Scottish Bishops ask First Minister for renewed discussions and dialogue on abortion

Dear First Minister

Joint Statement of Bishops of Scotland and England & Wales on the fiftieth anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967


Friday 27 October, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act. To coincide with this the Bishops of Scotland and England & Wales released a joint statement on abortion, which we enclose for your information.

The Church continues to speak up for the intrinsic value of human life and the good of both the child in the womb and its mother. This is crucially important, in a world where the rights of the weak and vulnerable are increasingly called into question, undermined and attacked. We urge political leaders, governments and secular authorities to see that all humanity is worth protecting; a task which is the responsibility of us all. Refusing to recognise the intrinsic value of both lives is profoundly destructive of humanity.

The Church remains deeply concerned about the continued use of the Abortion Act and its consequences, including the tragic compromising of human life and the damage done to women who feel that they have no other choice than to have an abortion. It is also concerned about the provision of abortion services to women from Northern Ireland and the recent announcement of the Scottish Government to allow some women to take misoprostol, the abortion pill, at home without any clinical support. With respect to this matter in particular, since abortion is never the answer to a crisis or unwanted pregnancy, making abortion easier ignores the disturbing reality that an innocent human life is ended.

Additionally, this decision is at odds with a recent nationwide ComRes poll which found that most people (60%) would like to see time limits for abortions reduced, among women the figure is 70%. The poll also showed overwhelming support (76%) for the proposal that doctors, should “verify in person that a patient seeking an abortion is not under pressure from a third party to undergo the abortion”, while 82% of Scots believe the law should require a waiting period of five days between an initial consultation with a doctor and an abortion taking place, in order to ensure that the mother has had enough time to consider all of the options available to her. Since it is clear, that a majority of our fellow citizens do not support the current abortion laws, the decision to ease them further appears to be in conflict with public opinion.

The Church seeks to speak up for the whole of humanity, for each individual, irrespective of age, colour, creed, or socioeconomic status. The right to life of each human being is not dependent on any particular personal characteristic or of the status of another. It is rooted simply in the reality of their humanity. This is equality at its most fundamental.

On behalf of the Church in Scotland we express a willingness to engage with Government on this most important issue. With our shared desire to protect humanity, to tackle the damage done by abortion, and to give each individual every opportunity to flourish, we believe that we have a starting point for dialogue and we would be delighted to meet with you to discuss this further.

May this anniversary be the catalyst for renewed discussions on the issue of abortion in Scotland and may it serve as an opportunity to bring people together to go forward in the search of truth.

Yours sincerely

+ Philip Tartaglia, President, Archbishop of Glasgow

+ Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh

+ Joseph Toal, Vice-President, Bishop of Motherwell

+ Hugh Gilbert, Episcopal Secretary, Bishop of Aberdeen

+ Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld

+ John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley

+ William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway

+ Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles


Cc Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport

Cc Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health and Sport