BY MARK GREAVES
me. CATHOLIC bishops of England and Wales have urged people to lobby their MPs over drastic proposals to introduce abortion on demand.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, chairman of the Bishops' Conference Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, issued a leaflet to every parish in England and Wales warning of attempts to liberalise the abortion law.
Archbishop Smith asked priests to pass the leaflet on to their congregations. "It is important that as many people as possible write urgently to their MP," the leaflet said. "If conscientious people do not act, there is a very real danger that the law on abortion will become even worse than it is now."
MPs have tabled more than 20 amendments relating to abortion to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which is expected to have its final reading in the House of Commons once Parliament begins its autumn session on Monday.
They include removing the requirement for abortions to be justified on the grounds of physical or mental health; removing the need for two doctors' signatures; allowing nurses and midwives to perform abortions; allowing abortion drugs to be taken at home without medical supervision and extending the abortion law to Northern Ireland.
It is up to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, to decide which amendments are heard and for how long they are to be debated.
Some pro-life commentators fear that the make-up of the House of Commons makes it likely that the proposals will be passed.
The leaflet issued by the bishops' conference said: "These proposals could lead to girls as young as 14 taking abortion pills at home, alone, without any medical supervision.
"There would be no need for a doctor's involvement as the doctor could certify without seeing the girl and a nurse could dispense the pills.
"They would also remove the last vestige of protection for the unborn child."
It said that the Government should aim to provide women with "breathing space, access to counselling and information about alternatives, so that no woman feels forced to choose abortion".
It added: "Removing these requirements leaves women and unborn child exposed to great dangers. We should be taking abortion more seriously, not less seriously."
The leaflet cited evidence that more than 80 per cent of people in England and Wales said that ways should be found to make abortion less common. not more common.
In his letter to priests Archbishop Smith asked them to alert their parishioners about the danger of the proposals.
He said: "It would be very helpful if you could in a suitable way draw the attention of the parish community to this matter, and if copies of this leaflet could be made available for parishioners.
"Time is of the essence, as approaches to MPs would need to be made over the next few weeks."
In May the House of Commons voted to approve the Governmentbacked Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in spite of pleas from Britain's most senior Church leaders.
MI's supported the creation of animal-human embryos and socalled "saviour siblings" and removed the requirement for fertility clinics to consider a child's "need for a father".
They also overwhelmingly rejected attempts to reduce the time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 12, 16, 20 or 22 weeks.
There were no proposals to liberalise the abortion law, however. It is understood that some pro-abortion MPs planned to wait until the autumn Parliamentary session, which begins on Monday, when there would be more time to consider their amendments.
Both Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor and Cardinal Keith O'Brien urged MPs to oppose the Embryology Bill.
But Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell delivered some of the most trenchant criticisms. In a letter to Scottish MPs he said the party had "lost its ethical credibility in the nation at large" because of the Bill.