This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the private member's bill which led to the Abortion Act of 1967, allowing abortion up to 28 weeks of pregnancy, that was lowered to 24 weeks in 1990 by the Human Fertilisation Act.
The 1967 act ended 164 years of misery for women with unwanted pregnancies. In 1803 abortion was made a capital offence, after centuries when abortion had been legal until foetal movements could be felt. Countless women died agonising deaths as a result of illegal abortion. Fear of prosecution prevented them from seeking medical help. Since the act came into force, the number of abortions each year in Britain has increased from 54,819 in 1969 to 193,000 in 2006. One in three women in Britain can now expect to have an abortion.