Cardinal O'Brien on Abortion
Writing in today's Scotsman, Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland defends the case for a reduction in legal time limits. Th full text of his article is shown below, you can view the article on P.22 of the Scotsman or at
The question aired publicly this week of whether abortion time limits should be changed is a loaded one. The option supported and taught by the Catholic church of ending abortion completely is not on the agenda. Accordingly, the choice presented is an imperfect one. However it does reflect the reality of our secular world and the terms in which this debate is taking place at the moment.
Abortion is the taking of a unique and unrepeatable human life. If you terminate a pregnancy you take a life. Abortion is irreversible and profound. We serve no one if we attempt to minimize its impact or normalize its effects. Abortion has many victims. The baby is the first and most obvious victim, its life is taken. The mother is also a victim, she is told she has the right to choose yet is rarely shown the consequences of her choice. Her child is spoken of as a foetus, embryo, or the products of conception terms designed to deny its humanity.
Women often opt for abortion because they can see no way out of a crisis. They abort for social reasons, lack of support, lack of finance, worry about relationships with her parents, peers or the child's father. Were real choices given, the majority would not abort. Many women suffer from post abortion syndrome. They grieve for the child they have lost and their lives and relationships can be badly affected. Fathers too are affected; they have no rights in an abortion decision even if they are married to the mother.
The possibility of a reduction in the time limit for abortions has not been on the political agenda for some time, that it is now centre stage is to be welcomed. Should such a proposal be put before parliament, pro-life MP s will be faced with a dilemma “ should they support a reduction, which would appear to tacitly suggest early-term abortions were permissible or vote to leave the legislation as it is suggesting that all abortions are permissible.
Pope John Paul II specifically addressed such a scenario when he spoke at the Jubilee for Parliamentarians in 2000. He said: when you cannot get exactly what you want or require, it is legitimate to make an imperfect choice, since the object of your choice is the preservation of the lives of unborn children (in this example, those aged between 20 and 24 weeks).
In fact the Pope stressed that when faced with an opportunity to make legislation less harmful than it is at present, it would be wrong not to take it, stressing at all time however that such a choice was not the ideal but was instead, ˜the lesser of two evils .
An abortion can be legally obtained in Britain if a pregnancy has not exceeded 24 weeks. If there is a suspicion that the child might be born handicapped, an abortion is legal until the moment of birth. Our law ignores utterly the fact that life begins at the moment of conception. If we hadn't been conceived we simply wouldn't be here. To those who doubt or question this, I ask simply, if life doesn't begin at conception then when does it begin? The early embryo is alive. It is not a potential human being, but a human being with potential. Its physical characteristics already decided.
Since 1967, there have been about six million abortions in Britain. There are around 600 carried out every day and the number is increasing every year. Interestingly, the hollow promises of our sexual health industry, that wider access to contraception would see abortions fall has proven to be at best empty and worthless and at worst a cynical lie.
The moral values of our entire society are called into question by the practice of abortion. Our laws and medical practice conspire to debase the value of human life and contrary to all logic to allow life at its most defenceless to be attacked and destroyed.
During a sermon delivered in the Crypt of the House of Commons in London last year, I reminded our MP's that religion and politics were "autonomous", but co-operation "served the common good" and called on politicians to attend to the "concerns of society". In a reference to the plight of the unborn, I lamented deeply our present culture and laws which show so little respect for the child in the womb “ life at its earliest and most defenceless.
Today, as we approach a general election, I call again on our politicians to attend to the concerns of society. I urge Scotland s voters to quiz their prospective candidates on this issue and demand that it is placed at the top of the political agenda. As Scotland s population continues to fall I ask those same candidates to campaign in support of life.