9 AUGUST 1975, Page 4

Abortion and population

From Lady Medawar Sir: Your editorial of July 26 describes people who work for 'birth prevention' as 'narrow, cramped and life-hating' who 'help to spread' . . . 'a moral sickness through society.'

In the seventeen years I have worked for the family planning and abortion law reform movements I have never met anyone deserving these criticisms, though I have occasionally met an anti-abortionist who felt that the wages of sin should be birth, preferably with pangs.

The question of optimum population matters too much to be tossed rhetorically around. It would suit The Spectator better to be standing, with a quiverful of accurate facts, between those who want abortion and pills on demand and those who feel that more people automatically bring a merrier and richer life for the family and the country.

To begin with, no Royal Commission on Population is, as you write, , at present delaying its report: the last one reported in the summer of 1949. The 'government. did sponsor a panel, under the chairmanship of Professor Ross, and this panel reported in 1973 that Britain did not need a population policy. Neither Mr James Prior nor anyone else was appointed as Minister of Population, and Sir Keith Joseph, in giving a grant to the FPA, was only continuing what Richard Crossman had, at my invitation, done: he gave money to train doctors, because at that time, a knowledge of family planning was not part of their medical education.

Finally, although the birth rate is declining, our present numbers — 49 million — will inevitably continue to rise, probably until the end of the century.* I hope The Spectator will in future consult a wise demographer before it writes again to tell the country that it is 'time to multiply'.

Jean Meda war Director Margaret Pyke Memorial Trust Margaret Pyke Centre, 27-35 Mortimer Street, London WI *The Office of Population. Censuses and, Surveys report, first published, predicts a figure of 53,000,000 by the year 2014.