Abortion Bill Passed
The 14th of July 1967 AD
Abortion is one of the most emotive subjects of discussion. The loudest voices in the debate tend to be those on the extremes either side: for one group all abortion is murder; for the other, women should have an absolute right to choose whether or not to carry a child developing in them to term. David Steel ’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which began to be debated in 1966 after he had won third place in the ballot to present private member’s bills during the long commons session of that year, was an attempt to find a middle ground.
Steel himself has written of trying to base his putative legislation on the philosophically difficult ground of conflict of rights – the right to life of the foetus and the mother’s rights to health among others.
The debate on the bill was long and hard; the Labour government, possibly happy that Steel would to a certain extent act as a lightning rod for criticism, supported him and gave his bill extra sessions, enabling it eventually to be passed: on July 14, in the early hours of the morning after a prolonged sitting, the bill passed the third reading stage. It would receive royal assent on October 27; and come into law finally on April 27 1968 , when the back street abortion industry which had claimed so many lives among the perhaps 200,000 a year who used it was swept away.
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