By Lisa Zengarini
Bishops of England and Wales have welcomed the withdrawal of a controversial amendment that could have led to abortion on demand without restriction. The amendment was tabled to the British Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill by MP Diana Johnson and was due for discussion in Parliament on July 5. Specifically, it provided for the abrogation of two Sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, introducing a new clause, NC55. The change would have removed the remaining legal protections for unborn children and all restrictions on abortion in England and Wales, including provisions against sex-selective abortion and the present time limit of 24 weeks.
Bishops thank Catholics for their support against the amendment
Bishops and pro-life organizations in the UK have strongly opposed the amendment and urged Catholics to write to their MPs requesting they vote against. Their appeal has been met with an overwhelming response. Following the withdrawal of the NC55 Bishop John Sherrington, Lead Bishop for Life Issues at the Bishops’ Conference (CBCEW) has thanked the thousands of people who lobbied their representatives and helped to prevent dangerous amendments to the bill from moving forward.
NC55 would have swept away protections for the unborn child
“I welcome the fact that the radical amendment (New Clause 55), which was well outside the scope of the bill, was withdrawn”, the prelate added. “It would have swept away the few protections remaining for the unborn child and enabled abortion on demand as well as removing the possibility of the doctors’ conscientious objection”. Bishop Sherrington also welcomed the withdrawal of another amendment, the New Clause 42, that would have introduced jail sentences for demonstrations outside abortion clinics. “We must stay vigilant to attempts to widen access to abortion by hijacking other bills”, he concluded.
Public debate on extending abortion in the UK
Public debate about abortion returned to the fore in the UK a month ago following the proposals to make permanent the measures enacted during the pandemic to allow so-called ‘at-home’ or ‘Diy' abortions. In 2020 the British Parliament approved another controversial measure aimed at decriminalizing abortion in Northern Ireland and to extend the time limit to 24 weeks. Following protests from the Churches, the new legislation was then rejected by the Stormont Legislative Assembly.