Vatican defends membership for theologian over abortion flap

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The head of the Vatican's bioethics panel is defending the decision to name as a member an Anglican moral theologian who has said that abortion could be condoned up until the 18th week of gestation.

Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia spoke out Saturday after conservative commentators criticized the inclusion of Oxford University professor Nigel Biggar as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Biggar, a noted Christian ethicist, was quoted as saying in 2011 that he would draw the line for abortion at 18 weeks, since that is "roughly about the earliest time when there is some evidence of brain activity, and therefore of consciousness."

In an interview with Italy's La Stampa, Paglia reaffirmed the Catholic Church's unwavering opposition to abortion. He said Biggar wouldn't engage in abortion debates as a member.