General election abortion pledges are a 'radical assault upon the sanctity of human life'

(Photo: Unsplash/Janko Ferlič)

Abortion pledges in the election manifestos of the Labour and Lib Dem parties have been strongly criticised by the Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury.

Both parties have promised to decriminalise abortion, with the Lib Dems saying that they will decriminalise abortion up to the current 24 week limit if they win the election.  In its pledge, the Labour Party did not make specific comments around the time limit, giving rise to concerns from pro-lifers that it may move to decriminalise abortion right up to birth.

In a message being circulated to parishes in his diocese ahead of the December 12 election, the Rt Rev Mark Davies called on Christians to "express the gravest concerns" about the proposals. 

"As Christians, we must express the gravest concern that a number of political parties have dispensed with considerations of individual conscience making unequivocal manifesto commitments to deny the unborn child the right to life," he said.

"I cannot fail to draw your attention to this further radical assault upon the sanctity of human life, presented as a programme for government and the danger of discarding the rights of individual conscience in determining the right to life of the unborn child.

"Individual candidates may dissent from their party platforms. However, we could never give support to any policy which denies the most fundamental right to life itself - without which all other rights are without foundation."

He added: "Let us pray for all who seek a mandate from us on Thursday and for light in making the difficult choices which an election involves."

The message follows the release of a pre-election statement by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, in which it urged voters to make the right to life their foremost priority in considering how to vote. 

The pledges have also been met with concern in the Church of England, with Bishops Christine Hardman and James Newcombe saying that any attempts to further liberalise Britain's abortion laws in Parliament will be "vigorously challenged". 

Their comments were made in response to a letter published in The Times newspaper and signed by 383 clergy and laity decrying the manifesto pledges on abortion.