Question At least in a modified form, Mr. Steel's Abortion Bill may well become law but, whether it does or not, I am disturbed at the attitude towards the Bill adopted by so many Catholics, egged on by our Hierarchy. Of course we disagree with abortion and regard direct killing of the foetus as gravely sinful but why can we not be content with the Bill's conscience clause, safeguarding the position of Catholics nurses and surgeons? What possible justification can there be for our forcing our own sectarian views on the rest of the British public and doing everything possible to impede a legislative measure regarded by most educated people as eminently desirable?
J. D. London, S.E.
Answer. Let us be clear first of all that in no meaningful sense of the word are we Catholics trying to "force" our views on anyone. No more are we, as a minority, trying to force our views on the rest of the British public than are the anti-vivisectionists, the Cornish nationalists, or the paid up members of any of the main political parties. In relation to the total population, all these groups are minorities but they perseveringly use every democratic means to persuade the rest of us to accept their views; in the controversy over the Abortion Bill Catholics, and the many non-Catholics who accept our views on the matter, have tried to do no more.
Secondly, it is not merely because we believe abortion to be wrong that we are opposed to this Bill. Were this simply our objection, we ought logically to promote legislation against many other sinful practices. The grounds of our disagreement with the Bill are much more fundamental for. not only does it seek to permit the more widespread use of practices we regard as sinful, but it goes far towards overturning respect for the sanctity of human life, a cardinal principle of the rule of law as we have hitherto known it in this country. There would be no inconsistency, for instance, in someone's advocating an alleviation of the law on homosexuality and simultaneously opposing the proposed reform of the law on abortion.
Incidentally I have received another question on this last point and I hope to deal with it more fully in a future answer.