Saturday, 16 August 2008

SPUC's Safe at School campaign

A new leaflet has been developed to encourage parents to get to grips with what is happening in their children's schools. This is part of our campaign to raise awareness about what is happening in schools and to identify those people who will take action and start working for change within their own child's school.
Please order copies to hand to mothers and fathers whom you know - either in your locality or to send to friends and acquaintances further afield.

Parents need to check on what is happening in their children's schools. The leaflet lists 17 questions to put to the school authorities - and provides a helpline on the issues the leaflet raises. Questions include: "Are you aware of your child filling out questionnaires at school with leading questions on their knowledge of sexual matters and local availability of the morning-after pill?...Are you aware of websites advertising abortion facilitate and confidential advice which may be promoted at your child’s school often on plastic cards which may also offer help on careers advice?...Are you aware that school governors have to consult with parents over sex education and that they have the power to veto anything they feel is detrimental to the child?..."

The Safe at School campaign, run by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, is raising awareness about the ways in which children and young people at school are exposed to anti-life classroom materials and agencies through which they can get abortion referrals, abortion-inducing contraception and the morning-after pill. This includes faith schools (including Catholic schools).

Order the leaflets you need from lizfoody@spuc.org.uk

Friday, 15 August 2008

SPUC's frontline resistance to euthanasia - at the bedside of vulnerable people

Please order copies of this leaflet to give to everyone you know.

Euthanasia threatens us all - anyone could be at risk through an accident, illness or old age. The leaflet has been specially designed for people to carry with them or keep in their homes for reference.

The confidential telephone support service is available to everyone. This is our frontline resistance to euthanasia - at the bedside of vulnerable people.

The front of the leaflet (pictured) reads: "Worried about the way a friend or relative is being treated in hospital? Supported about the way you may be treated at the end of your life? For advice and support call Patients First Network on 0800 169 1719. Euthanasia by neglect is a painful, distressing way to die. Don’t let it happen to you or someone you love."

Order copies of the leaflet from SPUC. Email lizfoody@spuc.org.uk

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Interviewing prospective parliamentary candidates on abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

As well as lobbying sitting MPs to oppose the pro-abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill, we urge people to contact prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) in their constituencies to find out how they would vote on the amendments proposed.

We don’t normally ask people to contact their PPCs until an election is approaching but this is a good way of increasing the “political temperature” on the abortion amendments. We have the opportunity to do this because many local constituency parties selected their prospective candidates last year, in the expectation of an election last October. This means we have the opportunity to approach those prospective candidates now and ask how they would vote if elected.

Bear in mind that unless your MP has announced that he/she is stepping down at the next election, only the parties “in opposition” in your constituency will have appointed a PPC.

You can Google for the party headquarters – which vary in their efficiency in providing details of prospective parliamentary candidates; or just look up the local party headquarters in your phone book.

A list of questions to put to your local candidate/s is available from SPUC here. The SPUC website has a page about this campaign here.

Contact Anthony Ozimic, SPUC’s political secretary, for advice if you need it. Please let us have information on the responses you receive. Write to political@spuc.org.uk

Abortion amendments threat - briefing

Pro-abortion MPs have tabled a raft of amendments aimed at widening the Abortion Act. With abortions climbing to over 200,000 in recent years. These amendments aim to ensure that abortions can be done:
  • by less qualified operators
  • with less medical oversight
  • in less well-equipped premises
  • on poorly informed women
  • for no medical or psychological benefit.
There are also amendments that weaken the conscience clause, and seek to criminalise pro-life counsellors if women claim their advertisements suggest that they can tell them where to get an abortion.

We are asking people to write to their MPs asking them if they will oppose any such amendments that are debated in the HFE bill report stage. People should also contact the Prime Minister pointing out that, as these amendments would be attachments to a government bill, he will be held accountable for the harm to women and deaths of babies that they would lead to.

A summary briefing on these abortion amendments is available here.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

David Cameron confirms he backs discrimination against unborn disabled babies (and Brown voted for it in 1990)


David Cameron confirmed this evening that he would not vote to reverse current discrimination against unborn disabled babies who can be aborted right up to birth since the law was changed by Parliament in 1990. Mr Cameron made a similar commitment in a Daily Mail interview earlier this year on which I blogged at the time.

I heard this news from Rachel and Bill Peck who attended a "Cameron Direct" Question and Answer Session this evening in Barrow-in-Furness. Rachel asked David Cameron. the Conservative leader, the following question: "In 1990 when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act discriminated against the disabled by allowing disabled babies for the very first time to be aborted right up to full term. My question is: If in power would you favour measures to reverse this discrimination by giving unborn children who are disabled the same protection under the law as currently enjoyed by all other children?"

David Cameron answered: "A short answer first then a longer one. My personal view about that is no. I think abortion votes, and votes on embryology, and votes on all of those things should be free votes. They are matters of conscience and on the last embryology bill we’ve just had I pushed very hard (if you remember, the Prime Minister wanted to have whipped votes like they had whipped votes in the House of Lords) and I said this is wrong; this is a conscience issue; this is one where MP’s have got to examine their consciences, listen to their constituents, and explain their positions and it should always be a free vote. So it should always be a free vote. My own view is yes, I think that we should change the abortion limit down from 24 towards 20 weeks; I voted that way and I think it would be right to do that. But in the case of parents who have medical evidence that they may have a very disabled child, I would not want to change that. And I speak as someone, I mean, I’ve got a six year old boy who is severely disabled has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic and he’s a sweet boy, he’s a lovely boy Ivan, and, you know, it is though incredibly tough bringing up disabled children and I don’t want to kind of put myself in the position of saying to other parents you’ve got to go ahead and have that child or you can’t have an abortion or you can do this or you can’t do that. Personally Ivan, he’s brought incredible things to my life but it is an enormous challenge and I don’t think it’s right to sort of tell other parents if you hear that you’ve got a very disabled child on the way, that actually doing something about it isn’t an option. That’s my view.”

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, of course, voted three times for this discriminatory legislation in 1990. David Cameron was first elected to Parliament in June 2001.

Praying and fasting to protect Northern Ireland from the British Abortion Act


SPUC is not a religious organization but many of our supporters are religious.

One of them, Liam Gibson, is SPUC’s development officer in Northern Ireland. He has published and distributed widely in Northern Ireland a paper entitled “Prayer and Fasting to prevent the extension of the Abortion Act [to Northern Ireland]” which calls for a 40-day fast from Wednesday, 20th August, until Saturday, 4th October (excluding Sundays).

In his paper he points out biblical examples of prayer and fasting and to Jewish tradition which “associates fasting with mourning for terrible events; wars, disasters, the destruction of the Temple, the Holocaust, or the death of loved ones”.

On a personal note, I think it is entirely appropriate for a UK-based human rights organization, like SPUC, to promote prayer in defence of human life and in the face of the potential catastrophe of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill completing its passage through Parliament. After all, both Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom begin their proceedings every day with prayer.

Moreover, on 6th June, 1944, at a time of national peril, King George VI called his people “to prayer and dedication” for the D-day allied forces landing in Normandy.

This is a time of national peril. MPs are proposing to impose the 1967 Abortion Act on Northern Ireland and to extend enormously the killing of unborn children under that law through various amendments at report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in early October.

You may like to look at Liam’s paper and to consider joining in some modest way in the 40 days of prayer and fasting.

You may also like to join in a world day of prayer and fasting tomorrow, on which I have previously blogged.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

International media, ignorance and the morning-after pill

Reuters in New York reported yesterday that “Urban-living minority girls appear to lack general knowledge about emergency contraceptive pills” but evidently those girls aren’t the only ones who lack knowledge!

The Reuters report goes on to say “Morning-after pills … consist of hormones that prevent a pregnancy from occurring” but Reuters is telling only part of the truth. The morning-after pill manufacturers say that they can prevent or delay ovulation which prevents conception. However, the makers also concede that these drugs can affect the lining of the womb so that embryos can't implant. This may be a death sentence for young human lives.

Seven years ago, SPUC took a case to the High Court to defend these lives.

In December 2000, UK drug licensing law was amended to allow morning-after pills to be sold without prescription in pharmacies. The following year and in 2002, we in SPUC went to the English high court to try to stop it. Our case was based on section 58 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which prohibits the use of means with intent to procure miscarriage.

Mr Justice Munby held that the act wasn't contravened by the administration of morning-after pills with intent to prevent the implantation in the uterus of any embryo conceived as a result of sexual intercourse. Mr Munby decided that a mother is not pregnant until the embryo implants in her womb. Although an embryonic child is present before implantation, the judge said, the mother is not legally pregnant.

Justice Munby’s decision has been strongly challenged in the academic press and elsewhere. In a careful analysis of the evidence considered by Justice Munby, Drs Fleming, Neville and Pike concluded that the substantial majority of dictionaries uphold the proposition:
  • that conception is to be equated with fertilisation
  • and that a woman is pregnant from fertilisation/conception onwards
  • and that miscarriage, being synonymous with abortion, refers to loss of the preimplantation embryo, potentially caused by the morning after pill.

Professor John Keown of Georgetown University, Washington, DC, also found that the Justice Munby’s judgment was deeply unsatisfactory. Writing in the 27 April 2007 edition of Legal Studies, Dr Keown, Rose F Kennedy professor of Christian ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, questioned the judgment made by High Court Justice Munby that preventing the implantation of an embryo in the uterus by administration of the ‘morning after pill’, does not constitute the procurement of a ‘miscarriage’. Dr Keown’s paper provides an excellent analysis of the relevant legal precedents, expert evidence, and legislative intentions. More importantly, it critiques Munby’s weighing of this evidence and shows how the judgment is ultimately unjustified. Details of how to obtain Dr Keown’s article can be found here.

Whatever the legal judgements upholding the political status quo on the morning-after pill, urban-living minority girls in the US and women and men everywhere are entitled to the full truth about the abortifacient nature of the morning-after pill.

The Reuters New York piece was about research by Dr Cynthia J Mollen of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and colleagues, is reported on in this month's Paediatrics. There are serious questions to be asked about this research. I intend to return to it in a future post.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Media blackout as Kenyan Head of State rules out legalised abortion

A statement last weekend by President Mwai Kibaki ruling out legalized abortion was virtually ignored by the Kenyan media. He was speaking at the installation of a new bishop in eastern Nigeria.

I heard this news over the phone today from Dr Stephen Karanja, a retired consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and former secretary of the Kenya Medical Association. He told me: “Last Saturday, 9th August, Bishop Anthony Muheria, was installed as the Bishop of Kitui, in eastern Kenya, in a ceremony at the Kitui High School grounds.

“The installation was graced by the presence of Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya, two ministers, and at least five members of the Kenyan Parliament.

“During the inauguration, His Eminence John Cardinal Njue addressed all men and women of goodwill about the position of the church on the draft Reproductive Health and Rights Bill. This bill was publicly launched last month but has not yet been introduced to the Kenyan Parliament.

“The Cardinal said that the Bill was unacceptable. It was an affront to humanity of everybody and, especially, to the integrity of the human being.

“Cardinal Njue said that a country [is going mad] if it starts killing its youth – because in children the country has the seed for its future. He said that if any government, including President Kibaki’s government, were to enact such a law, they would be acting against the people of Kenya.

“Mwai Kibaki, the President of Kenya, responded to the Cardinal’s comments. He said he saw no reason, now, or in the future, why anyone would want to legalize abortion in Kenya.”

Mutula Kilonzo, Minister for Nairobi Metropolitan Development, also spoke the draft Bill, saying that, if it reached Parliament, he would marshal the parliamentary forces to shoot the bill down.

The installation ceremony was conducted by the papal nuncio, Bishop Allan Paul Lebeaupin.

Earlier last week, Cardinal Njue said of those promoting the draft Reproductive Health and Rights Bill, that they are “slaves of foreign ideologies and policies that are devoid of Christianity.” He said that life begins after conception and was sacred and “so nobody has authority to terminate it” and called on Christian parliamentarians to reject the proposed draft bill.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Naprotechnology: a natural and realistic alternative to IVF

The 25th of last month was the 40th Anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. According to the Catholic Church (see, for example, Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae) the sanctity of human life from its natural beginning to its natural end is central to the gospel message. From this knowledge stems the understanding, set out in Humanae Vitae, that to separate the nuptial act from its procreative potential is profoundly wrong, leading to disastrous adverse consequences for individuals, especially young people, for married couples, especially in men's attitude to women, and for society generally.* (See Note below)

For the best part of the last forty years, one of the world's leading health professionals who has dedicated his career and life to bringing this teaching of the Catholic Church to the practice of medicine is an American obsetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Thomas Hilgers who was inspired by Humanae Vitae as a young medical student.

With a team of nursing staff in St Louis, Missouri he pioneered the Creighton Model System of natural fertility appreciation (FertilityCare), which in turn has given birth to Natural Procreative Technology (or Napro). Now running the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Nebraska, and operating at the Creighton University School of Medicine, Dr Hilgers continues to explore the and develop this fascinating and growing arm of medicine.

On 9 -14 June 2008 in Rome, over 200 FertilityCare Practitioners and NaProTechnology physicians and gynaecologists gathered for the annual meeting of the American Academy of FertilityCare Practitioners. SPUC was represented there by Dr Lisa McCready, from whose report I now quote:

"Usually held in the States, Rome was chosen for this gathering because of the anniversary, but also to facilitate attendance by a growing number of trained or interested healthcare professionals from Europe. The conference addressed all aspects of NaProTechnology ranging from surgical restorative techniques to treat endometriosis, (a common cause of infertility) to discussion of the secularization of bioethics.

"NaPro is the medical extension of the Creighton model fertilitycare system, a natural fertility awareness program has been running in the USA for almost forty years. The medical applications of NaPro have grown during that time to become a comprehensive branch of women’s health medicine, which respects both the natural fertility cycle and the teaching of the Catholic Church. Working cooperatively with the woman’s body, NaPro has been shown to treat many gynaecological conditions including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, miscarriage and other causes of infertility.

"Presentations at the conference included case reports of the successful use of NaPro for a wide range of conditions. This included very significant data from Dr Phil Boyle’s clinic in Ireland, showing his success in achieving pregnancies in women who have had previously unsuccessful attempts at IVF, some of them multiple. Statistics from the USA suggest that in treating infertility, NaPro has between a 40-60% success rate in achieving pregnancy. This compares to a maximum success rate of 30% for IVF (UK average raw data “take-home-baby” rate).

"There is a profound depth to the ethos of NaPro, which somehow reveals the truth of human life and the fertility cycle. It is natural, holistic and at the same time sacred...

"Bringing NaProTechnology to the UK is and will be an uphill struggle, but one that will be worth fighting... The desire to give life and the compassion that causes people to seek and work in the IVF industry are forces for good that have become twisted. We are inadvertently allowing the destruction of thousands of embryos to give life to a few, and this is morally ignorant at best, and utilitarian at worst. NaProTechnology has the potential in this country to provide a realistic and successful alternative to most couples struggling to conceive, and this is precisely where the battle must be fought."

*Note: "Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife." (Humanae Vitae, 17)

The history of the last 40 years has demonstrated the prophetic nature of the encyclical, not least the imposition on famlies by governments of birth control policies. In the UK, for example, even the Catholic authorities are co-operating with the government to provide Catholic schoolchildren secret access to abortion and contraception; and the UK government is one of 180 governments worldwide which are funding UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, which participates in China's forced abortion one-child policy. And the catastrophic decline in respect for human life which these policies involve is also reflected in IVF practice. As I blogged last month, IVF – which gave birth to the first IVF child thirty years ago – has led to over two million embryos discarded, or frozen, or selectively aborted, or miscarried or used in destructive experiments. (2,137,924 human embryos were created by specialists while assisting couples in the UK to have babies between 1991 and 2005, according to BioNews. During this period, the HFEA informs us that the total of live babies born through IVF procedures was 109,469.)