Catholic bishops say MPs who passed abortion act fifty years ago never envisaged today’s number
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales – marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act last week – said far more abortions are being carried out today than was ever envisaged when the law was passed.
In 2016, there were 190,406 abortions carried out in England and Wales and 12,063 in Scotland, according to figures from the Department of Health and NHS Scotland.
The joint statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said: “Even despite the concerns raised at the time, it would, perhaps, have been difficult to predict that the number of abortions in our countries would have increased to such an alarming level.”
They said that “choice” had come to mean “doing whatever I feel to be right for me” and rather than taking into account a “wider set of fundamental values” and there had been an “erosion of respect” for medical professionals who conscientiously object to participating in abortions.
“Over the last 50 years, the bishops of our countries, along with many other people, have spoken consistently in favour of the intrinsic value of human life and both the good of the child in the womb and the good of the mother,” they said.
“This anniversary provides an opportunity to lament the loss of life due to abortion and seek a change of minds and hearts about the good of the child in the womb and the care of mothers who are pregnant.
“Fifty years ago, few envisaged the possibility that there would be almost 200,000 abortions in Great Britain.
“Every abortion is a tragedy and few consider that abortion is the desirable or best solution to a pregnancy, which may be challenging on account of many different factors.
“Today the language of ‘choice’ dominates discourse about marriage, gender, family and abortion. This needs further exploration.
“Choice has come to mean doing whatever I feel to be right for me – a very subjective view of the good – rather than taking into account a wider set of fundamental values.
“This is a very inadequate understanding of free choice, which requires an education in important truths about what is truly good and the possibility of other options.
“In this case, these must include the good of the unborn child, care and support for pregnant mothers and the responsibility of the father.”
They added: “This 50th anniversary needs to bring about a new debate to change attitudes towards human life in the womb, to promote what it means to make good and authentic choices, and to protect and care for mothers and their children.”
In 1968, the year the Act came into effect, there were 23,641 abortions in England and Wales. This rose to 54,819 the next year. The number of abortions in England and Wales peaked in 2007 when there were 205,598 pregnancy terminations.
In Scotland there were 1,500 abortions in 1968 and the figure peaked in 2008, when there were 13,908.
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