BY SIMON CALDWELL
ONE OF BRITAIN’S most senior Catholic leaders has called for the urgent reform of the country’s abortion laws after a charity was shown to have helped hundreds of women obtain illegal abortions overseas.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham said the practice of abortion had corrupted the medical profession by destroying the concept that human life was sacred.
He said there was now a “real danger” that the lives of the disabled and the elderly were at risk from euthanasia because they were no longer considered to have any intrinsic value.
The archbishop spoke out on Thursday last week after the Sunday Telegraph revealed that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) had been referring women to the Ginemedex clinic in Barcelona, Spain, for abortions of healthy babies over the legal limit of 24 weeks.
The BPAS is Britain’s largest private abortion provider and receives £12 million of taxpayers’money a year to perform abortions for the National Health Service.
Archbishop Nichols, in a homily during a Mass for health care workers at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, said: “Our abortion laws need reform in the light of advancing medical knowledge and achievements but also in the light of the respect due to a human life at every stage in its existence.” On Friday, the day after the Mass, the Archbishop wrote to Health Secretary John Reid to urge him to investigate the activities of the BPAS.
Archbishop Nichols said: “I was deeply distressed to read the reports that weekend of the activities of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service playing an active part in helping women to obtain late abortions after 24, 25, 26 weeks or even later.
“British law gives only a tissue of protection to the child in the womb. That a publicly-funded advisory service should help rip away even that tissue of protection is abhorrent.” The archbishop added: “The Gospel of Life requires us to name abortion for what it is — the deliberate taking of the life of an unborn child.
“The passing of the 1967 Abortion Act has had a corrupting effect on British society as a whole and this has now spread to parts of the medical profession. I fear that there is a real danger that this may spread to the treatment of the disabled and the elderly.” It was revealed at the weekend that Mr Reid has ordered Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson, the most senior member of the medical establishment, to investigate the actions of the BPAS.
The Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, has also been asked to study audio and video evidence produced by the undercover reporters.
Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, a Catholic, was on Tuesday expected to table an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons demanding the immediate withdrawal of Government funding from the BPAS.
The ProLife Alliance, meanwhile, sent a letter to Sir Paul Scott-Lee, Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, lodging a complaint and asking for a criminal investigation of BPAS activities.
“We have been in contact with relevant authorities in Spain,” said spokeswoman Julia Millington.
“They have confirmed the illegality of abortions under the terms described by the Sunday Telegraph, and also informed us that similar investigations will take place in Barcelona.
“Section 1A of the Criminal Law Act 1977 makes it an offence to conspire in England to commit an illegal act abroad if that same act would be an offence if it were to be performed in England.
“Thus, if the abortions are unlawful under Spanish law and UK law then an offence has been committed if a ‘conspiracy’ can be shown.
“There has been much inaccuracy this week in reporting of Spanish abortion laws, which are in fact con siderably more stringent than those of our country, where, horrifyingly, abortion is actually allowed up to birth in certain circumstances.
“The situations described by the Telegraph journalist, Charlotte Edwardes, are illegal in the United Kingdom and illegal in Spain.” Last week Ann Furedi, BPAS chief executive, denied that her charity was guilty of any wrongdoing.
“There is nothing that we are doing that is unlawful,” she told the BBC. “We are simply providing women with international contacts to clinics that can provide them with abortion services.”