Saturday, 5 September 2009

The future of the pro-life battle in Britain and Ireland

This afternoon at the SPUC annual national conference in Derbyshire, we made a presentation about the history and the future of the pro-life battle in Britain and Ireland.

I mentioned how we were the world’s first pro-life pressure group. SPUC isn’t a minority group of mainly religious people seeking to impose their views on others; rather, we are a broad-based movement of folk who seek to ensure that the basic human right to life was respected. I cited major United Nations documents which assert that every person needs to be allowed to live his or her life - the most basic of human rights. Although national and international bodies may acknowledge the right to life, that right isn’t conferred by them. The right to life inheres in the human person. UN declarations additionally point out how children, born and unborn, need special protection.

These rights are tragically often ignored. Just under 50 million babies have been killed in the USA since 1973, seven million here since 1968. On the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the second world war, The Daily Telegraph carried reports that terminally ill patients are in serious danger of being killed under a national scheme for end-of-life treatment.

The pro-life movement has been helping to stem this deathly tide. We successfully helped in the fight against amendments to the Coroners and Justice Bill which would have facilitated assisted suicide. We had previously fought off a catastrophic worsening of abortion law during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. No international agreement contains an assertion of right to abortion.

Paul Tully (pictured right), our general secretary, described Ms Debbie Purdy’s campaign to get the director of public prosecutions to give guidance on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he took her abroad to commit suicide. The House of Lords had given a disastrous judgement and SPUC was pressing for such guidance to be strictly in line with the law against assisting suicide.

Pat Buckley (pictured below, r-h), our man in Dublin, said the ABC case could have serious effects throughout Europe. Three women were challenging Ireland’s pro-life constitution; they were being used by pro-abortion organisations. The case has leapfrogged Irish courts and gone to the European Court of Human Rights. SPUC is intervening in this case, which could be Europe’s Roe v. Wade.

Liam Gibson (pictured left, l-h) of SPUC Northern Ireland said that we were striving there to defend a centuries-old ethical tradition which still obtained in that part of the UK. SPUC was taking the province’s health minister to court to ensure the continuation of Northern Ireland’s opt-out from British abortion law. It was attacking government guidance which sought to bring a British-style ethos to abortion provision.



Antonia Tully of Patients First Network spoke about how her group was helping patients and their families who feared euthanasia in hospitals. She had advised one patient’s friend on how to challenge medical staff about the use of the Liverpool Care Pathway. The network had helped a 44-year-old man with Down’s syndrome who was under grave threat but who survived.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Experts explain battle against euthanasia in America

Mr William Saunders (pictured right), senior vice president of Americans United to Life, began his talk today to this weekend's SPUC annual national conference by expressing concern about the Liverpool Care Pathway. He regretted that the depopulation of certain western countries meant that there were fewer people in work to pay for care for the elderly; this could mean increased pressure for euthanasia.

In 1997, the US supreme court had ruled that the right to privacy which had been used to legalise abortion did not also confer a right suicide. However, the court also said that individual American states could decide if such a right existed. The state of Montana was considering a case which could establish such a right.

America had activist judges who sought to dictate policy, yet Bill pointed out that this was undemocratic. Elected legislatures needed to make the law.

Dr Jack Willke (pictured left) president of Life Issues Institute and of the International Right to Life Federation, pointed out how judges had legalised abortion in America through the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in the supreme court.

Jack described how the journal Issues in Law and Medicine had put together plenty of evidence which undermined the case for euthanasia. That collection of papers had helped win the supreme court case against the alleged right to kill oneself.

There was assisted suicide in Oregon. All that was needed was for a licensed doctor to write a prescription. While many suicidal people were suffering from depression, very few who legally killed themselves are referred to a psychiatrist.

Jack expressed gratitude to Britain for developing hospices, which he has helped to promote in America.

The conference session on euthanasia was introduced by Alison Davis (pictured right) of No Less Human, who told the conference that she had also once been anti-life, a strong supporter of a right to choose abortion. Dr Willke's book Love them both was instrumental in converting her to the pro-life cause.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Doctor stands up for unborn children in Brazilian parliament

Dr Talmir Rodrigues, a paediatrician and a member of the Brazilian federal parliament, spoke today to SPUC's national conference about the humanity of the unborn child, describing the unborn as those in need of particular care. It was a sin for Christians to neglect the issue of the sanctity of human life. Dr Rodrigues and his co-workers use SPUC’s foetal models to promote the pro-life message. He leads a group of more than 200 pro-life MPs, and he is about to run a conference on euthanasia.

Significant numbers of Brazilian Catholics, Evangelicals and Spiritualists were united in their defence of human life. Although Brazil was a secular state, more than 80% of the 191 million people there were Christians.

The Brazilian health minister, who hopes to liberalise abortion law, had alleged that there were many backstreet abortions. Dr Rodrigues was able to use his position as a politician to discover that there had not been many, and exposed another of the many occasions on which the pro-abortion lobby has told lies on the subject.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Black activist warns of the dangers of the Obama presidency

Here at the SPUC conference in Derbyshire, Rev Arnold Culbreath, Urban Outreach Director of Life Issues Institute, Inc., has been speaking about the dangers of an Obama presidency. Despite the dismal situation, he believes that the president’s heart could be changed on abortion. Arnold is not anti-Obama and prays for him daily. He says that God yearns to save abortion supporters. While we may hate the sin of abortion, we should not hate those who approve of it.

While it is significant that a black man had been elected president, Arnold is also uncomfortable about it. Mr Obama had consistently supported abortion yet this was by far the biggest cause of death among black Americans. More than half a million black babies were aborted each year. While black women were just some 13% of the population, they were involved in more than a third of all abortion.

Arnold pointed out that Hamilton County, Ohio, was nearly a quarter black black but more than half of abortions there were on black women. A quarter of black people in America had been aborted. Blacks and Hispanics were targeted by abortion providers, with a disproportionate number of abortion facilities in minority areas.

Mr Obama had immense charisma. Black people were so excited to have a black president that they did not notice the policy coming from the White House. White people also allowed their excitement to get the better of them. Too many church-going African Americans were Afro-centric rather than Christo-centric, Arnold observed.

Arnold told us that Mr Obama’s first 200 days had borne much pro-abortion fruit. There was a lot of rhetoric about building bridges but the administration had held many meetings with abortion supporters. Mrs Michelle Obama seemed to be even more pro-abortion than her husband.

However, pro-life people should not give in to despair. “If we lose heart, we lose the battle,” Arnold said. The battle would be won one person at a time, one baby at a time. The Obama presidency had actually caused more discussion of abortion among black Americans. Arnold is working behind the scenes to open a constructive dialogue with the Obama administration on life issues. He says: “You must lovingly and caringly draw people in and then drop the truth on them!”

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Friday, 4 September 2009

New pro-life women's movement is needed

I am at SPUC’s annual national conference at the Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire. Our speakers are from all around the world.

Fiorella Nash, the Catholic writer, this evening called for a new pro-life feminism. She told the conference that the early feminists had opposed abortion. Many modern-day feminists, however, were not pro-life. Conspiracy theories were circulated about the Catholic church’s opposition to abortion, suggesting that the church taught that sexuality was unclean. Modern feminism sometimes ignored or dismissed evidence of the humanity of unborn children.

Fiorella said:
“The early feminists campaigned for women to have equality. I don’t think any of them envisaged women believing that they had the right to be executioners.”
The women’s movement considered women who opposed abortion as heretics
“to be marginalised, attacked and silenced by the very people who claim to speak and campaign in their name.”
Fiorella spoke about China’s one-child policy which involved forced abortion. She had found that many women in the western world did not think that such a policy was any of their business and that population control was necessary. She asked:
“What happened to the universal sisterhood?”
Women in China were suffering because they wanted to have children.

In many countries, including China, sex-selective abortion meant that there was a gender imbalance and a shortage of women. This had led to sexual violence and other exploitation of women.

Fiorella told the conference that some feminist voices had been raised against human cloning because it needed a supply of literally millions of eggs from women.

The availability of IVF could put women under pressure, Fiorella said. She cited the case of Palestinian women who became crippled with debt because they wanted to avoid the stigma of infertility. Women were also the principal targets for assisted suicide.

Fiorella said:
“It is necessary to build on the work of existing pro-life women’s groups to develop a new women’s movement which embraces and celebrates the dignity of women, the sanctity of life and the need for men and women to work together with complementary gifts yet as equals in pursuit of the common good.”
Mr Jim Hughes (pictured), president of the Campaign Life Coalition (Canada) and vice-president of the International Right to Life Federation, welcomed delegates to the conference. He said that it was important that the pro-life movement remained focused and needed to be compassionate. Pro-life people could sometimes go around with a cloud over their head, but this was mistaken. The pro-life movement was on a long journey but the length of the journey was part of the gift which the movement was making to vulnerable people.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

A young woman's report on the Youth Defence Roadshow in Ireland

Rupal Bavishi, who attended at March's international student pro-life conference in Edinburgh, has kindly sent me her impressions of the Youth Defence Roadshow, where young peope seek to spread the prolife message in towns and cities across Ireland.

Rupal, pictured here with her friend Teresa Smeaton, urges young people to attend next's year's international youth pro-life conference in Glasgow, 19-21 March (you can register your interest in the conference by contacting Lucy McCully lucy@spucscotland.org tel: 0141 221 2094)

Rupal writes:
"I had the privilege of meeting some of Youth Defence’s (YD) members at the SPUC student conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, and had listened to the talk on Youth Activism given by leader Eoghan de Faoite, which had done what it said on the tin: made me think about becoming an Active Youth. The YD’ers had delivered a good sales pitch over breakfast as to why I should join them on their Roadshow, so when a Facebook invite arrived, I clicked yes and sealed my fate as an active pro-lifer.

"I arrived in Dublin on a wet Wednesday, extremely apprehensive and on my own, with the knowledge that I didn’t actually know anyone on this Roadshow, and that I could always break my leg to have an excuse to go home if it was awful.

"Luckily for my leg, I soon realised I wouldn’t want to go home.

"The Youth Defence Roadshow is organised by a group of young Irish people who are against abortion, are dedicated to keeping abortion out of Ireland and educating people on the realities of abortion. On top of being such active, passionate people, they are a fun-loving, mad-dancing group of people who like to party, have a good time, and meet new people of all backgrounds, going against the image many people seem to associate with the pro-life movement in Europe. The road show is a gathering of young people from around the world who share YD’s ethos. They embark upon a 10-day tour of Ireland in a magical mystery van, stopping in as many towns in as many counties as possible. They reminding Ireland that this cause is still being fought for, that someone is there to fight against the pro-abortion movement within both Ireland and the EU. After all this was done each day, we crazy young things would cook a massive dinner together and set out on the town to party the night away.

"Each day, we would split into two groups and each go to a town centre to set up a pro-life stall for our street session, complete with information boards, pictures, leaflets, pro-life music videos, precious feet badges, lollipops and petitions. Various YD members would spread out across different streets with petitions and leaflets, in order to catch the attention of those not walking past the main stall. On some days, YD hired a highly effective ‘digi-van’; a van with an enormous screen and speakers on the side, which played pro-life videos and messages across them during the day, such as '99 Balloons', ‘Can I live?’ by Nick Cannon, and the development of the baby in the womb.

"On one memorable day, we petitioned outside the Family Planning Clinic in Limerick, which refers women who want an abortion to England. We held 'life' boards and chanted, and were soon shouted and sworn at by the owner of the clinic who soon called the Garda. Youth Defence, however, are equipped with intelligent arguments to help their way out of such situations using Irish law and their own passion to ensure that the anti-abortion message is heard. We met the Garda many times on our travels.

"Street sessions were daunting at first, having never done anything like this before. I felt completely 'on show' and out of my comfort zone, standing next to an information board with pictures depicting the humanity of the unborn baby, and of different types of abortion, handing out leaflets to strangers in a country I had no claim on. People’s reactions were completely mixed, and in my eyes, completely unexpected. In a country like Ireland, where abortion is thankfully illegal, I did not think people would tell me I should be ashamed of myself for doing this. I soon learned that YD are defending unborn children against people who despise Ireland’s anti-abortion stance and those who uphold it - and who aren’t scared to say so. I was na├»ve to think that Ireland would welcome the pro-life message – but it made me want to work to ensure that one day, the nation would be as one on this vital topic.

"Education plays an important role in the YD Roadshows, and there were many such incidents as the one above, where people truly had no idea about the horrors of abortion until the truth was shown to them by YD. Without the education YD give, so many more people would fall into the pro-choice category, or even worse, the pro-apathy category where nobody cares what anybody does as long as it doesn’t affect them.

"YD’s effort paid off throughout the Roadshow as we saw the fruits of our labour. A truly fantastic experience some YD members had was a woman who came up to one of the stalls during the Roadshow with her three year old son, who she says would have been aborted were it not for Youth Defence. She wanted to meet the girl who had saved her baby the last time they met. Other stories include a baby who was saved by YD literature passed by on someone who happened across a street session and took leaflets which she eventually gave to a friend who became pregnant and was booking an abortion in England; people who came by and told us to keep fighting the good fight; little old ladies who wanted to buy us cups of tea; people giving us donations so we could continue doing this work; mothers who tied ‘Celebrate Life!’ balloons to their children’s buggies; people who stopped to watch the digi-van videos and stood for a while with their hands over their mouths in shock at the humanity of a unborn baby and most of all, people who learned the truth about abortion and walked away with a changed heart."
Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Is your local hospital, hospice or care home operating the Liverpool Care Pathway?

Terminally ill patients are in serious danger of being killed under a national scheme for end-of-life treatment, leading doctors have said. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph the doctors, including prominent pro-life experts Dr Anthony Cole and Professor Peter Millard, warn that the Liverpool Care Pathway (which I blogged about last month) may result in terminally ill patients being wrongly diagnosed as imminently dying. These patients then have food and fluids withdrawn and are given terminal sedation.

As Alison Davis of No Less Human points out in her new paper "The case of Tony Bland", the practice of consigning vulnerable patients to a death pathway stems from the 1992 court ruling against Tony Bland, which resulted in him being dehydrated to death. The government's 2005 Mental Capacity Act extended the possible scope of this practice. The inherent right to life of all patients, whether they are terminally ill or not, must be defended in the face of a war against the weak. As Alison argues:
"What was started in Bland may well end in the direct killing of any sick, disabled or elderly person, on the grounds that such lives have no value. We all have reason to be very afraid."
This is particularly true considering the government's predictable yet disturbing response to concerns about the Liverpool Care Pathway, which is simply to praise the Pathway and its own record to the skies. A government concerned about possible killings of patients would consult the concerned experts and launch an investigation.

May I urge readers to check whether the Pathway is being rolled out in hospitals, hospices or care homes where you live? If so, please write to the management there and draw their attention courteously to the concerns expressed about the Pathway expressed in the Telegraph letter.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Ted Kennedy's virtual state funeral sent the wrong message to the world

Fr Brian Harrison, a respected theologian, has emailed his feelings of indignation following last Saturday's virtual state funeral for Edward "Ted" Kennedy, the late anti-life US senator. Firstly, let me say that I, Fr Harrison and other concerned pro-life commentators are at pains to emphasise that neither we nor anyone else can judge Senator Kennedy or his soul, nor do we object to the fact that he was granted a Catholic funeral. I have prayed for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his loved ones. The main issue of contention here is the high honour paid to the senator by the granting of a virtual state funeral, during the course of which he was lauded as a hero and almost as a saint.

In his email letter Fr Harrison cited Senator Kennedy's strong anti-life/anti-family record; and argued that the funeral
"effectively communicated a tacit but very clear message: the Church does not really take too seriously her own ‘official’ doctrines on these matters! I feel impelled, therefore, to make known to anyone willing to read these lines that there are many other representatives of the Catholic Church ... who take those doctrines very seriously indeed."
Fr Harrison added that the Church leaders who granted and presided at the funeral would never have done so had the late senator been a white supremacist or an anti-semite or a Holocaust denier.

Pro-life supporters wonder why pro-life groups such as SPUC sometimes criticise the words or actions of Church leaders on pro-life issues. Shouldn't we encourage rather than criticise, and present a united front in public, with any mistakes addressed in private? Fr Harrison's letter provides the reason why such a well-intentioned approach is not enough. Public words and acts send public messages, in these days instantly to billions all over the world. The honours paid to Senator Kennedy undermine the Catholic Church's message on pro-life and pro-family issues. Bad examples of Church leadership on pro-life issues, such as the Kennedy funeral, therefore need to be corrected, immediately, publicly and charitably.


Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy