NRL News

Great-Great-Grandson Says Wilberforce Would Have Fought Abortion

by | Jul 26, 2013

Editor’s note. As many readers know, it was William Wilberforce in the waning years of the 18th century who successfully led what seemed to be an utterly quixotic campaign to end the British slave trade. In 2007, a wonderful film, “Amazing Grace,” was released about his story.

The following appeared in the April 2008, edition of National Right to Life News. It is part of our “Roe at 40” which all this year features some of the best stories from NRL News going all the way back to 1973.


WilliamWilberforce3Lord Alton is modern-day champion of the unborn. He and other pro-lifers are fighting to make sure that if the first examination of abortion in England in nearly 20 years does not improve the law, the results at least do not make the situation worse. Lord Alton recently sent out a letter he had received from Wilberforce’s great-great-grandson, Fr. Gerard Wilberforce, a priest from Plymouth Diocese.

I am writing as the great-great-grandson of William Wilberforce, who campaigned vigorously for the ending of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, which ultimately paved the way for the abolition of slavery itself throughout the entire British Empire in 1833.

I am often asked what would be the campaigns Wilberforce would be fighting if he were alive in 21st-century Britain. I believe that there would be a number of different issues, among them human trafficking and the scourge of drugs. But almost certainly at the top of the list, would be the issue of abortion.

As the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill comes before Parliament over the next few weeks, the opportunity presents itself to amend the abortion Act. With the number of abortions having reached 200,000 per year in the UK alone, the time is right to tighten up the law that was designed to protect women by ending illegal abortion, but never to allow such a high degree of deprived life.

There are great similarities between the status of the fetus and the status of African slaves two centuries ago. Slaves were considered a commodity to do with whatever the vested interests of the day decided. Today, in our desire to play God in our embryology experimentation, with all its unfulfilled promises of miracle cures, and our decision to abort unwanted children, we are no better that those slave traders who put their interests and world view higher than they placed the sanctity and value of human life.

Most people at the time didn’t believe the evil of slavery could ever be defeated, as so much of the economy at the time was dependent on the trade. It’s easy for us to think that is the case today with abortion, but I believe William Wilberforce would not take such a view.

Whilst our hearts go out to those who have chosen abortion, there should now be much greater emphasis on the alternatives that exist. Many of us would like to see far more support for those who have made such a significant and difficult decision but whilst we recognize the trauma many women have gone through, we also have a duty to ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves’ (Proverbs 31).

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The Psalmist says ‘My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.’

With abortions in the UK reaching 600 a day, it seems to me that the ‘secret place’, is one of the most dangerous places to be in modern day Britain.

As with my great ancestor, the battle took many years, even decades. But now, with the passage of time we look back in horror at how we devalued human life. I truly believe we will look back in years to come, repent and ask forgiveness for what we let happen to the unborn child.

There is something deeply depressing about a society in which abortion is so easy, yet alternatives such as adoption are made to appear so difficult.

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