4 AUGUST 1984, Page 18

Sir: Joseph Santamaria's article 'Embryos and lettuce' (30 June) raised

important points about research on test-tube babies — and the matter of donors. The Warnock Report has emphasised some of these points. But the future decisions on the extermination of life must include an urgent look at previous abortion legisla- tion, allowing up to 28 weeks. This is in contrast to Denmark which allows up to 12 weeks, Italy 13 weeks, Holland 21 weeks, Germany from 12 to 22 weeks according to circumstances, and France up to 10 weeks. Britain is, I think, alone in the Common Market in allowing abortion in minors without parental authorisation.

Quite apart from whether or not one accepts the argument for abortion, there is no doubt that an enormous number of embryos are aborted in Britain in a totally human condition. Unfortunately very few people have had experience of direct and continuous contact with a premature baby at an age when it could be aborted in this country. I have — and since then I have found it absolutely chilling to realise that my son, now aged 11, would have been well within the termination age.

Another important point is that doctors are frequently wrong about the period of conception. It is quite possible to be a month out — which means that on many occasions children will be aborted very late indeed.

Michael Ivens 40 Doughty Street, London WCI