Secular humanists are criticising the Government for removing references to abortion from a statement on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB).
Humanists UK expressed dismay at changes to the FoRB statement on gender equality, signed by delegates at the recent UK-sponsored intergovernmental conference, and called for pro-abortion language to be reintroduced.
References to ‘reproductive health rights’ and “bodily autonomy” were removed, and the amended document was signed by Government representatives from Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Ukraine, as well as the UK.
Imposition of beliefs
Andrew Copson, the Chief Executive of Humanists UK, claimed that some used “freedom of belief as a weapon” to prevent women from having abortions.
He continued: “We will be raising these changes with the UK Government as a matter of urgency, asking for a full explanation and a reversal.”
Copson told delegates at the conference on 5 July, prior to the release of the statement: “If FoRB is to be for everyone everywhere, we must all resist the temptation to impose our beliefs on others.”
This applied, he declared, in the case of the “non-religious woman in the West when Christians in her Government block her conscientious choice of an abortion”.
In April, the UK’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Christian MP Fiona Bruce, described religious liberty as one of the foundations of a “stable and secure democratic society”.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mrs Bruce said: “Respecting freedom of religion or belief is important because it is so closely connected to other human rights, such as free speech, the right to assemble, the right to work and even the right to life itself.
“When freedom of religion or belief is not respected by those in authority, all too often, other rights crumble, too.”