The Church of England has said it will “vigorously challenge” any attempts in Parliament to increase the upper time limit on abortion beyond the current 24 weeks.
The comments were made by the Bishop of Newcastle, Christine Hardman, and the Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, in response to an open letter from clergy and lay members of the Church of England in The Times this week.
The letter sought assurances from Church of England bishops that they would challenge proposals set out in both the Labour and Lib Dem party manifestos to decriminalise abortion.
In their joint response, the bishops said that they would not comment on the specifics of party manifestos during election season, but said that bishops in the House of Lords were “fully committed” to engaging with the issue.
“As a general rule we would not comment on specifics of party manifestos in the midst of a General Election campaign, but as bishops and as Members of the House of Lords we are fully committed to engagement on this with parties, MPs and peers when Parliament returns,” they said.
“The issue has in the past been a matter of individual conscience for MPs andpPeers where the party whip is not usually applied, and we believe firmly that it should remain so.
“We can provide assurance that we will also vigorously challenge any attempt to extend abortion provision beyond the current 24 week limit.”
Elsewhere in the statement, the bishops said that the Church of England’s position on abortion was “principled opposition”, while also asking churches to give “every possible support” to women considering abortion.
They concluded by saying that those who are concerned about the parties’ abortion pledges should raise them with candidates in their constituencies before December 12 “as part of our responsible engagement as Christians with the political process”.
“Our prayers are for all those who might be affected by these decisions, and those who carry the heavy responsibility of framing legislation that is in the service of the most vulnerable in society,” they said.
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