by Christopher Howse ALL SEVEN archbishops
of England. Scotland and Wales yesterday issued an unprecedented joint statement explaining Catholic condemnation of abortion, as battle-lines are being drawn up for the last stages of debate on Mr John Corrie's Bill to amend the Abortion Act.
The archbishops action is clearly aimed at putting the position of Britain's six million Catholics firmly into public view as Parliament decides on the Corrie Bill.
At the same time the hierarchy aims to put the abortion issue in the context of human rights and show both Catholics and others why the Church's teaching is in line with natural justice. The 4,50D-word statement is signed by Cardinal Hume of Westminster and Cardinal Gray of St Andrews and Edinburgh as Well as Archbishop Murphy of Cardiff. Worlock of Liverpool. Dwyer of Birmingham. Bowen of Southwark and Winning of Glasgow in the name of the 48 bishops of Scotland. England and Wales. '
We cannot in conscience remain silent w Rile the most basic human rights of hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings are ignored and overridden by the law,the) say.
After dealing. with the Church's stand on the rights of the unborn and how they are opposed by the present law, the statement calls for an end to abortion as a solution to social problems. On the positive side it points at the co-operation between Catholics and men of goodwill in attacking the root causes of abortion and the care given to desperate mothers.
Meanwhile the pro-life lobby is pulling Out all stops to gain support for the Currie Bill which is likely to have its third reading in the House of Commons on February, 8.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is holding an all-day lobby of Parliament on January 30 and Life is concentrating on contacts with MPs at constituency level. It has distributed 27.00U postcards showing a young baby which has been saved from abortion and is urging supporters to wine to their MI's.
AL.tiye support I or the Bill i$ not just limited to Catholics. The Church Union, an increasingly influential group within the Church of England. is this week posting I0,(X)0 letters and sending notices to hundreds of parishes. It encoulziges members to attend the SKI(' lobby.
There are 26 Anglican bishops enetilled to sit in the House of Lords, which will have to debate the Bill if it is passed by the Commons. At either stage amendments could he made which would destroy the abortion-limiting principles that have survived the Bill's passage through committee.
Bishop Martineau of Blackburn said that he was in favour of the Bill but was too busy to attend the Lords' debate. Bishop Stockwood of Southwark said he sympathised with the Bill's aim, but had not read it and could not he sure to attend its debate.
A spokesman for Bishop Runcie of Si Albans said abortion was One of the most important moral issues facing the Church and society but did not know if his preparations for enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury might prevent his attending the Lords. A spokesman for Bishop Brown of Guildford said he had not been following the Bill. But Mrs Diane Munday for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service commented: "The statement is designed to influence what happens in Parliament. It is interesting that the Catholic Church is so openly and deliberately politicking and at the same time spending money as a charity.
"It is only really Catholics who are against liberal abortion laws and yet about a third of the people cooling to us asking for abortions say they tire Catholics.
"I think sonic kind of Bill will get through, hut with amendments because the Bill now is so badly drafted. The clause on advisoryservices offends all concepts of natual justice. As it stands, BPAS could have its licence revoked if its gardener went to work for an anti-abortion body."
There are now 39 Catholics in the Commons and 67 in the Lords. Many opponents of liberal abortion laws, including Mr Currie and Mr Leo Abse, Mrs Jill Knight and Mrs Eluin KellettBow man among the Bills sponsors, are not Catholics.