Anglicans and Abortion: Sydney in the Seventies

  • Murray Colville Moore Theological College


This paper considers the public voice of the Anglican Church in Sydney as it discussed andtook part in debates concerning the issue of medical abortion during the 1970s. Just prior to this decade, UK law changes and church discussions were bringing this issue on to the table. Contrary to many other voices, the Sydney Anglican position was not supportive of legislative change to make abortion more readily available.   Following an initial investigation, the Sydney diocese recommended actions at church, diocesan and State levels calling primarily for better education and support for those considering abortion. While the diocese was not unanimous in its voice on the matter, it found a significant ally in the Roman Catholic Church, with whom it campaigned over the next decade despite a number of other tensions. In 1971, while a court case provided greater security for those seeking abortions, it was still a controversial topic. It surfaced at elections and during significant parliamentary debates as politicians were called on to clarify their personal opinions regarding the matter. The Church aimed to be non-partisan, but spoke independently and with groups such as the Festival of Light, calling for restraint and moral conduct. Archbishop Marcus Loane and Dean of the Cathedral Lance Shilton were prominent Anglican voices throughout this period. While increased support and education were provided over the decade, the results were not always as the Church would have wished.
As the seventies drew to a close, the voice of the Anglican Church is here briefly assessed. It is suggested the significance of the abortion debate may have been diluted by its grouping with a number of other social issues of potentially less importance. Their voice may have gained a limited hearing as their response became predictable. Finally, while support and education were important, they may not have been sufficiently provided by the Church itself. Perhaps the focus must now be to work towards a society where abortion is not merely rejected as wrong but no longer seen as a necessary option.
How to Cite
Colville, M. (2019). Anglicans and Abortion: Sydney in the Seventies. Integrity: A Journal of Australian Church History, 3. Retrieved from