by George Monbiot
Who carries the greatest responsibility for the deaths of unborn children in this country? I accuse the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. I charge that he is partly to blame for our abnormally high abortion rate.
Let me begin with a point of agreement. "Whatever our religious creed or political conviction," Murphy-O'Connor writes, the level of abortion in the UK "can only be a source of distress and profound anguish for us all". Quite so. But why has it climbed so high? Is it the rising tide of liberalism? The absence of abstinence? Strange as it may seem, the evidence suggests the opposite.
Last week the cardinal sacked the board of a hospital in north London. It had permitted a GP's surgery to move on to the site, and the doctors there, horror of horrors, were helping women with family planning. Though it is partly funded by the NHS, St John & St Elizabeth's is a Catholic hospital, which forbids doctors from prescribing contraceptives or referring women for abortions. The cardinal says he wants the hospital to provide medical help that is "truly in the interests of human persons".
Murphy-O'Connor has denounced contraception and abortion many times. That's what he is there for: the primary purpose of most religions is to control women. But while we may disagree with his position, we seldom question either its consistency or its results. It's time we started. The most effective means of preventing the deaths of unborn children is to promote contraception.
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