Directives From English Bishops on Abortion Act

Author: English Bishops


In connection with the new Abortion Act which came into force in England recently, the Catholic Bishops, at their Low Week meet in London, issued the following directives for the guidance of Catholic doctors and nurses.

1—The Act lays down that no person shall be under any legal duty to participate in any treatment authorised by the Act to which he or she has a conscientious objection. This does not, of course, absolve a person from giving aid in emergency, Act Section 4 (2).

2—Direct killing of the innocent whether born or unborn is against the law of God. That is the principle upon which Catholic teaching is based. "Ethical rulings change with the times, though the principles on which they are based do not" (opening sentence of the leading article Ethics and Abortion in the British Medical Journal: April 6, 1968).

3—Catholic doctors, although bound by the Terms of Service under the National Health Act to see and advise their patients, are not required to act against their conscientious convictions. This should be made clear to patients seeking abortions.

4—It is not part of a doctor's duty to impose his ethical views on his patients. He should, however, explain to a patient seeking an abortion why he is unable to co-operate. If her medical condition calls for the opinion of a consultant the patient should be referred to a colleague who would not lightly terminate a pregnancy.

5—when referring such a patient to a colleague a Catholic doctor should send with the medical notes a short declaration that he is not recommending an abortion.

6—Although there are degrees of cooperation it is the opinion of experienced surgeons and theatre sisters that Catholic nurses and doctors should not participate in any capacity in an operation for abortion. It is fair to Regional Hospital Boards if this conscientious objection is made known at the time of appointment. Those already holding appointments should declare their position without delay.

7—Doctors and nurses caring for patient before or after an abortion are not regarded as co-operating in the unethical operation.

8—So-called "social abortions" can be justified neither medically or ethically.  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
9 May 1968, page 1968

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