THIS is a personal story about the 1967 Abortion Act, though it is as nothing compared with those of women who have since had to face a choice in this matter. In the wake of the Act’s passage into law 50 years ago, my father Joe and his great friend George Savage helped establish a group called the Society of the Innocents. Its aim was to provide material support for women who were considering whether or not to terminate their pregnancies. In this they were motivated by their Christian religion which asserts all human life is sacrosanct but also by their Socialist values which held that we must do what we can to protect the vulnerable. To them humanity is at its most vulnerable and fragile when it is forming in the womb.

Most of the women they encountered in a tiny facility in Glasgow’s East End were also vulnerable and in an emotionally fragile state owing to a toxic assortment of circumstances. Many had become pregnant by fathers who had promptly disappeared and some were in abusive relationships. Nearly all of them were desperately worried about being unable to support their new-born child, including some who had been disowned by their families for the disgrace of being pregnant out of wedlock. Some of them still insisted on terminating their pregnancies and were assured they would still be welcome to return if they encountered any difficulties following the procedure. Not a single woman who passed through this place took the possibility of abortion lightly. None were condemned or judged; all were offered help in the form of baby clothes; food and baby-care products.

In time these men gradually wound down their roles, believing that in these situations women are best placed to offer help to other women in the event of a crisis pregnancy. Fifty years later the Society of the Innocents is still thriving and I’m glad about that.

Sadly, too many on the anti-abortion side of the debate were indeed quick to judge women who opted for abortion. How could you hope to win hearts and minds by deploying words like “murder” and “slaughter” and “abomination”? Similarly, what purpose was to be served by seeking to aggravate the guilt already felt by many women by printing leaflets depicting the aftermath of abortions?

Many people who purport to be Christians find it far easier to deploy the language of condemnation than the lexicon of compassion. They would have been among those seeking to stone Mary Magdalene to death rather than being at the side of Jesus attempting to save her life.

It’s easy for the Christian churches and those others who oppose abortion to rail against the 8.7 million unborn children who have been killed since the Abortion Act. It’s far more difficult to maintain the eternal struggle against the social and health inequalities that often surround abortions. Many of the Christian Right and the Evangelical Alliance who are stridently opposed to abortion in America nevertheless have no problem spending billions of dollars on weapons of mass destruction. Most of them voted in a President who wants to increase the suffering of the poor by ending free healthcare programmes and by withdrawing cash from social housing projects.

In the UK any Christians who oppose abortion yet support a Conservative government which specialises in punishing the poor really ought to be re-thinking their moral philosophy. You can’t on one hand seek to uphold the dignity of human life in all its forms yet support a government whose policies endanger life.

Yet there is also a problem in the attitudes of some on the pro-choice side of this debate. Indeed many of them would rather shut down all debate on the matter and choose to condemn and castigate those who simply want to have their voices heard. They insist on portraying abortion exclusively as a feminist issue and they depict it as a struggle between the human rights of an unborn child and the reproductive rights of its mother.

Yet if you believe that the right to life is a fundamental one, the most fundamental one, then surely you have a duty to protect it and to uphold it. Thus it becomes not a feminist issue but a human rights one. What else do they expect the Catholic Church and those of its sister churches in the reformed tradition to act in this matter? The right to life of any human being, including those being formed in the womb is at the heart of everything they believe. Are we now in a situation where you can only espouse your faith if it first conforms to the strictures of the state? That isn’t enlightened and diverse democracy; that’s totalitarianism.

The process of shutting down all attempts at debating this issue has effectively included a blanket ban by the government and media outlets on statistics and research that tell another story. It is a chilling one which also affects our attitudes to the rights of disabled people and the elderly and infirm in our society. In the last five years, according to official Scottish Government figures, abortions as a direct result of the unborn child being disabled have increased by 45 per cent. This report states baldly that a possible factor in this is tests for Down’s Syndrome. In Iceland 99 per cent of Down’s Syndrome babies have been aborted. How long until we start questioning money and resources spent on the welfare of these human beings who were disadvantaged at birth but who nonetheless contribute wonderfully to our happiness; people like my beautiful niece Ciara?

Dr Greg Pike, founding director of the Adelaide Centre for Bioethics and Culture, has researched the impact of 50 years of legal abortion in the UK. It points to a wholesale concealment of possible health risks to women from abortion. This research includes studies from Finland, the US and New Zealand which shows heightened risks of suicide and depression following an abortion.

There is no thought here of having the church interfering in the running of the state. This is much more profoundly important than that. It is about opposing the iniquitous erosion of human dignity in our society championed by those agencies who seek abortion until birth. And it is about respecting the rights of those who care about this to have their say and to present their evidence for inspection without being accused of being “anti-women”. If we want women to have a choice then let’s make it a properly informed one.