A SURVEY published this week by the Abortion Law Reform Association shows that while 18 out of 19 South London Catholic priests would not approve abortion under any circumstances, four out of five Anglican and Protestant clergy would.
The non-Catholic clergy would favour abortion to preserve the mother's physical or mental health, or in case of rape. 'I hree out of four favoured abortion in case of incest, two out of three if the child was suspected of being defective, and one out of two if the mother was under 16.
Some Protestant clergy even feel an abortion would be justified if the mother were unmarried or if she suffered from financial hardship or bad housing.
The survey, which was made 10 months ago, took the form of a long questionnaire sent to 1,011 priests, ministers and rabbis in South London and nearby home counties. Nearly half replied.
Of the 62 Catholic priests questioned, 19 replied. None of the Jewish rabbis did.
More than half the Catholic priests said they had been consulted by people about abortions, compared with only one out of five Anglicans and one in 15 Congregationalists.
Of all the Protestant clergy, nine in ten felt the present abortion laws need to be changed. Half the Catholic priests said they were satisfied with the present laws.
As for the grounds for abortion, one Catholic priest said he felt a case of rape was justification. Half the Protestants would favour abortion if the
mother were considered incapable of looking after it or another child, one in three if the family was too large, one in 20 if the mother was unmarried Or very poor.
Nearly all the Catholic priests agreed that the foetus had "the same rights as a full human individual" from the moment of fertilisation. But the Protestants were divided. Half said it had those rights when it became viable (at six or seven months). A third only at birth. One out of 20 at around three months.
Another question showed that 93 per cent of the Protestants approved of contraception, while 16 Catholic priests disapproved, one said he approved and two gave no answer.