Saturday, 23 May 2009

Dialogue brought to "a screeching halt" by Obama, says bishop

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City has given a insightful interview regarding President Obama's Notre Dame speech. The bishop underlines the key issue regarding the issue of dialogue between the opposing sides of the abortion debate:
"[T]he President got up and said that the differences that we have on abortion – namely the Catholic Church’s staunch opposition to abortion and his staunch support of abortion were “irreconcilable.” And at that moment, it would seem to me that the dialogue came to a screeching halt ... The President shut the door on dialogue by saying that there was not going to be any change in his position on abortion and he understood that there was not going to be any change in the Church’s position on abortion. To me, that was the lesson of the day. I am glad that Mr. Obama was so clear."
Bishop Finn goes on to warn that: "I think the rug is already being pulled out from under us. If we sit back and allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of peace and cooperation in regards to [pro-life/pro-family issues], then we will lose these battles and, later, wonder why."

Do read the interview with Bishop Finn in full. Also speaking out strongly about Obama is Bryan Kemper of Stand True, who spoke at the International Student Pro-Life Conference organised by SPUC Scotland in March. Bryan writes:
"Let me ask you this. Would you be willing to find common ground with someone advocating for legalized rape? Would you be willing to find common ground with someone advocating the reinstitution of the Third Reich and Nazi policies? Of course not, these are ludicrous statements. I would also argue that finding common ground with those who advocate for the killing of fully human pre-born children is a ludicrous idea."

Friday, 22 May 2009

World statistics published today show women need healthcare not abortion

Figures released today by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that improved standard health care, but not abortion, is needed to improve survival rates among mothers.

The WHO's World Health Statistics 2009 report (released today) shows that the Republic of Ireland, where abortion is banned, has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world (1 death per 100,000 live births). In contrast, the maternal mortality rate in other developed countries where abortion is almost totally unrestricted are several times higher than Ireland's (8 deaths per 100,000 live births in the UK and 11 deaths per 100,000 live births in the US).

Pat Buckley, who is currently lobbying for SPUC at the WHO's World Health Assembly in Geneva, tells me:

"Improved basic living conditions, basic health care, skilled attendants and emergency obstetrics have always been the key to decreasing maternal mortality in the developed world.

"The world statistics published today underline once again the falsehood of the claim
that saving women's lives is dependent on legal abortion. Tragically, this false claim diverts attention from women's real healthcare needs and
threatens to undermine the whole field of obstetrics and gynaecology.

"The WHO and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have focused on reducing the number of children born, rather than on making childbirth safer. This approach is fundamentally flawed, ideologically driven and ultimately responsible for the deplorable lack of progress in improving maternal mortality in developing countries.

"We are therefore calling upon the governments represented at this week's World Health Assembly to resist any moves promoting abortion under the guise of sexual and reproductive health."

Pat is pictured above (right), with
Scott Fischbach (left), chief executive of
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Global Outreach (MCCL GO) and Jeanne Head (centre) of National Right to Life (NRLC).

Encouragement and support for parents expecting a disabled child

Alison Davis of No Less Human, a group within SPUC, tells me that:
"The Washington Times has recently carried an article on alternatives to abortion for women who have discovered they are carrying a disabled baby. As in the UK, the vast majority of American babies with major disabilities are aborted, and most information available for women carrying such babies is heavily biased towards abortion.

"Nancy Mayer-Whittington's daughter Angela lived only 10 minutes after birth. Angela had Trisomy 18, a genetic condition which usually, but not always, results in a very short post-natal life. Her mother, determined to help others in a similar situation has written a book entitled 'For the Love of Angela'.

"Anna Lise 'Cubby' Lahood's son Francis had polycystic kidney disease and died a few minutes after birth, in his mother's arms. Recognising their similar experiences, the two women joined forces to develop a website (www.isaiahspromise.net) which provides support and encouragement to parents who have discovered that their unborn child has a disabling condition.

"'Cubby' Lahood said 'the pressure from the medical community to abort was severe'. The work of these two remarkable women proves that this need not be the only so-called advice new parents receive."

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Fewer Northern Ireland women seek abortions in Britain

The number of Northern Ireland women having abortions in England fell last year but pro-life campaigners are warning that it is likely to increase if abortion providers are allowed to advertise on television and radio.

Betty Gibson, chairwoman for SPUC in Northern Ireland, commented as new figures from the Department of Health in England and Wales showed that 1,173 abortions were performed on women from the province. While Mrs Gibson welcomed the fact that the number was down by 170 on the previous year, she said that a great deal more needed to be done to help women facing crisis pregnancies.
"Abortion kills children but also hurts women. Many women are never told about the physical and emotional damage which abortion can cause. It is important that women get all the help they need to care for their children. If the Advertising Standards Authority allow abortion providers to advertise on TV and radio, it will add to the pressure on vulnerable women. They will be sold abortion as a simple, safe and easy answer to their problems when it's not.

"Most people believe it is wrong that vulnerable women should be given abortion counselling by people who have a financial interest in the abortion industry. Allowing TV and radio ads will be good for the abortion business and bad for women and their unborn children. People should write to Gregory Campbell, minister for culture, arts and leisure, Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT1 7FB, and ask him to do everything he can to ensure that the restrictions on abortion adverts are not lifted."

There were 195,296 abortions in England and Wales in 2008 compared with 198,499 in 2007, a fall of 1.6%. The total number of abortions under the Abortion Act 1967 has now exceeded seven million.

SPUC has produced a briefing on the public consultation on abortion advertising which ends 19 June. Copies are available free by emailing me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Don't be fooled by Obama's so-called common ground feint

Some media outlets, even ones usually supportive of the pro-life cause, have convinced themselves that President Obama is a moderate on abortion, who wants all sides of the abortion debate to find and stand on common ground. A recent meeting between White House staff and American pro-life groups, however, provides further evidence against that myth. Family Research Council (FRC), who were represented at the meeting, report:
"In answer to a question about reducing abortion, Obama staffers Joshua DuBois and Tina Tchen made it clear--the President's goal is not to reduce the number of abortions. It is to reduce 'the need for abortion' ... For President Obama, it's not only unacceptable to protect unborn life legally, but it is becoming clear that it is unacceptable even to influence a woman to 'choose' life ... Don't be fooled by the conciliatory rhetoric about 'common ground'. Barack Obama believes women 'need' to have abortions, and judging by his actions, he intends to make sure that they get them."
As I pointed out in my initial reactions to Obama's Notre Dame speech, while he runs his rhetorical campaign to bring people together to reduce abortions, he is ruthlessly pursuing policies which are aimed at providing more abortions and will lead to more unintended pregnancies. We cannot afford the indulgence of wishful thinking that Mr Obama is really some sort of Gandhi-like reconciler. Any such thinking by pro-lifers would result in more abortions, not least through an emasculation of the pro-life movement itself.

The scandal of government backed abortions

Last year's abortion statistics for England and Wales have just been published.

Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, said:
"The scandal of government backed abortions is reflected in these figures, which show the highest ever number of NHS-funded abortions. State provision of abortion is now a major aspect of government policy - a policy which hurts women and kills unborn children.

"For the first time, in 2008 the majority of abortions were performed in private clinics at the NHS’ expense.

"The figures show a slight drop in the total abortions registered under the Abortion Act in 2008, but the figure remains higher than the 2006 number, and more abortions than ever were funded by tax-payers. The number of NHS abortions in private clinics has increased by 11-fold in the past 17 years.

"The total number of abortions under the Abortion Act 1967 has now exceeded seven million."

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Excellent reflection on reaction to Obama's Notre Dame speech

I'm very grateful for the kind responses to my initial reactions to President Obama's speech at Notre Dame university. I had started that blog by saying that I would be posting a more extensive reflection on the speech, but I've since read an excellent reflection by Dave Andrusko of National Right to Life. Dave says what I'd like to have said (and more), so please read his column in full. Below are some extracts:
"[W]e're told by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, 'Obama's opponents seek to reignite the culture wars. He doesn't.'... How in the world can someone possibly come to that conclusion, at least with respect to abortion? Simple. They are talking about Obama's soaring rhetoric. If they can convince you (and themselves!) to look up toward the clouds, you'll never notice the grim, anti-life details of his policy proposals on the ground.

"[P]ro-life critics of Obama...cite chapter and verse what he has done already (e.g. [revoking the] Mexico City [policy]); what he has steadfastly insisted he will do; and what he is already inkling he will do. With that evidence in hand, they reach the only conclusion anyone whose head is not in the clouds could come to: this is [Planned Parenthood's] heartthrob.

"[W]hatever short-term gains there undoubtedly were for Obama, long-term the only way pro-lifers could have lost would have been had they remained mute at the travesty of the most pro-abortion President in our history being honored by the best known Catholic University in our country. For now the winds remain at Obama's back. But they won't always."

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Society's senior figures urging discrimination against the vulnerable

Yesterday evening the House of Lords debated the Coroners and Justice bill at second reading. A number of Peers made speeches on the subject of assisted suicide. Among those speaking in favour of assisted suicide were two Peers who had been senior ministers during Tony Blair's government, Lord Falconer, former Lord Chancellor, and Baroness Jay, former leader of the House of Lords. Also speaking in favour of assisted suicide was Baroness Warnock, the notorious anti-life philosopher, and a number of anti-life veterans in the Lords.

It has become clear that there is a now a concerted effort by some of society's most senior figures to undermine the law on assisted suicide. Last week, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions (DPP), Lord Bingham, former Lord Chief Justice and Sir Philip Havers QC joined together on a radio programme to argue for parliament to change the law. Sir Ken Macdonald told listeners that he would have acted in the same way as Daniel James's parents if he had been in their place, saying: "Who wouldn't have?"

The theme among the anti-life contributors to both the Lords debate and the radio programme was that parliament needs to clarify the law, starting with removing the possibility of prosecution of people who help others to commit suicide overseas. The pro-life movement has seen this strategy before, in the campaign for abortion on demand. The campaign starts with a plea to protect people in desperate circumstances, by regulating hard cases in place of an outright ban. Once this concession is obtained, however, the thin veil of a moderate reform is quickly dropped and pressure is applied for the practice to be made a right.

It is also no surprise that some of society's most senior figures have joined this campaign. The pro-life message is based upon the equality of all human beings upheld by international human rights law, which exists to protect the most vulnerable, despised and rejected. This radical message of equality jars with (at least some of) these privileged establishment personages. For example, Baroness Warnock has said: "I am not ashamed to say that some lives are more worth living than others".

So I'm grateful for the contribution of another, yet different, senior figure, the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, who said in the Lords:

"We should not accept any amendments which would relax the existing law and diminish the protection offered to those at risk of self-destruction. Such a step would be wrong in itself. It would also be totally inappropriate in the context of this Bill, which proceeds from the assumption that the existing law is right in seeking to protect life, and needs to be changed in order to do so more effectively in today’s circumstances."

Monday, 18 May 2009

Callous attitude towards the disabled displayed

Saturday's Guardian newspaper published a story entitled "NHS failure on Down's screening kills healthy babies". The story reported complaints by doctors that most NHS hospitals are not using what they describe as the "best" test to screen for unborn children with Down's Syndrome. Once again we see a callous attitude displayed towards the disabled. Alison Davis of No Less Human, a group within SPUC, gave me her reaction to the story:
"Yet again we are having all sorts of so-called experts and professionals mourning the deaths, by mistake, of what they call 'normal, healthy babies' as a result of antenatal tests for disability. However, no mention is ever made of the equal tragedy of the deaths of disabled babies, which is the whole purpose of these antenatal tests. For instance Kypros Nicholaides, the well-known professor of foetal medicine at King's College, London, has said that it is 'shameful ... scandalous and disgraceful....' that healthy babies were lost in error as a direct result of these tests.

"It is well known that some degree of so-called foetal loss among 'healthy' babies is an accepted part of antenatal tests. So-called experts quibble over whether 3% or 5% loss of non-disabled babies is acceptable, and meanwhile the intended carnage among disabled babies continues apace. As a disabled person myself, I find the intended loss of disabled babies just as 'shameful, scandalous and disgraceful' as the unintended loss of those who are apparently 'healthy'."

My initial reaction to Obama’s Notre Dame speech

I will be posting a more extensive reflection on President Obama’s Notre Dame speech of yesterday, but I want to share with you some of my initial reactions to some of its content. Please see my comments in parentheses marked “JS”.

“We must decide how to save God's creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it.” (JS: Are unborn children not God's creation? The political climate you’ve intentionally created threatens to add to the 1.2 million abortions performed in America every year, and those funded by your administration overseas.) “We must seek peace at a time…when weapons in the hands of a few can destroy the many.” (JS: Yes, simple instruments in the hands of a few abortionists can destroy many unborn children.)

“[W]e must find a way to live together as one human family.” (JS: International human rights conventions include unborn children as members of the human family. Mr Obama, all your talk about inclusivity, diversity, common ground etc is rank hypocrisy as long as you exclude unborn children from protection.)

“Part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man … all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin … The strong too often dominate the weak … And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see around the globe violence…that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times.” (JS: The Christian tradition has always regarded abortion as cruel, a domination by the strong of the weak, a violence belonging to ancient times. Mr Obama, stop trying to appropriate the Christian tradition for your own anti-life political ends.)

“Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.” (JS: That is a patronising cariacature of the pro-life position. Pro-lifers are not opposed to stem cell research, but to embryonic stem cell research, because it kills human beings and it doesn’t work. In contrast, adult stem cell research is already being used to treat juvenile diabetes. Stop selling false hope to vulnerable families, Mr Obama.)

“So let's work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies” (JS: But your policies, Mr Obama, will lead both to more abortions and more unintended pregnancies) "and making adoption more available" (JS: The number of children that might possibly be saved through better adoption services is small compared to the numbers of abortions that will result from your policies) "and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term" (JS: But you think abortion can be better than carrying a child to term, or as you put it, being “punished with a baby”. ) “Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause” (JS: So why have you repealed President Bush’s conscience protections and why are you threatening to abolish conscientious objection through the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)?) "and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women." (JS: Abortion and embryo research are neither ethical nor sound science nor good for women.)

"Each side [in the abortion debate] will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.” (JS: Too late, Mr Obama - you've already done it, not least in this very speech!)

“Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.” (JS: Why is your heart closed to the unborn, the most vulnerable? Why can’t you open your mind to a world in which there is no abortion? Why do you support those who use words like “products of conception”, “blob of cells” etc to depersonalise human beings?)

“You [Notre Dame graduates] will be called…to give future generations the same chance that you had to receive an extraordinary education.” [JS: Millions will be denied a chance to be educated because your policies, Mr Obama, because they will have been aborted.]

“It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.” (JS: But we can know with certainty that God wants us to uphold the sanctity of human life and ignore the man-made ideologies which promote abortion.)

“[M]ost of all [persuade] through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds.” (JS: In what way is the killing of innocent human beings through abortion compatible with these things?)

“For if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together … It is, of course, the Golden Rule - the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated. The call to love. To serve. To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.” (JS: Mr Obama, were you not once an unborn child in your mother’s womb? Would you prefer to have been aborted?)

“[C]ivil rights for all of God's children.” (JS: How about civil rights for the unborn?)

“Remember that each of us, endowed with the dignity possessed by all children of God, has the grace to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we all seek the same love of family and the same fulfillment of a life well-lived.” (JS: Forgetting the unborn again, Mr Obama?)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Research report on embryonic stem cells is "disingenuous and misleading"

Claims that Japanese scientists have discovered how to stop embryonic stem cells producing tumours are "disingenous and misleading" according to James L. Sherley, MD, Ph.D (pictured), senior scientist at Boston Biomedical Research Institute.

LifeNews reported last week: "Embryonic stem cells have never helped human patients in part because they produce tumors when injected as treatments in animal research ... In a new article in the current issue of Cell Transplantation (Vol. 18 No.1), a team of Japanese researchers eliminated the problem of tumor growth by co-transplanting bone marrow stem cells along with embryonic ones."

Writing to Alison Davis, the leader of No Less Human, Dr Sherley commented:

"First and foremost, it is a disingenuous (to be kind!) and misleading report. If I had been a reviewer, I would have rejected it for two reasons: 1) misrepresentation of the facts as reported; and 2) unacceptable experimental design.

Misrepresentation of the facts:

Although the title is a faithful representation, important statements in the abstract are not supported by the data in the report. To be exact, the combination of bone marrow stromal cells and mouse embryonic stem cells is no more effective for reversing the effects of the induced spinal cord injury than a compared buffered salt solution (PBS = phosphate buffered saline) that contained no cells of any type.

Unacceptable experimental design:

Here there is cause for two objections.

First, a crucial control comparison is omitted without mention. They did not evaluate the effect of the bone marrow stromal cells alone. Whether this was motivated by unethical politics or poor science, I cannot say. However, it is predicted by the studies of previous groups that the addition of bone marrow stromal cells on their own would be more effective than the buffered salt solution; and importantly, they may be more effective than the presented combination of mouse embryonic stem cells and bone marrow stromal cells.

Second, though they do report a dramatic reduction in the number of tumors produced when bone marrow stromal cells are added to mouse embryonic stem cells (versus the mouse embryonic stem cells on their own), they only waited 5 weeks and they only evaluated 15,000 cells per injection. Conventional assays to rule out tumor formation in mice use 1-10 million cells per injection and wait several months for certainty. Thus, the assay upon which their conclusion of tumor prevention rests is well below the established standards for such a determination ...

All in all though, on the more important notes of ethics and morality, even if this approach were scientifically sound, and were proven to work for human embryonic stem cells, and adult stem cells were not an alternative (as they are!), it would still be unacceptable, because it would still require the sacrifice of innocent human beings to make the embryonic stem cells."

James Sherley is a leading stem cell scientist and has travelled the world pointing out the inefficacy of embryonic stem cell research to his scientific colleagues.