Roe vs. Wade
In 1973 (Roe v. Wade) the US Supreme Court held that a pregnant woman has a constitutional right, under the Fourteenth Amendment, to choose to terminate her pregnancy before viability as part of her freedom of personal choice in family matters – abortion became legal across the US. As this picture shows, people have been contesting this decision ever since.
The Abortion Act 1967 provided a legal defence for carrying out an abortion up to 28 weeks (24 weeks since HFE Act 1990) or ‘viability’ if:
- continuing with the pregnancy involves a greater risk to the physical or mental health of the woman, or her existing children, than having a termination.
- there is a substantial risk that the child when born would suffer such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
Rev Joanna Jepson
Rev Joanna Jepson was born with a cleft palate – usually very easy correct with an operation. She campaigned – unsuccessfully – to bring criminal charges against two doctors who performed a late abortion at 28 weeks in 2001. The doctors argued that a cleft palate could lead to ‘severe disability’ and abortion was therefore legal after 24 weeks. The CPS announced in March 2005 that it would not bring charges against the doctors.
Abortions in the UK
185,000 abortions were carried out in England and Wales in 2002. 110 of these were after 24 weeks. Legally, this can happen if there is a risk to the life of the mother if the pregnancy continues, or a risk of "grave permanent injury" to her mental or physical health; also if there is a "substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped."
|There is also a printable collection of case-studies:|