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The ethical attitudes towards abortion are polarized into two opposing views. The 'pro-life' camp, epitomized by the official Roman Catholic stance, opposes all abortions as a form of murder. The 'pro-choice' camp stresses the right of pregnant women to determine the issue for themselves. In Britain, abortion is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990. Broadly, this restricts abortion to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, except when there is a substantial risk that, if denied an abortion, the mother would die or sustain grave permanent damage to her health or that her child would be seriously handicapped.

The official Methodist approach is a 'gradualist' one, falling between the two extremes. It recognizes that, while the foetus only gradually develops characteristics of human personality, nevertheless 'from conception [it] never totally lacks human significance'. The Conference of 1976 adopted a Statement on Abortion (later summarized in 1990 in a report on Status of the Unborn Human). It recommended that abortion should remain subject to legal restrictions and should normally be restricted to the first 20 weeks, allowable exceptions being on the grounds of serious threat to the mother's health or evidence of foetal abnormality. In 2010, the Conference adopted the recommendation of a working party not to embark on a revision of the 1976 Statement.


  • Ian Leck, 'Abortion 40 years on', in Epworth Review, 35:4 (October 2008) pp. 49-57

Entry written by: IL
Category: Subject

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