My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The forthcoming Referendum on 24th June 2021 —by coincidence the Solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist— will determine whether the abortion laws, already passed by our Parliament to extend our current abortion laws, should be enacted or not.
The Referendum effectively places the responsibility on Gibraltarians to decide whether or not abortion should be liberalized: whether the most vulnerable in our society will continue to enjoy the present status of the right to life, or will be subject to a significant broadening of the grounds for their legal termination.
The Church has always been clear in her teaching on this matter. All Catholics, as indeed all persons of good will, have a moral duty to defend innocent human life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Whatever the result of the Referendum, this teaching cannot change.
Living in a democratic society, this Referendum is an opportunity not only to exercise our right to vote and thereby contribute now to the Common Good, but also to defend the weakest in our society. Until now, the child in the womb has enjoyed a right to life except in extremely rare, exceptional, circumstances. This will be severely eroded if the Referendum ratifies the new, liberal, abortion laws. Whichever way one tries to justify it, what is being proposed is ‘abortion on demand’ putting at risk the lives of the unborn children, even up to the very moment prior to birth.
The Church holds that human life starts at conception, and that this life is to be cherished, respected, protected and loved until its natural end. Therefore, the intentional termination of a pregnancy, at whatever stage, is the direct and intended termination of an innocent, unborn child. The 5th Commandment of God states unambiguously: “You shall not kill” innocent human life (Exodus 20:13).
Abortion is the attempted elimination, not of a problem, but of a child, through their death. It can never be a good —or a loving— act of itself, because it results in the termination of an innocent human life, and all who intentionally cooperate in the termination of human life are morally culpable for this act.
All human life is of equal dignity. The right to life is the most fundamental of human rights. All other human rights derive from this basic right. This is not a privilege conferred by government. Any human law that removes this right to life, is an unjust law. The unborn have no voice to defend and protect their rights. We are the voice of the voiceless.
The Church, as can be verified in her earliest writings, has consistently taught that the deliberate taking of an innocent human life is, in all circumstances, gravely wrong. St. John Paul II in particular, reiterated this infallible truth —that morally, abortion is always gravely wrong, no matter the circumstances. He declared:
“Given such unanimity in the doctrinal and disciplinary tradition of the Church … this tradition is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops … I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”
(Evangelium vitae, n. 62).
If the law determines that the human life still in the mother’s womb is disposable, it will not be long before it decides the same for human life at any other stage.
Scientifically, there is no doubt that an unborn child is a human being, and that she/he too has the same right as I and you have to live. Equality of rights should extend also to the unborn child. The equal right to life and love of a mother and her unborn child is fundamental to the Common Good of every society.
Abortion should never be an easy decision, since it goes against the very nature of being a parent. When one finds oneself in such a desperate situation, abortion may seem as the only way out. Yet, in all countries where abortion is available virtually on demand, it has become a relatively easy decision to take, treated in some cases almost like a contraceptive. We cannot ignore the experience of countries where liberal abortion laws exist: with the passage of time the legal clauses, designed to protect against misuse or malpractice, become ineffective. Evidently, abortions increase exponentially, using the widest possible interpretation of the laws and criteria that allow them. This has been the experience of so many countries over time, which have liberalized their abortion laws.
As a society caring for all, we must find solutions of life for the unborn child, by supporting the mother throughout her pregnancy and beyond. Pope Francis said that “we must do more to accompany women in difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their painful anguish” (25th May 2019).
The people of Gibraltar are being presented with a choice: To choose between life or death; to choose whether the most vulnerable in our society will continue to enjoy the present status of the right to life, or will be subject to a significant broadening of the grounds for their legal termination. To vote ‘no’ is to emphatically defend the right to life as enshrined currently in Gibraltar’s Constitution.
Let us turn in prayer to Our Lady of Europe, our Patroness and Mother, and to St Joseph, her spouse, that they may protect us with their parental care. May the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, protect all mothers, all unborn babies, and enlighten all of us in our duty to show them love and support whilst protecting the right to life of the unborn.
Given today, 12th June 2021, the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Bishop of Gibraltar