Letter: Unconditional respect for life is the basis of a civilised society

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is easy to make abortion sound gruesome. The "yuk" factor is the anti-abortionists' best weapon but to use it dishonestly is pointless and unfair.

"Partial birth abortion" is not listed in any medical textbook and the vast majority of doctors in this country are unaware of intact dilatation and evacuation. It is not routinely used in America, although the pro- lifers' opposition to it has sprung from there. The number of such operations carried out in Britain is unknown simply because they are so rare that they are unrecorded. Enquiries amongst gynaecologists experienced in late abortions show that there must be fewer than a handful performed each year.

More than 90 per cent of abortions take place before 12 weeks, when the foetus is about 5cm long. Despite Fisk's report on foetal sentience (first published two years ago), subsequent reports have made it clear that the brain and nervous system is not developed sufficiently to register pain before about 24 weeks, and even then this is questionable.

Finally, I only wish he was right in claiming we have abortion on demand in Britain - the Abortion Law Reform Association has been campaigning for a woman's right to choose for the past 60 years. The reality is that many women are turned away, delayed or humiliated by their doctor when they request termination of an unwanted pregnancy. In almost all other developed countries around the world abortion is allowed simply on the grounds of the woman's distress, but in Britain it is still not guaranteed in law or in practice.

JANE ROE

Campaign Manager

Abortion Law Reform Association

London W1

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