Editorial&Opinion: Abortion and Religion in a Secular Society ; HEALTH AND ETHICS
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has met the Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, to argue for a change in the abortion law. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor wants the 24-week limit to be lowered to keep pace with medical advances. A foetus now can be viable at 24 weeks' a reduction in the limit to 21, or even 18, weeks has been mooted.
We do not criticise the Cardinal's intervention. It is appropriate for the leader of the country's Catholics to speak on any issue about which he, or his congregation, has qualms. We would also note that it is a measure of how realistic the Catholic Church in this country has become that its leader is lobbying for a relatively small change in the law on legal abortion, rather than agitating for a return to an outright ban. The Vatican position on abortion, as on euthanasia, is that it violates the sanctity of life.
The way that Cardinal Murphy O'Connor has gone about representing his views also shows a proper respect for the institutions of power. By meeting the Health Secretary, he is acknowledging that law- making is a matter for the Government and for MPs. The Catholic Church may have its say, but legislation is not the province of the church. Even though we still have, in the Church of England, an established church, Britain is to all intents and purposes a secular state. In the modern age of global communications and cross-border mobility, this is a strength and not a weakness.
At present, we see little evidence that the abortion law needs alteration. After raising the question at their annual conference last year for the first time since 1989, doctors voted against asking for a change. Their reason, and ours, is that medical practice is already ahead of what any new law would require. Of all the abortions carried out in this country in 2004, only a tiny fraction were of foetuses older than …
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Publication information: Article title: Editorial&Opinion: Abortion and Religion in a Secular Society ; HEALTH AND ETHICS. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 22, 2006. Page number: 28. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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