Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Cardinal Cormac Murhpy-O’Connor, respectively Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Scotland and England/Wales issued an open letter on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act which liberalized abortion.
What’s especially interesting about this letter is the positive and respectful tone of the letter. The Bishops, while respecting the idea of “women’s choice” challenge the community to reflect if people really are making a free choice when they are constrained by their economic situation, by career pressure or family stresses.
Key to their remarks is the call to work “achievable” changes to the abortion laws in the U.K. I remember having a conversation with Jim Hughes at the Campaign Life Coalition about such “achievable goals”. For the coalition it’s an “all or nothing” fight. The goal is to ban all abortions… nothing else will do. They reject the notion of “achievable goals.” I think this is a short-sighted vision which leads to inaction and many more abortions.
The advances in prenatal care are keenly observed by our citizens. Babies are viable at an earlier and earlier age. It makes sense to take advantage on this awareness and work collaboratively for some time-limits on abortion. As the bishops state:
“While upholding the principle of the sacredness of human life, it is both licit and important for those in public life who oppose abortion on principle to work and vote for achievable incremental improvement to what is an unjust law.”
Canada’s bishops would do well to reject the hostile tactics of other groups and rather build bridges with women and men of goodwill, intent on working towards achievable goals.