Abortion: Who Decides?; Pregnancy Should Be a Time for Celebration, for Both the Mother and Father - Not a Time to Go to the Law Should Men Have the Right to Interfere in Abortion Issues? Ros Dodd Reports

The Birmingham Post (England), March 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

Abortion: Who Decides?; Pregnancy Should Be a Time for Celebration, for Both the Mother and Father - Not a Time to Go to the Law Should Men Have the Right to Interfere in Abortion Issues? Ros Dodd Reports


Byline: Ros Dodds

Whatever your views on abortion, it is difficult to have a huge amount of sympathy for Stephen Hone.

The 24-year-old sales consultant from Coventry - who is fighting to stop his former girlfriend, Claire Hansell, terminating her pregnancy - already has two young children by his estranged wife.

He embarked on an affair with Ms Hansell, who has a four-year-old daughter, after she moved into the house next door - and subsequently left his family.

One might ask why Mr Hone isn't directing all his energies into ensuring the welfare of his existing family rather than fighting for the life of an unborn child.

His legal bills could run into tens of thousands of pounds, yet his wife Natasha says she's had to go to the Child Support Agency to force him to pay child maintenance.

Nevertheless, there are men who will applaud the legal action Mr Hone has taken.

Last Friday, he went to the High Court in London to seek an injunction halting the termination Ms Hansell had booked at Birmingham's Calthorpe Nursing Home (which was later cancelled because she fell ill with bronchitis).

This week, he won a partial victory when the Edgbaston clinic agreed not to carry out the operation without making further medical inquiries.

Mr Hone's lawyers argued the proposed termination breached the 1967 Abortion Act: only one doctor was consulted, instead of two, and no questions were asked about Ms Hansell's physical and mental state.

Despite the High Court case, there is nothing to stop the 31-year-old hotel sales manager - who is 12 weeks' pregnant - seeking an abortion at another clinic. Ultimately, she will in all probability be able to have the operation at the Calthorpe. For, as the law stands, neither foetus nor father have any rights until a child is born.

Consequently, abortion 'rights' are stacked in the mother's favour and all previous attempts by men to prevent their partners terminating a pregnancy have failed.

In 1987, the High Court ruled that Oxford student Robert Carver didn't have any grounds to stop his pregnant girlfriend having an abortion - a view upheld by the Appeal Court.

Four years ago, 28-year-old James Kelly lost a courtroom battle to prevent his estranged wife Lynne aborting their child.

In the first decision of its kind in Scotland, Judge Lord Eassie ruled that it would be wrong for the law courts to question the opinions formed in good faith of qualified medical practitioners.

What the Hone case throws into question, however, is the way the existing abortion law is applied.

'It would be a help and would save lives if the '67 Act was applied in the way it appears not to have been applied here,' says Paul Danon from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. 'We are concerned with the ease in which abortion can apparently be obtained.'

So does the law need tightening up?

Amanda Callaghan from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) doesn't think so.

'The '67 Act says that a woman can have a termination if she and her doctor agree that to continue the pregnancy would cause to damage to her mental or physical health.

'The fact a woman seeks an abortion suggests she risks emotional damage to her health if she continues with the pregnancy. So anyone who goes to a doctor and says, 'I'm distressed by my unplanned pregnancy' is considered to be absolutely within the law.

'More than 60 per cent of people in this country believe that women should be able to get a legal abortion if they want one.'

The Abortion Law Reform Association goes even further. 'We would like to see a change in the law so that a doctor's decision is not needed: we believe it's a quite unnecessary hoop women have to go through,' says spokeswoman Maureen Bush. …

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