Friday, 1 August 2008

BBC says it aims to provide balance of opinion on abortion

When Ms Diane Abbott MP announced her intention to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill to extend British abortion law to Northern Ireland, BBC Radio 4 gave her a pretty clear run. According to one of our supporters, she was on the Today programme on the 23rd of last month and there was no-one there to put the opposing view. Mr James Naughtie, the interviewer (pictured), was apparently neutral on the matter.

Our supporter wrote to the BBC to ask about their supposed commitment to editorial balance. They replied: " … our aim isn't to provide a balance of opinion within a single news report or programme, but to do so over a period of time across our entire radio, television and internet news output."

Well, on many items that are far less important than abortion and Northern Ireland, you'll find the BBC getting people into the studio, or down the line, or in the radio-car to give the other point of view. Even if we take the BBC at their word, I wonder just how balanced the coverage they give to this matter will be, between now and the autumn when the bill comes back to parliament. If you see or hear the BBC reporting on abortion and Northern Ireland during the next couple of months, tell me if you think their reporting was fair.

The kind of thing to watch out for is untrue claims going unchallenged like Diane Abbott claiming, as I blogged recently, that there is a terrible backstreet abortion problem in Northern Ireland when, in reality, it has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the UK. A pro-life spokesperson, as well as providing the facts which expose Diane Abbott's claim, could point to the recent statement from former abortionist Bernard Nathanson, reported by Pat Buckley last week, repeating the admission Nathanson made in his book "Aborting America": "We claimed that between five and ten thousand women a year died of botched abortions," he said. "The actual figure was closer to 200 to 300 and we also claimed that there were a million illegal abortions a year in the United States and the actual figure was close to 200,000. So, we were guilty of massive deception." These kinds of false claims have played a massive role in persuading politicians around the world to legalize abortion - and the BBC, in SPUC's experience, is one of the worst offenders in promoting such claims. Let's see how they get on in providing a balanced opinion in the run-up to possible votes in Parliament in October which could strip the unborn child throughout the whole of the UK of the virtually the last vestige of protection.

Serious concerns over organ donation

Organ donation is on the political agenda and, in particular, the matter of donors' consent. At present, you need to indicate that you'd be happy for your body-parts to be used for transplantation when you die. This is reasonable and makes sense. Organ donation can be a good thing, but it's not a duty on all of us to do it. The pressure is now on, however, for people's consent to be assumed. The British Medical Association (BMA) are among those calling for this. If you didn't want to have your organs re-used, you'd have to make a statement to that effect. And if you didn't know anything about the issue, your organs could just be used. The BMA recently expressed disappointment when Welsh politicians decided against such presumed consent.

The current Faith magazine includes an article on organ donation by Mr Bernard Farrell-Roberts of the Maryvale Institute, a Catholic college in Birmingham, England. He points out that the Catholic church says that explicit consent is needed, and that John Paul II warned prophetically in 2000 that a shortage of organs could mean that there would be calls for presumed consent.

If consent is presumed, Mr Farrell-Roberts says, the state has rights over our bodies after death. If that same state changes the definition of death, we could end up having organs taken from us while we're still alive. In Brazil, the number of available organs actually dropped once presumed consent was introduced. The article describes the problems associated with ascertaining when a person is dead.

Brain death is one criterion used for harvesting organs, but Mr Farrell-Roberts points out that Dr David Jones of St Mary's College, Twickenham, Middlesex, and others increasingly dispute that someone can be brain-dead yet have a beating heart. There is even talk of recovery after brain death. Other research suggests that life endures for a good while longer than assumed by at least some transplant surgeons. The author writes: "… the possibility of recovery may well still exist when organs are being removed for donorship."

Mr Farrell-Roberts concludes that there is much uncertainty about when a person is truly dead. Testing for death could even cause it! He points to new scientific advances, such as adult stem cell research, which could mean that fewer donated organs are needed.

His most chilling conclusion is that we can't presently be sure that, if we are donors, we can be confident that our organs and tissue will be removed following our deaths in an ethically acceptable manner. This means it's crucial that:
  • we oppose all attempts to presume consent to organ donation
  • researchers find better ways of ascertaining death
  • governments legislate to protect the sanctity of life.

I can't do the article justice, so do read it here.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

The abortion president would gravely damage America's reputation worldwide

Senator Barack Obama, de facto Democrat candidate for US president, has said he will reinstate American funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Such spending is presently prevented by the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment which, according to the Population Research Institute "forbids U.S. funds from going to any organization or country that participates in a program of forced abortion or sterilization." Earlier this month, President Bush's government withheld some $40 million from UNFPA, making a total of $235 million withheld over seven years.

Reinstating funding for UNFPA will gravely damage America's reputation worldwide. Under the current president, the US has done a lot of good work to protect the unborn overseas and an Obama victory would throw all that away. He will also do immense damage in his own country. Mr Obama has said that, if elected, he will immediately sign the Freedom of Choice Act which would enshrine abortion in US law and overturn all state-based restrictions. No wonder the Christian Defense Coalition has called him the abortion president.

While SPUC never endorses candidates, least of all those in other countries, an Obama presidency would have bad effects throughout the world, so it is a legitimate concern for us and our pro-life colleagues elsewhere to know that a new administration would fund UNFPA. Obama's neo-colonialist abortion policies will kill unborn children, destroy the lives of women and families overseas, and gravely damage the good name of the US.

On a related note, the Democratic and Republican parties have yet to choose their candidates for US vice-president. The choice is an important one, because vice-presidents sometimes succeed the incumbent (e.g. Lyndon Johnson succeeded JFK; Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon) or can become influential, either while vice-president (e.g. Dick Cheney) or in later life (e.g. Al Gore). It stands to reason that Mr Obama's running mate will probably share his anti-life positions. John McCain, Mr Obama's Republican rival, said recently that his running mate should share his "values, principles, and priorities." Among those speculated as a possible running mate for Mr McCain is Condoleezza Rice, the current Secretary of State (equivalent to the British Foreign Secretary). It would seem that Miss Rice does not share what is reported to be Mr McCain's position on abortion.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines to resume hearings next week

On Saturday I blogged about a bill in the Philippines' house of representatives which would pave the way for abortion, and which promotes abortifacient birth control and sterilisation. The proposed law would over-rule medical staff's conscientious objection to being involved in such practices. I now hear from a contact in the Philippines that the appropriations committee will resume hearings on the measure a week from today (6 August). May I ask those of you who read this blog and who are religious believers kindly to pray earnestly that no part of this measure will pass into law.

29,000 reports of serious incidents relating to poor nutrition – the problem is the law

The Telegraph reported yesterday that there were more than 29,000 reports of serious incidents relating to poor nutrition in England during last year. Stephen O’Brien (Conservative), the shadow health minister, is reported as saying:

"This is a further disgraceful statistic from a Government which has failed patients and the public. People go to hospital expecting to get better, yet in 2007, 29,000 people suffered unnecessary and completely avoidable harm from poor nutritional care.”

The range of incidents included badly-fitted feeding tubes, frail patients who cannot reach a glass of water and deaths due to dehydration and choking.

According to The Telegraph, Stephen O’Brien went on to say "Nutrition is central to health and dignity – how many more patients must suffer at the hands of this inept Government?"

Given Mr O’Brien’s concern, which I’m sure is genuine, it’s a pity that he failed to vote on either the second or third readings of the Labour Government’s Mental Capacity Act.

Under the Mental Capacity Act, assisted food and fluids (e.g. tube-delivered) is regarded as medical treatment. Indeed, treatment is defined so broadly in the Mental Capacity Act that other elements of basic care, maybe even spoon-feeding, may be withheld from patients – as SPUC’s lobbyists warned MPs and Peers when the law was introduced into Parliament.

Moreover, the checklist for how to determine a patients' best interests in the Mental Capacity Act is dangerous. The checklist includes many woolly and subjective non-medical factors which serve to undermine protection for the patient’s life or health - clear and objective medical factors which used to be the principle criteria for determining a patient's best interests. A doctor can thus over-ride life and health when considering a patient's best interests.

The legislative environment is thus ripe for euthanasia by starvation and dehydration to flourish.

There is a connection between today’s report of poor conditions in hospitals and nursing homes and euthanasia by neglect. SPUC’s Patients First Network receives calls from distressed relatives saying that their loved ones are not being fed properly. Vulnerable patients are made weaker by lack of food and relatives often feel this is contributing to the premature death of their loved ones. Patients First Network is a support group which promotes good medical care until natural death. Anyone concerned about a friend or relative can call the Patients First Network confidential telephone support service on 0800 1691719.

The Telegraph report tells us that Dr Kevin Cleary, medical director of the National Patient Safety Agency, said:

"We recognise that good nutrition and hydration is essential for the recovery of patients and we support clinicians with guidance to ensure that learning from reported incidents is provided."

Dr Cleary may recognize the importance of good nutrition and hydration to aid the recovery of patients. The problem is the law, however, under which food and fluids can be withdrawn with the intention of ending the patient’s life.

Welsh assembly reluctance over organ donation consent

Members of the Welsh assembly have rejected calls for people's consent to organ donation to be presumed. Instead, the assembly's health committee wants potential donors to be encouraged to register their intentions. The British Medical Association is disappointed. Regrettably, the committee has not completely ruled out so-called presumed consent but one should be grateful for small mercies.

As I blogged in January, there is a risk that eager medics could hasten patients' deaths to get fresh organs for a person in need - well-intentioned but wrong. Earlier this year, a patient in Paris, presumed dead, revived as surgeons began to remove his organs. The International Forum on Transplant Ethics proposed that certain patients to be given lethal injections so that their organs are in better shape for transplant.

Presuming consent isn't the same as obtaining it, so it's not really consent at all, and such an presumption effectively nationalises everyone's bodies. Some countries which presume consent actually get fewer organs that are obtained in this country where consent is still needed. Mr Jonathan Morgan AM, health committee chairman, rightly points out that it's difficult asking grieving relatives to make decisions about a patient's body-parts. While organ donation can be a generous act, none of us is morally required to do it and government has no right to require it of us.

Also in January, I blogged on the dangers of defining tube-feeding as medical treatment and its implications for organ donation. We're keeping an eye on this issue of organ donation and our Patients First Network continues to watch out for the interests of people in hospital.

Huge drop in abortions in Poland - Fascinating interview in Zenit

Antoni Zieba (pictured right) the secretary of World Prayer for Life, and vice-president of the Polish Federation of Pro-life Movements, was interviewed in Zenit yesterday. He provides fascinating insights into the reasons for the huge drop in the number of abortions currently being experienced in Poland and into the history of abortion in Poland - first legalized by the Nazis in 1943. "They wanted to eliminate Poles with abortion", says Mr Zieba.

In his role as secretary of World Prayer for Life, he recently proposed making March 25 the World Day for the Protection of Life, but without giving up the national Pro-Life Day. Quoting Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae (#100), Antoni Zieba says that a great prayer for life should be made throughout the year "but I am convinced that March 25, feast of the Incarnation -- of Jesus' conception in Mary's body -- must become a world day of prayer for the defence of life".

As joint vice-secretary of the World Prayer for Life, naturally I support Antoni's proposal. In addition, I support a suggestion made closer to home here in England for a world fast day of prayer on 14th August - particularly in view of the terrible threat posed by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology bill, due to be debated again in Parliament in October and the appalling bill currently before the House of Representatives in the Philippines.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A tale of two judges

The European Court of Human Rights is going to decide whether Ireland's restrictive law on abortion is unfair to women. Three anonymous women claim that Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion violated their human rights because it discriminates against women, and because it subjected them to inhuman and degrading treatment by forcing them to travel to obtain an abortion. The Irish judge on the court, which sits in Strasbourg, France, has withdrawn from the case. It may be that Dr Ann Power SC has done so because she represented the Irish Catholic bishops at a parliamentary hearing on abortion. It is quite understandable that a judge might be disqualified because of previous involvement as an advocate in a related case.

Meanwhile, the United Nations general assembly has unanimously approved the secretary general's nomination of Ms Navanethem Pillay of South Africa as the UN's new human rights commissioner. The United States began by resisting her appointment and, under President Bush, America has pursued some enlightened pro-life policies such as refusing to fund agencies involved in performing abortions overseas or to finance bodies, like the UNFPA, which are involved in forced abortion and forced sterilisation in China.

According to one source, Ms Pillay was interviewed in 1994 and spoke about how the South African constitution mentions unborn children's rights. She reportedly said: "I wondered why the right to life was stated so explicitly. It is going to open up huge debates on the right of the fetus and so on. … that is the one clause [the pro-life lobby] are going to latch on to for their cause ..."

It would appear that Ms Pillay has a view on the rights of the unborn and it's not a very sympathetic one. However, the United Nations' 1959 Declaration of 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." If Ms Pillay still has problems with unborn babies' rights, she's in no position to defend them – in accordance with a UN resolution – as human rights commissioner.

Diane Abbott MP misleads British public about "backstreet" abortion in Northern Ireland

Addressing the House of Lords last November, Baroness Paisley, wife of the former First Minister of Northern Ireland (pictured together), said: “Northern Ireland will not be bullied by political activists whose ideas and actions have brought about the massacre of more than seven million innocent unborn children in the years that this [Abortion] Act has been in operation...”

Such sentiments, however, don't stop Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, believing that she can impose the Abortion Act on Northern Ireland despite the fact that, in addition to Baroness Paisley, Northern Ireland's devolved Assembly, 90% of its elected representatives and all four main Churches in the Province, have told Ms Abbott and her colleagues that they don't want Britain’s abortion law.

“No-one in Northern Ireland voted for Diane Abbott, Evan Harris or any of the other pro-abortion extremists in Parliament and yet these MPs seem to think they are our colonial masters and that we must do as they say,” Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland organizer, said to me.

Ms Abbott claims that she wants equality for women in Northern Ireland but she adds insult to injury to the long-suffering people there when she tells the media that women in the Province are “facing conditions more reminiscent of the 19th century,” and that “[m]ost working-class women must take their chances with the backstreet abortionist.”

In reality, the maternal mortality rate in Northern Ireland is the lowest in the UK.

Is it possible that Ms Abbott actually believes her own propaganda? Interestingly, she did not make these claims to the media within Northern Ireland where she could easily be challenged. If anyone in the English press asked her to prove what she said about backstreet abortions in Northern Ireland she would be unable to find any evidence to justify her claims.

“Diane Abbott knows nothing about the women in Northern Ireland and it’s also clear that she doesn’t give proper attention to the standards of healthcare for women in her own part of the UK,” Liam Gibson said to me. “If she did, she would notice that the abortion law in Northern Ireland not only provides more protection for unborn children, but also helps to safeguard the health of women.”

People in England, Scotland and Wales should write to their MPs to tell them the truth about Northern Ireland and call on them to stop Diane Abbott and her colleagues from imposing their anti-life values on the people of Northern Ireland.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Organized parental resistance to compulsory sex education the only option

This morning we find the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health & HIV advising the Government to introduce compulsory sex education classes in the national curriculum including discussion about, and better access to, contraception and greater access to abortion.

Take a look at the membership and biographies of this so-called Independent Advisory Group, starting with the Chair, Baroness Joyce Gould (pictured), whose biography is not untypical of the other members. The Department of Health website entry reads: “Baroness Gould is a House of Lords Life Peer with a strong interest in sexual health. She is President of fpa (formerly named Family Planning Association) ... and also Chair of the All Party Pro Choice Group. She has extensive experience of chairing large groups and committees.” Baroness Gould is qualified to be a heroine of the pro-abortion campaign as well as to be a major enemy of parental rights and responsibility in their children's sound formation in human sexuality. This is the person chosen to be chair of the group announced by the government in March 2003.

The work of the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV is, of course, funded by the government. SPUC is researching just how financially dependent on government funding are the organizations with which those members are associated, or for which they work.

There’s only one possible response from parents to a very real threat of compulsion from an advisory group (which is no more independent of the government, and on issues of sexual health, than Pravda was independent of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union) and that’s organized resistance by parents in local schools the length and breadth of Britain and Northern Ireland. Contact SPUC’s Safe at School campaign by writing to me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk or phone SPUC at 020 7091 7091.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

"Superhero" Obama boasts he has 100% pro-abortion voting record

The Telegraph today says of Barack Obama: "On his journey through Europe last week the US presidential contender garnered adulation fit for a superhero".

Millions of unborn children, if he becomes president, may never hear about this charismatic, super-heroic figure, because they will be dead.

On his website he writes: ""Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, it’s never been more important to protect a woman’s right to choose. Last year, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, and in doing so undermined an important principle of Roe v. Wade: that we must always protect women’s health. With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.

"Throughout my career, I’ve been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. "When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president."

Check out what the National Right to Life Committee in the US say about him here.