The House of Bishops at the Church of England’s General Synod, which is meeting this week, have stated that at least 98.3% of abortions taking place in the UK are immoral.

When asked previously in November 2019, Archbishop Justin Welby stated that the Church of England’s stance on abortion was very clear – but then failed to explain what the position actually is. The church’s official written response has consistently stated that there are ‘limited conditions’ for which abortion may be permissible, but has not recently explained what those conditions are.

Asking the Bishops for clarity

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and lay member of General Synod, asked the Bishops:

“The Church of England has a number of times made the statement: ‘The Church of England combines principled opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be strictly limited conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative.’ What are the “strictly limited conditions” where it is “morally preferable” to intentionally kill the unborn child?”

Bishop of Carlisle responds

The Bishop of Carlisle responded on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:

“The General Synod resolved in 1983 that ‘in situations where the continuance of a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother a termination of pregnancy may be justified and that there must be adequate and safe provision in our society for such situations’ and in 1993 that ‘In the rare occasions when abortion is carried out beyond 24 weeks, ‘Serious foetal handicap’ should be interpreted strictly as applying to those conditions where survival is possible only for a very short period.’ In 2005 the General Synod received a briefing paper from the Mission and Public Affairs Council summarising these resolutions: ‘The Church of England combines strong opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be – strictly limited – conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative’.”

Legal grounds under English law

Legal grounds for an abortion under English law, which the Bishops say could be ‘morally acceptable’ would include:

  • a risk to the life of pregnant woman
  • termination is necessary to prevent permanent injury to physical or mental health of pregnant woman,
  • save life of pregnant woman
  • prevent grave permanent injury to physical or mental health of pregnant woman
  • substantial risk child will suffer physical or mental abnormalities

Of the 196,083 abortions carried out in 2018, only 1.7% were carried out under these grounds, which the House of Bishops believes could be ‘justifiable’. This includes abortions for any abnormality – most of which were not life-threatening, such as Down’s Syndrome or cleft palate. English law does allow other grounds for abortion.

‘Government must address this’

Commenting on the response, Andrea Williams said:

“The House of Bishops have today made clear that 98% of abortions that take place in the UK are morally wrong. This is a huge statement and one which the new government needs to address urgently.”

Dave Brennan of the Centre for Bio-ethical Reform UK (head of their Brephos project) also commented:

“The Church of England says that it opposes the vast majority of abortions, but where have we ever seen them exercise this ‘strong opposition’? None of the 26 Lords Spiritual spoke or voted against the Northern Ireland abortion bill last year.”

Republished by permission of Christian Concern.

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