In 1967, Britain passed the Abortion Act, making it the first country in the world to legalize abortion. Other countries quickly followed Britain’s lead, but conservative religious forces still threaten abortion rights.
British anti-abortion protesters marked the 30th anniversary of the Abortion Act by forming human chains in cities and towns and carried signs that read “Abortion Kills Children.” A right-wing paper published a poll on Sunday that claimed 60% of British women want their right to abortion restricted, but similar polls show that two-thirds of the public favor keeping abortion legal.
Pro-choice Britons are concerned about the growing anti-abortion movement. In 1996, groups such as the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child campaigned against the destruction of thousands of frozen embryos that had passed their expiration date. In another high-profile case, a woman who took fertility drugs and became pregnant with eight babies refused to abort any of them in order to improve the chances of the others surviving. She lost all of the fetuses as a result. In yet another case, a man took his estranged wife to court to prevent her from having an abortion. Although he lost, she was forced by the legal proceedings to delay her abortion until later in her pregnancy.
Despite claims of increasing anti-abortion sentiment in Britain made by conservative groups, the number of abortions actually rose 8.3% last year, the first increase in five years.