BY ANDREW M BROWN AND CHRISTINA WHITE
THE ARCHITECT Of the Abortion Act introduced 30 years ago this autumn, Lord Steel, has mounted a robust defence of the legislation which paved the way for 4.5 million legal abortions.
Quoted in a newspaper interview last weekend he said he felt no responsibility for the current numbers of abortions: "I'm very glad that I've helped to bring about a state of law where people who require safe, legal terminations are able to get it. What the number is, or whether people use it too lightly, is a matter for individuals, not a matter for me."
Lord Steel implied that those who have attacked him over the years were unbalanced. "People still write in comparing me to Herod or Hitler. There is usually lots of green ink and underlining and `Copy to the Queen'," he told the Sunday Telegraph.
During the first quarter of this year 42,495 abortions were carried out, which means that last year's increase over the same quarter in 1995 has been maintained, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics. Between 1990 and 1995 there had been a slight downward trend in the abortion rate.
In the same week, a leading British pro-life charity warned against the growing "see and destroy mentality" which now dominates pre-natal diagnosis.
Brendan Gerard, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: "Many expectant mothers, on the advice of their doctors, move in the direction of abortion if deformity is diagnosed."
The Birth Control Trust, which supports abortion for any woman who wishes it, suggested that improved access to abortion services and "green" concerns leading women away from hormonal methods of contraception may have contributed to the abortion figures.
A spokesman for the Birth Control Trust told the Catholic Herald: "There is now less of a stigma attached to abortion."