Saturday, 26 April 2008

Do you provide a salt abortion?

I came into the office early this morning to prepare my talk for the Family Life International conference this afternoon in Clapham, south London. I am speaking at the conference on the implications of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently before Parliament.

A few minutes ago, I took a telephone call from an anxious-sounding young man asking if we can provide a salt abortion. I quietly spoke to him about SPUC's work in relation to abortion, the nature of abortion and the harm it can do to mothers and to others. Although I knew I was detaining him I tried to keep talking in order to explain the help that's available. He was a naturally polite person and listened for a little while. He said: "We know the baby deserves to be protected but sometimes it's just not convenient...". Finally, he said: "OK, I've got to go..." and we said goodbye.

This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967 coming into effect - on 27th April 1968. If you believe in prayer, say a prayer about everyone involved in the situation described to me by this young man asking if we could provide a salt abortion. There have been nearly 7 million abortions under the legislation passed by the British Parliament over 40 years ago. Pray that new casualties - casualties of inconvenience - can be prevented.

It's situations like this which I'll be thinking about when I give my talk this afternoon. One of the implications of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is that it might be used to widen even further British abortion legislation, making abortion even more easy to obtain. Sadly, there's a substantial pro-abortion majority in Parliament. I sincerely hope that when the Government's states that it has no plans to change the abortion law, it will seek to promote a consensus that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is not used to open up the Abortion Act on the floor of Parliament.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Tibet: more evidence of coercive population control

It is very important that the issue of China's coercive population control programme, often ignored in the anti-life West, is kept before the public eye. I'm therefore very grateful to Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell, Scotland for a recent sermon. Bishop Devine said: “[In Tibet], as in China itself, Chinese communist rule directs state-sponsored killings, forced abortions and sterilisation of women more often than not without the fuss of anaesthetics or medical treatment".

Channel 4's 'Dispatches' programme recently sent Tash Despa, a Tibetan refugee and now a British resident, to Tibet to travel undercover for 3 months to find out what life was like for ordinary ethnic Tibetans under Chinese rule.

Before entering Tibet, Tash interviewed a male Tibetan refugee, who recounted one occasion when "[t]he Chinese ordered us to attend a conference about Socialism. Its main purpose was to carry out sterilisation of women and to fine those who had more than 2 children."

Once in Tibet itself, Tash interviewed a male Tibetan torture victim. The programme's narrator explained: "Despite years of torture and imprisonment, this man is determined to continue to fight the Chinese. More recently he has been investigating the government's population control policies." The torture victim said: "There were 6 million Tibetans before Chinese rule. There are only about 5 million of them in the Tibetan region today. So there has been no population growth in this period. Yet now they are carrying out forced sterilisations in the Tibetan region. Those who refuse are punished. They are implementing this here and now. This is a violation of human rights."

The narrator continues: "Tash had made contact with a woman who claimed to have had personal experience of enforced sterilisation. She asked the team to arrive in the early hours of the morning, terrified of the consequences of foreigners being seen coming to her house."

Tash notes: "She's very nervous..."

Narrator: "She said she had a chilld out of quota under the terms of China's one child policy. As a result, she was given the choice of a fine she couldn't pay or sterilisation."

Woman: "Those who can't pay the fine have to have a sterilisation. If you have good connections you can buy a sterilisation certificate for around 1000 Yuan. But those who don't have any money have to have the sterilisation whether they like it or not. I was forcibly taken away against my will."

Tash: "Did you cry?"

Woman: "I cried when I was lying on the bed after the sterilisation. I cried thinking that I'd been forced to have a sterilisation when there was nothing wrong with me. I was feeling sick and giddy and couldn't look up. It was so painful. Apparently they cut the fallopian tubes and stitch them up. When they opened me up they pulled them out by the roots. It was agonising. They didn't use anaesthetic. They just smeared something on my stomach and carried out the sterilisation. Apart from aspirin for the pain there were no other drugs. And then from the day after the operation I had to look after myself. If I needed a drip I had to pay for it myself."

Tash: "Can you show me the scars from the sterilisation?"

The woman shows Tash her scars, recounting how "I was so frightened. I can't even remember how I felt. I wasn't the only one. About half a dozen women in our village had to undergo sterilisation."

Tash: "Forcibly?"

Woman: "Yes, forcibly. No one would have done it willingly. They come to the door to fetch you by force. They threaten to confiscate stoves and anything valuable from the house. So people get frightened and go for the sterilisation. Some people were physically damaged by the operation. They have limps and have to drag their hips. Since then people are too scared to have many children."

The narrator resumes: "The Chinese government says that the one child policy does not apply to Tibetans. But this woman's experience is far from unique. In 2002 a UN special rapporteur said women in Tibet are subjected to forced sterilisation, forced abortion, coercive birth control policies and the monitoring of menstrual cycles."

Last month I blogged about the false claim that the one-child policy doesn't apply to Tibetans.

Please register your protest against coercive population control in Tibet and in China with the Chinese Embassy in London, 49-51 Portland Place, London W1B 1JL, email: press@chinese-embassy.org.uk

Click below or here to view the whole Dispatches programme "Undercover in Tibet".

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Cardinal Lopez Trujillo's courage in defence of non-negotiable values of human life: Pope Benedict

Dr Tom Ward, a member of SPUC and president of the National Association of Catholic Families (NACF), attended the funeral of Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo (to whom I paid tribute on Sunday) in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, this morning, on behalf of the NACF and SPUC. The funeral mass was celebrated by Cardinal Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, and the homily was delivered by Pope Benedict XVI.

Dr Ward told me: “The Holy Father spoke powerfully about Cardinal Lopez Trujillo’s zeal, passion and indefatigability in his promotion of marriage and the family and he spoke of the courage with which the cardinal defended the non-negotiable values of human life. He praised his tenacity in defence of family life, his love of the truth of the family and his love of the Gospel of Life. Pope Benedict stressed that the cardinal dedicated his life in Rome to the defence of the family and of life as a collaborator of the Holy Father.

“Pope Benedict praised Cardinal Lopez Trujillo’s strength – saying that he always had great generosity to children and that he exhausted himself for children and for the family.”

The Catholic News Agency reporting on the papal homily says: ‘“Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, whose motto was "Veritas in caritate", dedicated "his entire life to affirming the truth", said the Pope.’

Dr Ward’s conclusion regarding Pope Benedict’s homily was: “The Holy Father presented Cardinal Lopez Trujillo with his motto “Veritas in caritate” as the exemplar for the church and for those in the pro-family and pro-life movement”.

An interesting obituary on the late cardinal appeared in today's London Times.

Monday, 21 April 2008

alarming new artificial reproduction technique

According to a report in The Times today artificial reproduction may be performed in a capsule in women's bodies rather than in a laboratory vessel. BioXcell, the US-based company which has developed the device known as the Invocell technique, has applied for approval from American regulators. It involves the mixing of eggs and sperm in a container which is placed in the vagina for three days. Any resulting embryos are screened for quality and implanted in the womb.

The Times report is frightening. It refers to ‘fertilised embryos’ being ‘examined for quality’ and the ‘best one or two’ being transferred to the womb. Dr Ranoux, of BioXcell, said the company hopes to "market" their device in Europe, including Britain, later this year. These are our fellow human beings and they are treated as disposable commodities created via a manufacturing process to be sold to the highest bidder.

The pro-life movement must work tirelessly to build public opposition to this kind of reproductive technology in which human subjects are treated as things. Compassion for childless couples should prompt funding for fertility treatments which respect the inalienable dignity of unborn human life and which also offer real hope of success, such as naprotechnology.

Cardinal López Trujillo on David and Goliath

On the death of Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, I am reminded of his profoundly stirring words at the end of his address on "Evangelium Vitae and the pro-life movement".

Speaking at a meeting organised by SPUC at Central Hall Westminster on
23 March 1996, he said: "Young people and their energies lead me to conclude with a reflection about a brave young man. Outside my study, in the offices of the Pontifical Council for the Family in the Vatican, I have set up a bronze statuette of the shepherd boy who became King David. He is putting the sword back into its sheath having cut off the head of Goliath the Philistine. The head rests beneath his feet. I deliberately chose that statue to be a sign to all who work in and with our pontifical Council for the Family. The message is clear. In fighting for life, for the family, we face a giant Goliath, that Philistine culture of death, with all its wealthy foundations, its powerful political and business connections and its propaganda agents.

"Like David, we have a few small stones and a slingshot, or so our limited resources often seem to us when we face such powerful forces. But we have God with us, the same God who guided David's smooth stone to its mark. Like David the shepherd boy, we are not afraid, because we know that the Lord of Life is with us. We know that we can bring down that evil Goliath! We must bring him down and we will!"

The complete text of his speech is on the EWTN website.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, defender of the family and human life, dies

Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, one of the world's greatest defenders of the sanctity of human life, died yesterday.

In 1994, when the United Nations threatened to reach an international agreement supporting the right to abortion, the cardinal sparked a lightning storm of activity around the world which transformed the pro-life battle at an international level. As president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, his response to Pope John Paul II's urgent appeal concerning the dangerous situation at the United Nations, changed pro-life history.

He and his indefatigable staff in Rome held international meetings of experts and activists, published authoritative works on key questions such as population trends and on Catholic church teaching on the transmission of human life in Humanae Vitae, and urged bishops worldwide to follow his fearless leadership.

Hundreds of delegates from pro-family and pro-life NGOs from around the world, including the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, personally encouraged by the Cardinal, went to the United Nations Conference on Population and Development in Cairo to lobby. The pro-abortion lobby's objectives for the Cairo conference were defeated.

Since then, the cardinal never failed to support the efforts of pro-life and pro-family movements around the world, continuing to publish authoritative documents and to bring together the world's foremost experts and activists working in the service of life and the family. In so doing, he introduced the leaders of the pro-life world to each other and helped to forge a genuinely worldwide pro-life movement.

His Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality definitively presents Catholic church teaching on the anti-life, anti-family sex education which tragically prevails in so many schools, sadly including Catholic schools, throughout England and Wales. Happily, in the UK, Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue has picked up the Cardinal's baton in Fit For Mission: Schools? in the diocese of Lancaster, as I posted earlier.

He visited the UK twice at the invitation of SPUC - the second time in association with the Guild of Catholic Doctors to speak on sex education.