Archbishop Peter Smith, Chairman of the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, has issued the following statement in response to government plans to make the 'abortion pill' more widely available: 'With the latest government proposals, what on earth has happened to respect for the dignity and worth of human life and personhood? What has happened to the understanding that life is a gift and not a commodity, nor an inconvenience to be disposed of at will? 'The Catholic Church considers the dignity and health of all women, men and children, at all stages of their lives, to be of the utmost importance. It advocates a holistic approach based on a combination of medical care, education and personal responsibility. The Catholic Church also teaches that human life begins from the moment of conception. Abortion is wrong because it denies the right of the unborn human being to life. To proclaim this truth consistently does not detract from the Church's support for the fundamental human right of women to live in dignity and security. The growing commerce in embryos, and the latest government plans to make the abortion pill more readily available to pregnant women including teenage girls, are both symptoms of a growing distortion of the true meaning and purpose of sexual relationships, and an ever-deepening erosion of respect for the dignity of human life and personhood. 'The more the purpose of sexual intercourse is seen as a merely casual and recreational activity rather than as the proper means of procreation within a stable marital relationship, the more so-called "unwanted pregnancies" are increasing. It is a sad reflection on society, and on government, that we appear to be moving inexorably towards abortion on demand and down the slippery slope of progressively-dehumanised personal and sexual relationships. 'There is a profound need to recover a sense of deep respect between men and women and between teenage boys and girls to combat a growing culture of exploitative relationships. There is an urgent need, too, to acknowledge and celebrate the true sacredness of the sexual relationship within marriage whose purpose is not only unitive but also procreative. 'The government would be better employed in putting its efforts into winning the hearts and minds of teenagers, in particular, to enable them to appreciate the value of stable marital relationships, and abstinence before marriage, thereby fostering mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each and every person in society.'
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