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Catholic bishop: bill changes would leave UK with ‘most extreme abortion legislation in Europe’
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An English bishop has urged Catholics to resist a new push to strip away protections for unborn children that would “leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe.” 

Bishop John Sherrington issued the appeal July 1 as Members of Parliament sought to table amendments to a domestic abuse bill that he said would introduce “abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive.”

A group of MPs will seek to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which prohibit the administration of drugs or the use of instruments to cause a miscarriage.

Sherrington said: “This is being presented as decriminalizing abortion but it would, if carried, do far more than that. It would result in the introduction of abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks.”

“It would leave the U.K. with the most extreme abortion legislation in Europe, where in nearly all countries the time limit for abortion is 12 weeks. The majority of our fellow citizens would like to see the current 24-week limit reduced, not increased.”

Sherrington, the lead bishop for life issues of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, continued: “This amendment would also have the effect of removing the clauses in the Abortion Act 1967 which enable medical practitioners to exercise conscientious objection in relation to abortion. Furthermore, it would also remove the legal safeguards which currently protect women and children.” 

He urged Catholics to write to their MPs, via the website of the pro-life group Right to Life, urging them to oppose the amendment.

Right to Life has accused the abortion lobby, led by the U.K.’s largest abortion provider BPAS, of trying to “hijack” the Domestic Abuse Bill, which seeks to safeguard women and children who face abuse in their homes.

The charity said that the amendments would represent “the most extensive change to abortion legislation” since the practice was legalized in 1967, leaving England and Wales with “one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world.”

Pro-abortion campaigners have been active throughout the coronavirus crisis, which has had a devastating effect on the U.K., with 43,991 deaths from COVID-19 as of July 2 -- the third highest recorded figure in the world.

When the country entered lockdown in March, the government came under pressure to allow women to have early abortions at home without medical supervision. It approved the measure, then quickly rescinded it, before introducing again.

Sherrington, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Westminster, expressed shock at the government’s actions. 

He said: “These measures fundamentally change access to abortion in England and Wales for the foreseeable future. Whilst these are emergency times, these measures further endanger women who, for example, are rushed into decisions by abusive partners and act without any proper consultation.”

Last month official figures revealed that a record number of abortions took place in England and Wales in 2019.

The government reported June 11 that a total of 209,519 abortions took place last year, more than in any other year since 1967. 

Antonia Tully, director of campaigns at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: “We are looking at a national tragedy here. This appalling figure shows us that abortion is becoming more and more normalized.”