Dr Rowan Williams speaks out on abortion

  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has spoken out over abortion in an article in yesterday's Sunday Times Review magazine entitled: 'People are starting to realise we can't go on as we are'. The Anglican church leader wrote: 'Abortion may not be a party issue but it is a public matter of immense weight.' He said: 'For a large majority of Christians - not only Roman Catholics, and including this writer - it is impossible to regard abortion as anything other than the deliberate termination of a human life. Whatever other issues enter into the often anguished decisions concerning particular cases, they want this dimension to be taken seriously. Commenting on the media debates last week, following the Conservative party leader's statement calling for lowering the legal time limit for abortion, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's endorsement of this statement during the launch of the Catholic Bishops' Election Letter, Dr Williams said: 'The idea that raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some neanderthal Christian right is alarmist nonsense. 'One of the confusions that has arisen in the past week is the idea that we are somehow going to be swept up into a British rerun of the US election of 2004, with a moral conservative panic dictating votes. It's far from clear that this is what happened in America; and even if it were, we are a long way from any comparable situation here. 'The plain fact is that no party has made, or is likely to make, commitments on this matter as part of a set of its electoral pledges.' He added: 'all the party leaders have admitted in various ways that they are far from happy with our abortion law as it stands. Former defenders of the law, even David Steel, who piloted the 1967 act through parliament, have expressed real dismay at many aspects of what the act has made possible. And in the country at large, not least among young people, there is a groundswell of distaste about it. 'Some of this is to do with sheer statistics. A rising number of abortions means a rising number of - at best - tragic and humanly costly options. But the advance of technology has also reinforced anxieties. Whether it is a matter of evidence about foetal sensitivity to outside stimuli (including pain), the nature of foetal consciousness, or the expanding possibilities of saving early foetal life outside the womb, the trend is inexorably towards a sharper recognition of the foetus as a natural candidate for "rights" of some kind. 'In light of this, it is a lot harder to reduce the issue to an individual's right to choose. And this is not something said primarily by patriarchal clerics, but increasingly by women, and young women at that. The clear assumption that the availability of abortion was a basic element in the agenda for the dignity of women is by no means universally obvious. A good few see it now as another triumph of impersonal, even abusive, technology.' To read the complete article visit : www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-1532854,,00.html (If this doesn't work, copy & paste the url into your browser)

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