Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland criticised an 'erosion of respect' for people opposed to abortion

The bishops of England, Wales and Scotland have issued a rare joint statement defending Church teaching on abortion to mark the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act.

The bishops describe every abortion as a “tragedy” and lament the 200,000 terminations that happened in 2015 alone. Society needs a new understanding of the intrinsic value of human life, they add, as well as better “education in moral responsibility about human sexuality and the meaning of sexual expression within marriage.”

They also criticise the fact Britain allows abortions up to birth for disability, “in stark contrast” to the protection disabled people receive after they are born. “The witness of those who compete in the Paralympic games shines out as a way in which people with disability excel and compete, using their gifts to the full,” the bishops say.

However, they add that a woman who has had an abortion may still seek forgiveness.

“The complex set of conditions in which a woman finds herself pregnant and may consider having an abortion may limit the exercise of freedom and diminish moral culpability.

“When abortion is the choice made by a woman, the unfailing mercy of God and the promise of forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation are always available. There is always a way home to a deeper relationship with God and the Church, as recent Popes have emphasised, which can heal and bring peace.”

There has also been an “erosion of respect” for people who oppose abortion, as doctors and nurses “face increasing difficulty in being able to combine their dedicated professional work with their personal conviction”.

“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. As Catholics, we urge that, throughout our countries, prayer and fasting be used for the protection of human life, especially for life within the womb, for all expectant mothers, for fathers and families.”