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Pro-life supporters need the patience of William Wilberforce, says bishop

Bishop Mark Davies (Courtesy of the Diocese of Shrewsbury)

Pro-life campaigners will need more patience than William Wilberforce in their struggle to end abortion, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has said.

In a conference hosted by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), Bishop Davies said that Wilberforce, an abolitionist leader of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, had for long been “cited in pro-life circles as an example of perseverance in a moral cause”.

But it was St John Paul II, the Bishop said, who helped him to personally recognise “that the pro-life struggle, whose imminent victory I had at first assumed, might not be such an easy task”.

Bishop Davies said: “In this now global struggle, we must be willing to persevere longer than William Wilberforce who saw change in his own lifetime.

“We must be ready, like the founding generation of this movement, to win over one person at a time and to make this continuous progress among many setbacks.”

He continued: “I do not want us to doubt that we face a sustained struggle in the years ahead simply because of the immensity of what is at stake but to encourage us all to take that step, that action which we can now take.”

Bishop Davies went on to say that the 1967 Act, which decriminalised abortion, was as an “evil and misguided law” that had severely undermined that national consensus that human life was sacred, a conviction which originated from Britain’s Christian heritage.

The bishop told delegates that “we might rightly fear the vacuum into which destructive ideologies will inevitably enter” as the value of human life was increasingly obscured by the normalisation of abortion and other attacks against the sanctity of life.

“Our wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was not a religious man but I often remind people he came to a surprising conclusion when the chips were down in that dark hour of our nation’s history,” Bishop Davies added.

“In 1940 he declared that we were fighting not only for national survival but he said we were fighting now for Christian civilisation itself.

“Everyone was called in that hour to ‘do their bit’, as they then expressed it, to ‘play their part’, and I have no doubt that the pro-life cause is an equally heroic and noble struggle for Christian civilisation itself and its recognition of the dignity and value of every human person.”

The SPUC Conference which was called, “Changing minds-saving lives”, also heard from Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton and the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, also updated SPUC members on emerging threats to human life.

These threats include a new prenatal screening technique expected to lead to a significant rise in the numbers of abortions of children with Down’s syndrome, and of the creation of genetically-modified babies through so-called “three-parent IVF”.