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  Young people's attitudes to abortion for fetal abnormality: report of the findings of a study looking at school and university students' opinions

Summary of findings

- The vast majority of students believe that abortion should be legal, and dislike the idea of the law dictating the course of action for the pregnant woman.

- School students were often more extreme in their views than university students, which can perhaps be attributed to their lack of experience and knowledge.

- The terms "Pro-Choice" and "Pro-Life" do not imply a consistent support for or opposition to abortion. A significant number of 'pro-life' students support abortion in some cases, and some 'pro-choice' students believe there should be some limits placed on the right to choose.

- Where students think there should be a limit on the right to choose, they suggest the need for more education, counselling or a change in people's attitudes to bring this about, rather than legal measures.

- Abortion for fetal abnormality was thought by most students to be understandable in some cases, although most thought it would be wrong to have an abortion purely because the child was disabled.

- Many students believed that the decision to abort an abnormal fetus should be based around the welfare of the child, and the quality of life a child will have. Abortion where the parents simply did not want a disabled child was often labelled 'selfish'.

- Students often suggested that disability could have positive as well as negative aspects and that people should value the special talents and caring nature that disabled people, particularly Down's syndrome children were thought to have.

- Students perceived disability to be an attribute or form of identity, akin to gender or skin colour, rather than as a disease or illness. Since the issue of disability was therefore thought of as a rights rather than a health issue, concern was expressed that abortion for abnormality could be, or at least could encourage, discrimination against disabled people.

- There was a dislike expressed of 'consumerism' and 'too much choice'. Some students thought that people can expect to be able to have anything they want, including a 'perfect child', which was seen as morally wrong.

- Students expressed fear about the so-called 'slippery slope' where they thought abortion for abnormality could lead to sex selection, or abortion on the grounds of hair and eye colour.

- Students expressed fears about the consequences of genetic manipulation on the grounds that it is 'against nature' and may spin out of control.

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