Father gives up fight to halt abortion

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The Independent Online
Pro-choice campaigners pledged to lobby for abortion on demand yesterday after a father abandoned his uphill fight to prevent his wife from aborting their unborn child.

James Kelly, 28, of Edinburgh, said that he had dropped plans to petition the House of Lords to appeal against Saturday's decision by three Scottish appeal judges be- cause everything had "gone crazy" and he had lost his job and home.

But his attempt to stop his estranged wife, Lynn, 21, having a termination after the acrimonious break-up of their marriage still produced angry reactions from pro-choice activists who condemned the delay and distress she had suffered.

The Abortion Law Reform Association was yesterday contacting MPs who have drawn places in the Private Members' Bill ballot to urge them to introduce legislation giving statutory status to abortion on request. Only the top six in the ballot have any chance of their measures becoming law, but the pro-choice Conservative MP for Billericay, Teresa Gorman, is third.

Mrs Kelly, by now 14 weeks' pregnant, had said over the weekend that she might now have the child rather than endure the trauma of an induced labour, prompting an increasingly pressurised Mr Kelly to suggest that she ought to have the abortion after all rather than having an "unloved" child.

John Crabbe, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Scotland, appealed to Mrs Kelly yesterday to continue with the pregnancy. After Mr Kelly's plans to petition the law lords next Monday were formally abandoned at the Court of Session in Edinburgh yesterday afternoon, Mrs Kelly's solicitor, Beverley Johnson, said: "She is now able to make a choice whether or not she is able to proceed with the pregnancy."

Despite a protracted legal battle involving five separate hearings which delayed Mrs Kelly's originally planned termination by 11 days, Mr Kelly's chances of success were always slender. When an Oxford student tried to force his girlfriend to have a baby in 1987, the law lords lost no time in rejecting his petition to appeal a ruling by the English Court of Appeal, giving the clearest indication that there was no point of law worth arguing.

Uncertainties remain, however. Despite ruling that Scottish law - like English law - gave the foetus no right to continue to exist in the mother's womb, the Court of Session judges still continued an injunction barring Mrs Kelly from abortion pending a further hearing on the progress of the petition to the Lords.

Last summer, the pro-life Society for the Protection of Unborn Children obtained a temporary High Court injunction to stop a woman aborting a twin, although the abortion had already taken place so the legal action came too late.

Jane Roe, the campaign director of the Abortion Law Reform Association, said yesterday: "We are very concerned that cases like this could keep being brought by vindictive partners to harass and delay women.

"To prevent a similar legal challenge the law should be changed to bring it in line with reality - that the only practical, acceptable option is to give women the right to choose."