Following a vote in the House of Commons to pass a bill making abortion legal in Northern Ireland on 9th July, and ahead of a similar vote in the House of Lords next week, Bishop John Sherrington has made the following statement on 12th July:
Next week members of the House of Lords will decide on changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland, despite the fact that people there have not been consulted on such a fundamental change to the law. Last year there were over 200,000 abortions in England and Wales, extending this to Northern Ireland would be a tragedy for lives not yet born.
This impending decision gives us an opportunity to reflect on the truth about the dignity of human life and the vitality and potentiality of the child in the womb. The Church’s consistent affirmation that human life begins at conception emphasises this unique beginning of human existence. The challenge that faces our society today is to recover an understanding of the immeasurable good of each unborn child and to value his or her life with even greater respect.
A legal framework for the protection of unborn human life is an important statement about the respect due to each and every child and about the society in which we live.
Decision-making should take place as close to the people as possible. In contrast, this proposal is an imposition enacted by a parliament which is overwhelmingly not from Northern Ireland. Parliament acting in this way threatens further to undermine devolution in Northern Ireland. We urge peers not to take this step.
As we have recently said, Catholics, along with many others, 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. We lament the loss of life due to abortion and will never cease to seek a change of minds and hearts in favour of the inviolability of every life and the care of mothers who are pregnant.
Pope Francis has said: 'All of us must care for life, cherish life, with tenderness, warmth…to give life is to open our heart, and to care for life is to give oneself in tenderness and warmth for others, to have concern in my heart for others. Caring for life from the beginning to the end. What a simple thing, what a beautiful thing… So, go forth and don’t be discouraged. Care for life. It’s worth it.'
Bishop John Sherrington is the lead bishop on life issues for England and Wales.