Monday, 30 June 2008

Student skydives for SPUC

A first-year medical student performed a 14,000 feet skydive on Saturday to raise awareness of the pressure on medical staff to take part in abortion against their consciences. Siobhan Fearon, 19, of Hull York Medical School did the jump from Black Knights Parachute Centre, Cockerham, Lancaster. The sponsored parachute jump is also raising money for SPUC.

Siobhan experienced 50 seconds of freefall and then descended the rest of the way by parachute for eight minutes. Though admitting to terror before the jump, afterwards she wanted to do it again.

Siobhan writes: "I think it is vital that society understands and appreciates the sanctity of every human life whether it is a developing child in the womb or somebody approaching the end of their life. When I graduate and become a doctor I am hoping to be able to use my skills to help save lives. I think abortion is never the answer and hope that one day, as a doctor, I will be able to help women to make the right decision."

Two years ago, Siobhan, of Crosby, Merseyside, did a sponsored walk for SPUC around Hyde Park in London. She is one of six children who have all been involved in pro-life work. Mrs Anne Fearon, her mother is an active member of the local SPUC branch and region. Abigail Smith, also 19 and at Hull York Medical School, was prevented by bad weather from jumping on Saturday. She plans to skydive for SPUC in September.

Recommended Standards for Sexual Health, a government-endorsed document, has intensified pressure on doctors and nurses and is putting more unborn babies at risk from abortion. The document demands access, without hesitation or delay, to abortion and to "morning-after birth control". These are drugs and devices which may cause an early abortion only days after conception.

The document steps up pressure on health professionals to provide these so-called services which promote the killing of unborn children. It also includes a thinly-veiled warning of severe punitive action against health care professionals who break a strict code of secrecy concerning abortions for children under 16.

SPUC recently also criticised Recommended Standards for Sexual Health for being part of government policy to fast-track abortions. Figures for England and Wales out earlier this month showed the highest-ever abortion totals (205,598), the highest abortion rate (18.6 per 1000 residents) and the greatest rate of child-abortions.

Anne Fearon, Siobhan's mum, left, has written a vivid and witty account of the day. Our website has a page with more about the event and details of how to sponsor the jumpers.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Rights for apes?

Spanish parliamentarians could pass a law giving rights to apes. Proposed measures would stop the animals from being used for experiments, filming, television advertising and circus performance.

The Spanish proposal takes animal welfare into the realms of rights. This runs contrary to the widely-held beliefs that animals are not persons and that only persons are capable of possessing rights. Indeed, permission for abortion, embryo experimentation and (in certain cases) euthanasia is often predicated on the erroneous belief that unborn children and the severely mentally incapacitated are not persons.

The Spanish measure is inspired by the Great Ape Project, which calls for human-style rights for several types of mammal. A leader of this initiative is Dr Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton University, New Jersey. Peter Singer has been quoted as saying: ''I do not think it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being. Simply killing an infant is never equivalent to killing a person.''

The proper treatment of animals is a legitimate concern. We need to treat all aspects of our world responsibly, and it's wrong to abuse any creature even if it's not human. One could debate whether it actually is cruel to get animals to perform in public. There's also the issue of whether medical research on other creatures can be justified if it benefits humans.

What is striking, though, is that we find concern for animals among those who are happy to deprive humans of their right to live. Like so many western countries, Spain allows the abortion of human babies. There will be a tragic irony if that country affords extra dignity to apes while continuing to deprive some of its youngest human inhabitants of every possible dignity by killing them.

Europe assembly approves resolution with pro-abortion wording

The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly today approved a resolution which contains pro-abortion language. The resolution and its accompanying report promotes "legal and easier access to sexual rights and reproductive health services" such as "contraception and abortion".

The resolution's subject is abandonment at birth. Its title describes abandonment as the first form of violence yet this is untrue. The first form of violence is abortion. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as every human being under the age of 18. It calls for protection before as well as after birth.

What kind of world do politicians live in where they call for the abortion of children in order to avoid their abandonment at birth? Quite apart from the cruel fate of the children aborted, this policy will result in the abandonment of the mothers who are being aborted, and the continuation of the social problems which the report claims to address.

The Council of Europe is out of control. Assembly members appear completely out of touch with the overwhelming majority of Europeans, who will be appalled that such a resolution has been pushed through. We must spread the message far and wide – that the Council of Europe thinks that child abandonment can be solved by killing the children to be abandoned – with a view to addressing this serious situation in one of Europe's major debating chambers.

Patrick Buckley, who spent the last few days lobbying for SPUC in Strasbourg, said: "Of the assembly's 636 members, just 65 attended the debate and only 40 voted. This is a sad reflection on what Europe in general thinks of the rights of the unborn." The resolution was approved by 39 votes to one.

Despite promises to the contrary the report was not taken on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. Six amendments were proposed and accepted.

Mr Michael Hancock, a British member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, presented a report which formed the basis of the resolution. He said the law meant nothing if the most vulnerable (the newborn) were not protected. The report and resolution were intended:

  • to raise awareness of the issue of abandonment
  • to protect the interests of the child
  • to ensure that every born child had the right to live and be given a decent chance to achieve his or her potential.

These are noble sentiments, but they ignore the unborn. Worse, the resolution contains language which puts them in even greater danger than at present. The assembly's resolutions can have significant influence on law, in particular human rights law.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Child abandonment: legal analysis of pro-abortion agenda behind Council of Europe motion

As I blogged recently, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will debate tomorrow a draft resolution on the subject of child abandonment. The draft resolution contains a clear promotion of abortion. Please contact your country's representatives in the Assembly immediately - see my 20 June blog for more information. The UK members of the Assembly can all be emailed via one email address Simply send a separate, individually-addressed email for each UK member.

The European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) has published a comprehensive legal analysis of the pro-abortion agenda which has been inserted into the draft resolution. The ECLJ has condemned the draft resolution's:

"utilitarian calculus promoting abortion over life as a result of being born into inadequate social and financial circumstances. As social and financial circumstances are changeable and the termination of pregnancy irreparable, it is institutionally unacceptable for the Parliamentary Assembly to promote such a worldview with its underlying shadow of social eugenics."

Life-respecting doctors threatened by BMA motion

Doctors who protect the unborn are under threat again. Dr Evan Harris, the pro-abortion MP and member of the British Medical Association (BMA) Medical Ethics Committee, has tabled a motion for the BMA's forthcoming Annual General Meeting (ARM), 7-10 July. Dr Harris's motion would marginalise doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion, specifically by effectively barring them from seeing patients with unplanned pregnancies. The Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF), led by Dr Peter Saunders (pictured), has published a comprehensive analysis of Dr Harris's motion and his parliamentary agenda for more abortion. SPUC seeks to support doctors with a conscientious objection to abortion. If you wish to see the flyer and briefing SPUC sends to doctors, contact me at:

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Abortion on demand amendment to Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

A beautifully clear exposition of a new terrible danger of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill on which I blogged earlier this month has been provided by Fr Finigan, the parish priest of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Blackfen.

I strongly recommend that readers draw the attention of local clergy and other religious leaders to Fr Finigan's blog on this matter. Please order a quantity of our new leaflet "No to more abortion" and distribute them door-to-door, in the street and at churches.

I also ask readers of my blog who believe in prayer - to pray, and to ask local clergy to lead their communities in prayer, that Evan Harris's and Chris McCafferty's pro-abortion amendments to the HFE bill will not succeed.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Pro-abortion lobby's double standards

A report by ActionAid on discrimination against women through sex selective abortion and infanticide was the subject of a meeting hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health in Parliament yesterday. Disappearing Daughters makes harrowing reading. There are an estimated 35 million missing girls in India. On average there are just 800 girls for every 1000 boys, with the number as low as 300 in Punjab. Though sex-selective abortion is illegal in India, it is widely practiced with ultrasound scans routinely used to determine the sex of the child. Women are taunted, abused and bullied if they fail to produce a son and feel that they have no option other than to abort their unborn daughters.

ActionAid’s work exposing and fighting against the killing of baby girls is commendable. However, it is a terrible irony that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health is lending its support to preventing women from being pressured into abortion in India whilst caring so little about women who are pressured into abortion in this country. The chair of the all-party group, Christine McCafferty MP (pictured) has tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill that would remove the requirement for two doctors to sign an abortion authorisation, meaning that more women will be rushed through the abortion process and more women, particularly young girls whose pregnancies are regarded as ‘mistakes’, will be pressured into seeking abortion.

Consider that some medical professionals in India, according to ActionAid’s report, regard the abortion of baby girls as a “social duty which prevented the ill-treatment of unwanted daughters or helped with population control.” Only last week, a columnist in The Times, argued: “Instead of looking down on these teenage girls who opt for an abortion as feckless, we should, almost perversely, be grateful for their decisions. After all, nearly every single negative consequence of abortion - emotional, social and the risk to future reproductive health - has an impact solely on the women having these abortions. They, very kindly - and potentially at great cost to themselves - make what could be a problem for us all, simply vanish.”

One does not have to look very far to find a callous disregard for the welfare of pregnant women in the name of ‘social duty.’

Monday, 23 June 2008

Margaret's plea to Romanian authorities: Don't abort the reported raped girl of 11

A harrowing story of a young Romanian girl raped, it is said, by her uncle was reported by AFP on Friday. A medical ethics panely has, reportedly, examined her and decided that "abortion should not be imposed" for certain legal reasons.

This young girl is only 11 years of age. It's said she did not know that she was pregnant and that her parents only found out by accident when she was given a medical after suffering stomach pains. Rape by an uncle is, it's reported, suspected but not proven. Margaret Cuthill of BVA, an experienced Post Abortion Trauma Counsellor of 20 years, said “If indeed the young girl has been raped, then performing an abortion on her would be akin to a further assault on her young body. It seems she has not had any say in what has been happening to her at all, and that the adults in her life are making all the decisions for her. In my experience those who have had late abortions in their teenage years are the most psychologically damaged.”

This is borne out by The Elliot Institute in America who recently published the following statistics relating to teenage abortion:-

  • Teenagers are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide if they have had an abortion in the last six months than are teens who have not had an abortion.

  • Teens who abort are up to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than adults who abort, and a history of abortion is likely to be associated with adolescent suicidal thinking.

  • Teens who abort are more likely to develop psychological problems, and are nearly three times more likely to be admitted to mental health hospitals than teens in general.

  • About 40% of teen abortions take place with no parental involvement, leaving parents in the dark about subsequent emotional or physical problems.

  • Teens are times more likely to seek subsequent help for psychological and emotional problems compared to their peers who carry “unwanted pregnancies” to term.

  • Teens are 3 times more likely to report subsequent trouble sleeping, and nine times more likely to report subsequent marijuana use after abortion.

  • Among studies comparing abortion vs. carrying to term, worse outcomes are associated with abortion, even when the pregnancy is unplanned.

For these reasons and others I will be joining Margaret in appealing to the relevant authorities in Romania to stick to their decision and not to "impose abortion" on this young girl.

Sexual Education Forum and British Pregnancy Advisory Service doing the British Government’s dirty work at taxpayers' expense

The Sexual Education Forum recently released a report that conveniently supported the policies of its major funder: the Government. The Sexual Education Forum is run under the auspices of the National Childrens’ Bureau a charity which receives more than half of its funding from the government, and is concerned with the “children’s sector” in England and Northern Ireland.

The Sunday Mail broke the results of a survey carried out by the Sexual Education Forum revealing that one-third, or 1,000, of secondary schools provide ‘sexual health’ services on the school site. Moreover this is often done without permission, or even knowledge, of the parents. The Sexual Education Forum is a largely taxpayer-funded agency dedicated to promoting the Government’s ‘reproductive health’ agenda in our schools, and the failing Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.

In addition, Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy and Advisory Service (BPAS), which receives more than 65% of its income from the NHS for the abortion services it provides , recently stated that pro-life campaigners were guilty of increasing the numbers of abortions in the UK by reminding women considering an abortion that they are simply doing what many of their contemporaries also do. As evidence for this she used that fact that the numbers of abortions have increased most in Scotland which had seen some of the fiercest campaigning.

One is entitled to be very sceptical of claims made about pro-life campaigners by a body carrying out, largely at the expense of the taxpayers, government policy in providing abortions virtually on demand.

Lisbon Treaty referendum and Ireland's abortion ban

The Sunday Business Post carries an interesting analysis of the critical role played by voters wanting to maintain Ireland's ban on abortion in the "no" verdict on the Lisbon Treaty Irish referendum on 12th June.

On the one hand Protocol 35 to the Lisbon Treaty clearly states: "Nothing in the Treaties, or in the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, or in the Treaties or Acts modifying or supplementing those Treaties, shall affect the application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3. of the Constitution of Ireland."; however, on the other hand, the European Centre for Law and Justice has pointed out in a legal analysis, that this would not necessarily be enough to protect the Irish Constitution from a court decision establishing abortion as a human right. Ireland is one of only three countries within the EU that protects the unborn in this way. A "yes" vote for the Lisbon Treaty might well have brought that protection to an end.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Help stop abortion agenda behind child abandonment resolution

An important European institution will vote on Friday 27 June on the subject of child abandonment. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will debate a draft resolution entitled "Preventing the first form of violence against children: abandonment at birth" The Council of Europe (which is distinct from the European Union) has a Parliamentary Assembly consisting of representatives who already sit in the legislatures of the Council's 47 member-states. Although the Parliamentary Assembly cannot pass laws, it does pass resolutions which may have significant influence on law, in particular human rights law.

Although it contains some good aspects (e.g. support in crisis pregnancies), the draft resolution and its accompanying report also promotes "legal and easier access to sexual rights and reproductive health services" (article 9.4.) such as "contraception and abortion" (article 33.6). It is clear that the resolution's message is that it is better for women to kill their babies by abortion than to abandon them, even than abandoning them to institutions that will care for them and place them for adoption. Even the resolution's title ("Preventing the first form of violence against children: abandonment at birth") implies support for abortion - an earlier form of violence against children is in fact killing them before birth. This fact is the reason why the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says, "The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

The hijacking of the issue of child abandonment by pro-abortion extremism is shocking, but unsurprising considering that the resolution has been drafted by the strongly pro-abortion British MP Mike Hancock, under the chairmanship of Christine McCafferty, a leader of the abortion lobby in the British parliament.

Please contact the representatives of your country in the Assembly immediately, urging them to vote to remove all anti-life language from the draft resolution, and to vote against the draft resolution if the anti-life langauge is not removed. Assembly members should be asked to oppose articles 7, 9.4, 10.3, 17, 18, 19, 33.6, 33.7 and any other articles which could be interpreted as support for abortion or other anti-life/anti-family practices (e.g. mass provision of contraception; value-free sex education; attacks upon the work of faith communities to save children; etc).

You may also wish to remind Assembly members of the words of the late Nobel Prize-winner, Mother Teresa:

"These concerns (for orphan children in India and elsewhere in the world) are very good, but often these same people are not concerned with the millions that are killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today, Abortion...For the pregnant women who don't want their children, give them to me."

Contact details for Assembly members can be found at Please remember to email any replies you receive to

2007: tragedy of highest ever abortion rates

Government policies have generated the highest abortion totals (205,598), the highest abortion rate (18.6 per 1000 residents) and the greatest ever rate of child-abortions, according to figures for 2007 for England and Wales published yesterday.

The 13-to-15 abortion rate was 4.4 per thousand girls in that age group, and the under-18 rate was 19.8 per thousand.

The key to explaining the rising trend is found in documents like Recommended Standards for Sexual Health Services, drawn up by a coalition of pro-abortion advocates and abortion providers and endorsed by the government in 2005.

The figures reflect the Department of Health's (DH) policy of performing an abortion as quickly as possible on any woman enquiring. The policy includes arm-twisting doctors who are reluctant to refer for abortion. Many GPs would refuse to refer women for abortions on medical grounds, or for religious or conscientious reasons. The DH brooks none of these objections, but insists that every woman who enquires about abortion is immediately referred for abortion.

It is a conveyor-belt, one-size-fits-all, approach. There is no counselling routinely offered, and the DH has targets for rushing women through the abortion mill against the clock. Health trusts which miss the target and don't kill enough babies quickly enough are liable to be penalised.

Abortion is more than a social malaise. It is a grave abuse of human rights. It harms women and kills children.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Professor knighted for developing the killing of babies with spina bifida and Down's syndrome

Yesterday I blogged about pro-abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to de-restrict abortion up to 24 weeks and to empower midwives and nurses to perform abortion - and the urgent action needed to oppose these amendments.

Today we read that Professor Nicholas Wald, director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, has been honoured by the United Kingdom for his work of identifying disabled people before they are born in order to kill them. Here's what Alison Davis, who has spina bifida, and who leads No Less Human, a division of SPUC, says about the award:

"Prof. Wald's award, for developing pre-natal tests whose sole aim is to identify disabled babies in the womb so that they can be aborted, is hardly an achievement in the eyes of disabled people. This is not 'prevention' of disability, as he maintains, and as his job title suggests, but direct and deliberate eugenic killing. It is ironic that simultaneously Prof Wald has developed the use of folic acid in pregnancy which can reduce the chance of the baby having spina bifida by 72%. He seems to see no distinction between preventing a baby from having a disability, and killing a baby because s/he has a disability. He clearly has no understanding at all of the value and dignity of people like me with disabilities. This award is highly offensive to all who live with disabling conditions, but particularly those who have conditions which he has spent his life trying to eradicate by abortion. That he is to get an award for work that directly led to killing so many who would otherwise have grown up to be like me is adding insult to injury."

Friday, 13 June 2008

New pro-abortion amendments announced, please leaflet now

Yesterday pro-abortion MPs tabled extremely damaging amendments to the Abortion Act via the HFE bill. It is critical that we act now to resist these amendments as strongly as possible.

The committee stage of the bill has now been completed and pro-abortion MPs have tabled abortion amendments to de-restrict abortions up to 24 weeks, and to empower midwives and nurses to perform abortion. Further amendments may be tabled to seek to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. More babies will die if such amendments are passed.

I know that many people have worked very hard in the fight against this bill. But today we must make a final push to stop these amendments being incorporated into it. Please order a quantity of our new leaflet "No to more abortion" and distribute them door-to-door, in the street and at churches. Order the leaflets by emailing or by phoning SPUC on 020 7091 7091. The new leaflet complements the recent one "How should human life be treated" which is still current, and both leaflets can be distributed separately or together.

Please make it your top priority to distribute as many leaflets as possible in the coming week. The bill's report stage may start at the very beginning of July, so we have to act straight away to have an impact.

It's essential for people to contact their MPs to ask them to vote against amendments extending abortion. MPs can be contacted in writing at House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or by email. If you have internet access you can contact your MP (and find out your MP's name) via Please copy any replies you receive to Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, either by email at or by post to SPUC HQ.

If you share my belief in the power of prayer, please pray for the defeat of the bill and the abortion amendments. 'Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.'

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

David Cameron backs wider access to abortion

The office of David Cameron, the leader of the Opposition, has written to SPUC, saying that Mr Cameron regards current proposals for wider access to abortion as "practical and sensible". The relevant section of the letter from Mr Cameron's letter starts by noting that Mr Cameron voted for a “modest” reduction in the the 24 week limit for 'social' abortions. The letter goes on to say:

"David is aware of the comments made by the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley MP, in the House on the 12 May. Andrew was advocating that early, medical abortions are preferable to late, surgical ones. Therefore, Andrew was in favour of amending the requirement for two doctors to consent to an abortion being performed and for reviewing the restrictions on nurses providing medical abortions. As David is in favour of allowing women to have abortions, but supports a reduction to the abortion limit, he thinks that this is a practical and sensible proposal. However, it must be emphasized that this is currently a free vote issue."

I warned recently that certain Conservative parliamentarians prominent in the recent abortion debates see wider access to abortion and reducing the 24 week limit for 'social' abortions as two sides of the same coin.

Amendments to enact proposals for wider access to abortion could be tabled at the next stage (the ‘Report’ stage) of the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, expected early in July.

If your MP is a Conservative, please write to him/her to say that the support by Mr Cameron and Mr Lansley for wider access to abortion does no credit to the Conservative party. Other points you can make to your MP can be found on our new leaflet "No to more abortion" You can contact your MP (and find out your MP's name) via or by writing to your MP at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Please remember to copy any replies you receive to Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, by email at or by post to SPUC.

Please order a quantity of our new leaflet "No to more abortion" and distribute them door-to-door, in the street and at churches. You can order a quantity of leaflets by emailing or by telephoning SPUC on 020 7091 7091.

SPUC plans to intervene in assisted suicide case

SPUC plans to intervene in the case of Debbie Purdy (pictured), a lady with multiple sclerosis who is seeking an assurance that her husband will not be prosecuted if he assists her suicide. According to media reports, Mrs Purdy wants to know if her husband will be liable to prosecution if he helps her to travel to Europe to commit suicide. The High Court in London today agreed to grant Mrs Purdy a judicial review hearing at a later date.

SPUC has been at the forefront of the campaign against euthanasia and assisted suicide in the UK for a number of years. SPUC led an intervention in the 2002 case brought by Mrs Dianne Pretty, who was seeking automatic exoneration of her husband should he bring about her death. A number of pro-life groups, medical ethics groups and disability rights organizations supported the intervention. Mrs Pretty lost her case. She subsequently died peacefully. SPUC has also campaigned in relation to other cases where the right to life of disabled people has been undermined - such as the deliberate killing of Down's baby John Pearson in 1981 and the young brain-injured football fan, Tony Bland, who was starved by court order in 1993. SPUC is also a member of the Care Not Killing alliance, which helped defeat Lord Joffe's assisted suicide bill.

Alison Davis, co-ordinator of No Less Human, a division of SPUC, said: "Allowing assisted suicide or weakening the law against it would compromise the protection from harm every vulnerable person deserves. The assumption that dying and incurably disabled people are, in effect, right to want to die and better off dead would be confirmed. It will make all vulnerable people even more vulnerable to a form of fatal discrimination. It will divert resources from the hospice movement, which aims to achieve peaceful deaths for all, to providing deliberate killing as a solution to the challenges illness and disability pose. There is no legal or moral right for anyone to commit suicide.

Ms Davis continued: "I understand completely the despair and blackness which causes some disabled and ill people to feel suicidal, because I once felt the same. I have spina bifida and several other painful disabling conditions. I use a wheelchair full time, and am getting progressively weaker. For ten years I wanted to die and I made several serious attempts to kill myself. My friends, however, helped me to re-establish a sense of my own infinite human value, a value which isn't diminished by being severely disabled and having to depend on others. I am now grateful that assisted suicide remains illegal."

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Killing embryos who may be disabled "a miraculous and wonderful healthcare option"

Alison Davis, the leader of No Less Human, a division of SPUC, has pointed out to me how a story in the Daily Mail glosses over mention of the lethal discrimination against the disabled inherent in the practice of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Naturally, our hearts go out to parents (pictured) who fear that their children may be affected by a hereditary disabling condition. Newspapers, however, have a responsibility to give their readers the facts, especially on such serious matters for parents and families

Instead, sadly, as is so often the case with media, the misinformation in the Daily Mail story is appalling. Headlined "Baby born free of hereditary gene peril thanks to controversial screening" the Daily Mail fails entirely to point out that embryos affected by the disabling condition are simply destroyed/discarded. Indeed, you might conclude from the Daily Mail that PGD was completely harmless to children! The mother in the story is quoted as saying: "If the technology is there and there is something that can be done that doesn't harm the child or myself, then we should go down that road".

Alison Davis writes in a letter to the Mail: "While naturally happy at the birth of any baby, I was very saddened to read in the Daily Mail that a couple decided to have pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in order to ensure that their baby did not have neurofibromatosis. While, on the face of it, it would seem laudable to prevent a baby having a disabling condition, the article failed to point out the realities of the PGD procedure.

"It is not simply a case of 'preventing' the disabling condition. In PGD, early human embryos are examined under the microscope. Those who are affected by the disabling condition in question are immediately discarded (i.e. thrown away). One of those not affected is then chosen to be implanted in the mother's womb. The eugenic philosophy behind the procedure is very clear. Those who have a disability will always be thrown away.

"This has particular resonance for me, as I have several severe disabling conditions and use a wheelchair full time. I am painfully aware that such procedures disciminate fatally against those like me who would otherwise grow up with a disability. By discarding embryos with disabling conditions we are sending out a very strong negative message to all disabled people - that we are tolerated only because the technology wasn't available to eliminate us at the embryonic stage. It also sends out a very subtle message to those like baby Ethan, who were born after the PGD procedure - that they are loved and wanted only because they are not disabled."

While we know that Alison's letter has appeared in today's printed version of the Daily Mail, the text isn't presently on their website.

Barry Gardiner MP praises China’s crimes against humanity

In last night’s Second Reading debate on the government’s Climate Change Bill, Labour MP Barry Gardiner proposed three options for dealing with climate change, including this one:

“to reduce population—something that politicians in developed countries are very reluctant to discuss, but which Governments in developing countries have already taken on board. People are very keen to accuse China, as we have heard in this debate, over their coal-fired power stations. Such people fail to commend the political initiative that has seen 400 million people not being born to create a carbon footprint in the first place. We need to take the issue of population seriously. It is the third element of the triangle, and it should be incorporated into this Bill.”

Mr Gardiner was clearly praising China’s population control programme, the core of which is a one-child policy implemented by forced abortions, forced sterilisations, compulsory fittings of abortifacient birth control devices, abandonment of children and deliberate killing of orphans through neglect. Coercion is exercised through stiff penalties which include extortionate fines, destruction of property, imprisonment and even torture. I blogged yesterday that leading environmentalist Jonathan Porritt was attempting to bully us with the threat if we don't stop procreating by choice, governments will start copying China’s one-child policy and stop us procreating by force.

The minister in charge of the Climate Change Bill, Joan Ruddock, noted Mr Gardiner’s “important contribution” on “the important issue of population”. It is a poor reflection upon the House of Commons that not one single MP objected to Mr Gardiner’s praise for China’s crimes against humanity. I do hope that MPs who weren't present at the debate will make their objections known once they read what Mr Gardiner said. Readers in the UK may like to write to their MP about the matter.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Global warming no excuse for anti-life measures

The claim that global warming is a man-made threat to the earth and its inhabitants is now being used to call for population control. Jonathon Porritt, a leading environmentalist, has called for more support for "family planning" and "reproductive health" (common euphemisms for abortion) to reduce human numbers and therefore carbon emissions. Mr Porritt has also attacked the Catholic Church for its resistance to anti-life measures, saying: "I really believe The Roman Catholic Church is undermining the future prospects for human kind." It is interesting to note Mr Porritt was appointed as chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission by Tony Blair. I have noted elsewhere Mr Blair's anti-life record in government, and his refusal to repudiate his record since his reception into the Catholic Church.

Mr Porritt is in fact more correctly titled The Hon Sir Jonathon Porritt, 2nd Baronet, one of three children of the 11th Governor-General of New Zealand. New Zealand provides a good example of why the claims of population control advocates are fanciful. Our colleagues at the Population Research Institute (PRI) last year looked at New Zealand, in a well-written essay entitled Eunuchs for the Green Kingdom. In short, not only is New Zealand's birth rate (1.95 children per woman of child-bearing age) below replacement level (2.1), but the country has one of the world's lowest population densities, amidst fertile countryside. No over-population there, though inconvenient truths don't stop some environmentalists calling for even fewer children to be born. Perhaps Jonathon Porritt would like to tell us which of his two siblings or his two children should not have been born in order to save the earth?

Whatever the evidence regarding man-made global warming, the right to life and the right to found a family are fundamental, universal human rights enshrined in legally-binding international conventions. Mr Porritt is attempting to bully us with the threat that if we don't stop procreating by choice, the government will stop us by force (in fact, Mr Porritt claims to have counted the amount of carbon emissions China's brutal one-child policy of forced abortions has prevented).

Friday, 6 June 2008

Don’t fall into the “we already have abortion on demand” trap – the law does matter

It is not only on the home front that legislators are considering permissive changes to abortion legislation. In the Australian state of Victoria, pressure is being applied to remove abortion from the criminal code altogether, that is, to completely decriminalise it. In response, the Catholic bishops of Victoria have produced a pastoral letter, directed to “the Catholic people of Victoria and all men and women of good will.” In it the bishops outline the reasons for the Church’s moral opposition to abortion, reasons that are “rationally grounded” and not ‘merely’ religious. There are good reasons for respecting and protecting every member of the human family, and many non-religious people have the same view.

Even though the practice of abortion in Victoria is effectively unrestricted, decriminalising it would nevertheless be a serious and final blow to the vestiges of protection for unborn children and their mothers. As the bishops note, the “Law is a great educator”, and “moving the regulation of abortion from the Crimes Act to the Health Act would also give strength to the fallacy that abortion is just an ordinary medical procedure.” That would represent a clear victory for pro-abortion forces. It would also completely remove any last remaining sense within the law - weakened as it is – of the “equality of all before the law.” Society’s most vulnerable would be completely deprived of any legal recognition of wrongs perpetrated against them. The bishops make it clear, “when a state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of the state based on law are undermined.”

How is this relevant to the UK?

Current proposals to change the law by pro-abortion MPs, whilst not full decriminalisation, are edging ever closer to it. The underlying drive behind the various proposals, by seeking to further liberalise abortion, is leading us in precisely the same direction as decriminalisation. For example, the amendments drafted by Dr Evan Harris MP, by removing the requirement for two doctors to authorise an abortion, and no longer requiring doctors to act in “good faith”, would make abortion more like any other medical procedure. The result will not only be more abortions but - similar to the effect that the Victorian decriminalisation will have - the public will be educated to think that abortion is really little different to the removal of a tumour.

The sentiment expressed by some MPs in the recent parliamentary debates has been overtly pro-abortion. Along with Andrew Lansley MP (shadow health secretary, Conservative), Nadine Dorries MP (also Conservative) wants abortions to be faster and safer, arguing on the grounds that early ones are better than late ones.

Claire Curtis-Thomas (Labour), a vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, is “not opposed to abortion. I believe that women should have the right to choose …. I would be much happier with 12 weeks—that is where I stand. Let women have the choice, but make it at 12 weeks." This is just the type of view that is not only consistent with decriminalisation, but at the very least implies that abortion should be a legal right. One wonders what these MPs would say if pressed on the point.

Amendments to widen access to abortion could be tabled at the next stage (the ‘Report’ stage) of the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, expected early in July. These pro-abortion amendments may include promoting nurses as abortion practitioners, and extending the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. More babies will die if such amendments are passed.

I know that many people have worked very hard in the fight against the HFE bill. But today we must redouble our efforts to stop pro-abortion amendments being incorporated into the bill. Please order a quantity of our new leaflet "No to more abortion" and distribute them door-to-door, in the street and at churches. You can order a quantity of leaflets by emailing or by telephoning SPUC on 020 7091 7091.

It's essential to contact your MP to ask him/her to vote against amendments extending abortion access. You can contact your MP (and find out your MP's name) via or by writing to your MP at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Please remember to copy any replies you receive to Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, by email at or by post to SPUC.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

US pro-lifers likened to “Saudi extremists” by panellists at American launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation

Last week saw the American launch of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, an international organisation founded by the former prime minister to ‘promote respect and understanding between the major religions’. At the much-publicised event, two of the panellists showed their respect and understanding of believers by comparing pro-life Americans to “Saudi extremists”. According to an op-ed in the Washington Post, Mr Blair distanced himself from the comment whilst talking to a journalist afterwards with the promise that that ‘could not be what they intended.’

I would have more faith in Tony Blair’s reported promise if he had repudiated his own extreme voting record on abortion, destructive research on human embryos and other such matters.

Some Catholic commentators have suggested that it’s “extreme” to expect him to repudiate his voting record on life issues. But as I’ve blogged in another context, if Tony Blair had voted for laws permitting the killing of Catholics or Jews or people from ethnic minorities or lethal experimentation on them, would Catholics be right to expect him publicly to renounce such laws and to repudiate his role in passing such legislation before being received into the Church?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Brazilian bishops affirm wrongness of all embryo destruction and abuse

In response to the recent Brazilian supreme court ruling allowing destructive research on surplus IVF embryos, the bishops of Brazil have reiterated that life, which begins “at fertilization,” should be protected “in all circumstances.” The bishops stated that the embryo is “a human life,” as confirmed by “embryology and biology, and therefore the human embryo has the right to be protected by the State.”

The bishops "reaffirm that the mere fact of being in the presence of a human being demands full respect for his integrity and dignity: any behavior that could constitute a threat or an offense to the fundamental rights of the human person, the first of which is the right to life, is considered gravely immoral”.

The Brazilian bishops' statement is important. It is sometimes asserted in pro-life circles, for example, that IVF practices are tolerable, permissible or even desirable - even though IVF practices involve embryo destruction, embryo freezing and the foreseen death or "wastage" of surplus embryos. Similarly, some people also believe (wrongly) that, while embryo destruction is wrong, there is nothing wrong with IVF from a secular ethical perspective if no embryo destruction takes place. IVF, however, is in fact intrinsically wrong from a secular ethical perspective, whether or not embryo destruction takes place. The Church's teaching on the intrinsic wrongness of IVF is itself based on secular (though by no means irreligious) ethical perspectives, in particular the dignity of the human being as a member of the human family. As the Church teaches in Donum Vitae:

"Such fertilization entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children"

and therefore

"[t]he political authority consequently cannot give approval to the calling of human beings into existence through procedures which would expose them to those very grave risks noted previously....As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of his conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."

Monday, 2 June 2008

HFEA meets only “joke standard” in comments on Catholic Church teaching on human life and its decisions on human-animal hybrids

Lisa Jardine, the new head of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, recently made some very ill-informed comments on Catholic Church teaching on when human life begins. It augurs badly for the future quality of the HFEA’s decision-making on the fate of human embryos when its principal officer is so poor in doing her homework on a matter so easily researched.

The problem almost certainly does not lie with the intelligence of Lisa Jardine – which is well-evidenced. The problem lies with the very low standard of decision-making expected of the HFEA by the legislators who established it under the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

Under her predecessor, the HFEA published its decisions on two license applications regarding human-animal hybrids and the minutes of those decisions can be found here. (The press release is wrongly dated 2007. It was published on 17th January 2008.)

James L Sherley, MD, PhD, a leading stem cell biologist, has commented that the HFEA meets only a joke standard for granting human-animal embryo licences. Dr Sherley is a senior scientist in Programs in Cancer and Regenerative Biology at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, Watertown, Massachusetts, USA. He visited London recently as a guest of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales and participated in a two-hour debate titled Science, Ethics, and Faith: A Conversation About the HFE Bill sponsored by the Wellcome Trust on Friday May 16.

Dr Sherley writes: "The standard upon which the HFEA can license human embryo research is quite disingenuous. The HFEA proceedings for these license applications paraphrase the statute that gives the HFEA its licensing authority: as requiring only that the research 'appear to be either necessary or desirable' for the purposes: 2.2.a to increase knowledge about the development of embryos 2.2.b to increase knowledge about serious disease 2.2.c to enable any such knowledge to be applied in developing treatments for serious disease

"'Necessary' can be satisfactorily defined for the purpose of critical and objective evaluation. On the other hand, defining 'desirable' is preposterous. This standard is certainly too subjective for credible application. Yet, it is given equal weight to the 'necessary' standard, because currently meeting either is a sufficient basis for the HFEA to award a license. Certainly, at its very core, this HFEA licensing standard is a mean joke against UK citizens who respect innocent human lives and seek to protect them.

"The 'desirable' standard should be rescinded, because it lacks exactness and is easily abused. Thereafter, the 'necessary' standard requires a reckoning, too. If purposes 2.2.a-2.2.c cannot be accomplished without a given type of research, then that research can appropriately be deemed 'necessary'. Human-animal cloning research does not meet this standard. In a invalid attempt to justify their decision, the HFEA proceedings emphasized the idle promises of cloned human embryo research and completely excluded any assessment of the very real pitfalls of human-animal cloning experiments.

"Putting the human genetic material into animal eggs is certainly not necessary per se to increase knowledge about serious disease. Even suggesting that these experiments will somehow lead to improvements in making cloned human embryonic stem cells with human eggs is unsupportable on scientific grounds. Because of the biological aberrations and incompatibilities of inter-species mixing, human-animal embryo research will produce many misleading artifacts that have nothing to do with human development or human disease. For example, it is well known that when mature human cells are fused with mature rodent cells, the viable hybrid cells spit out most of the human chromosomes. Inter-species cloning experiments will add little or nothing to ongoing experimentation in uncontested animal-animal embryo cloning research (e.g., cloning of mouse embryonic stem cells), which has provided many insights into human development and human disease. In fact the current advances in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are due to research with mouse embryonic stem cells, not human ones. The HFEA position on inter-species cloning also ignores countless examples of non-stem cell research and adult stem cell research that continue to increase knowledge about serious disease.

"So, it is truly a wonder that the petitioning knowledgeable scientists actually want to undertake this unsound research. What is really motivating them? Perhaps, the answer lies in the following statement found in the public transcript of the HFEA evaluation proceedings (November 28, 2007) for the license application of Dr. Stephen Minger of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, Kings College London: '[Dr. Minger] acknowledges that further equipment and staff will be needed pending approval of the application and subsequent funding decisions.' So, here it is again, just in a different guise: Innocent human lives created and destroyed for the benefit of others, but this time for others who have few redeeming qualities, if indeed any at all."