetal rights" – condemning women who smoke during pregnancy – but fail to speak out about abortion.
Furthermore, he wrote that the introduction of the Abortion Act in 1967 was not meant to bring about "easy abortions," but to provide an option for women who found themselves in extreme cases
Currently, Britain has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe, and an increasing number of those pregnancies are now ending in abortion.
"What people might now call their 'default position' was still that abortion was a profoundly undesirable thing and that a universal presumption of care for the foetus from the moment of conception was the norm," he concluded.
The Abortion Act 1967 was passed on Oct. 27, 1967, after heated debate, and went into effect on Apr. 27, 1968. The act made abortion legal in the United Kingdom up to 28 weeks gestation.
In 1990, the law was amended by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act, which made abortion legal only up to 24 weeks except in cases where it was necessary to save the life of the woman, there was evidence of extreme fetal abnormality, or there was a grave risk of physical or mental injury to the woman.