chapter  2
29 Pages

The Abortion Law: Theory and Practice

The English law governing abortion , enshrined in the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act , was the most severe in Europe in that the maximum penalty for an attempt to procure an abortion , whether or not the woman was pregnant , was imprisonment for life . In prac­ tice , however, the law was unenforceable . In 1944, George Orwell commented that for the last 30 years , abortion, ' theoretically illegal ' , was ' looked upon as a peccadillo ' . 1 Abortion was impossible to police and , because of the frequency of the a<;t and popular sym­ pathy with the practice , juries were reluctant to convict .