The British Abortion Act (1967) and the Interests of the Foetus
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 2006 March; 25(1): 175-188
This article examines ethical issues on the rights and interests of the unborn foetus, an issue that remains highly contentious. Furthermore,it attempts to investigate how well the British legislation fits with the foetus and pregnant woman's rights and interests. "Pro-life" and "pro-choice" groups have provided extensive arguments for and against. One important theoretical issue rests on whether foetuses are human beings in the moral sense, in which all human beings have full and equal moral rights. What constitutes personhood is a matter of moral decision and is not one of scientific fact and thus it consists of all persons, rather than all genetically human entities. It is persons who invent moral rights and who are capable of respecting them. Legislators in Britain have sidestepped the ethical debate on abortion by opting for the pragmatic course of permitting abortion in a limited range of circumstances and thus the Abortion Act 1967 has failed to address the status of the foetus, or indeed the rights of any of the parties concerned. Thus, although the Act supports the interests of the foetus capable of free existence by lowering the foetal age to 24 weeks after which termination is not permissible, the legislators have accepted that the rights of the woman outweigh those of the foetus and if a woman's own life or health is in danger then even a late abortion is the best choice.
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