Saturday, 24 October 2009

Get to know the works of pro-life professor John Keown

There is a vast, growing body of academic research which underpins the arguments of the campaign in support of pro-life legislation. The work of leading scholars helps to provide a firm foundation for the culture of life - a culture which persists throughout the world in spite of apparently unending attacks on human life by pro-abortion governments and organizations.

One such scholar is Professor John Keown (pictured). Professor Keown was a senior lecturer in the law and ethics of medicine at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, and he currently holds the Rose F. Kennedy Chair in Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, Washington. His academic output is vast and his research has been cited widely, in particular by the U.S. Supreme Court (in its decision on physician-assisted suicide), by the English Court of Appeal (in the conjoined twins case, 2000); and by the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics.

SPUC has listed over 100 of his publications on abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, the legal status of the in-vitro embryo, the morning-after pill - reviewing these issues in England, the US, the Netherlands and other legal jurisdictions around the world.

As we prepare for the Brown government's final anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent - it's important to spend time deepening our understanding of the ethical and legal issues in which we are engaged. Over the coming weeks and months, SPUC will be publishing a reference library of titles of seminal research which I hope will be useful to everyone engaged in our great campaign for life.

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

New leaflet campaign against assisted suicide

Following the House of Lords judgment in the Purdy case in July, the Director of Public Prosecutions has now issued his “interim prosecuting policy” for assisted suicide. It is very worrying indeed.

It lists factors that will count against the DPP bringing a prosecution - these include things like the victim being disabled, and that the victim spontaneously asked the suspect for help (this is quite ludicrous – as the victim will be dead by the time). This policy will be used to sanction help for suicides in England and Wales, as well as those who help people go abroad to kill themselves.

We are about to publish a briefing to guide people on how to make submissions to the DPP. SPUC's new leaflet "Assisted suicide, a terrible mistake" (pictured) is for handing out as widely as possible – door to door, via churches, family and neighbours – to let people know about the campaign and invite them to order a briefing.

Please order copies of the leaflet to distribute as widely as possible. The consultation exercise runs until December, so we have only about 6 weeks to get these leaflets out widely. You can order the leaflet (and the briefing) by emailing me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

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Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Renewed attempt to sanction assisted suicide due Mon 26 Oct House of Lords

Following the defeat in the summer of Lord Falconer's attempt to widen the law on assisted suicide, Lord Alderdice has re-tabled his amendment to the Coroners and Justice bill. The amendment (see full text below) would allow assisted suicide. He had tabled the amendment for the bill's committee stage before the summer recess but withdrew it before it was debated. The amendment is likely to be debated this Monday (26 October) during the bill's report stage.

Please email members of the House of Lords to urge them to oppose the amendment. In the limited time available, I encourage you on this occasion to concentrate on sympathetic Lords, such as those Lords who voted against Lord Falconer's amendment - please use the email addresses on the voting list Simply select a Lord or Lords to write to who has the same initial as your surname. Please don't forget to forward any replies you receive to political@spuc.org.uk

Many arguments against assisted suicide, which you are recommended to use in your message to Lords, can be found at the following archived SPUC web-links:
The amendment reads: "[N]o offence shall have been committed if assistance is given to a person to commit suicide who is suffering from a confirmed, incurable and disabling illness which prevents them from carrying through their own wish to bring their life to a close, if the person has received certification from a coroner who has investigated the circumstances, and satisfied himself that it is indeed the free and settled wish of the person that they bring their life to a close."

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Monday, 19 October 2009

Urge MEPs to oppose coercive and sex selective abortion

Our colleagues at CARE for Europe have sent us the information below, which we have adapted for your use. Please read it and follow the directions. Please remember to copy any replies you receive to political@spuc.org.uk

Amendments to oppose coercive abortion and sex-selective abortion, to be voted on this Thursday (22 October)

As in previous years CARE For Europe, along with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is campaigning for specific wording to be included in the European Commission's annual budget for overseas development, to prevent any funds going to organisations or countries which are complicit in promoting family planning programmes which include an element of compulsion (eg. coercive abortion and involuntary sterilisation). This amendment was actually passed in 2007 and included in the 2008 budget. The pro-abortion lobby are, however, now saying this amendment should be opposed, because they say it is an attack on the so-called right to abortion. This is not the case. All that is being called for is that there should be no element of compulsion in these matters. Such compulsion is an abuse of human rights and makes women have something done to them that they have not freely chosen. (Please see the end of this message for the full text of the amendment.)

Another amendment supported by CARE for Europe and similar NGOs is against sex-selective abortion (Again, please see the end of this message for the amendment's full text.)

These amendments will be voted this Thursday 22 October during the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg. Please write to your MEPs to ask them to support these worthy amendments. To find out who your MEPs are and how to contact them, please visit http://is.gd/4r6e4 and pick your region. For an easy way to email all your MEPs, please visit http://is.gd/4r6fL To find out more about the issues, please read Care for Europe's briefing on the SPUC website http://is.gd/4r6Pv

Full text of the amendment against coercive abortion: "Stresses that Community assistance should not be given to any authority, organization or programme which supports or participates in the management of an action which involves such human rights abuses as coercive abortion, involuntary sterilization or infanticide, especially where such actions apply their priorities though psychological, social, economic or legal pressure, thus finally implementing the specific Cairo ICPD prohibition on coercion or compulsion in sexual and reproductive health matters; calls on the Commission to present a report on the implementation of the EU's external assistance covering this programme."

Full text of the amendment against sex-selective abortion: "Projects funded by this budget title must not pursue gender-based eugenic discrimination, which is increasingly common in certain countries, or any other form of discrimination against girls (at any point after conception) and such projects must commit adequate resources to overcome the subsequent asymmetries for children conceived as a result of mass rape, including appropriate provision for their mothers [cf Opinion on "A Special Place for Children in EU External Action", § 9 and 13, EP committee for women's rights and gender equality, amendment tabled by Ana Maria Gomes (S-D, Portugal)]"

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Unborn children in Northern Ireland are facing grave danger

Statistically an unborn baby in Northern Ireland is safer than anywhere else in the UK. The success of the pro-life movement in preventing the extension of the Abortion Act has meant that the law in Northern Ireland still safeguards the lives of unborn children as well as protecting women from the terrible damage which abortion can cause.

However, recently issued guidance from the Northern Ireland health department now threatens to make abortion in the Province more easily available. This guidance gives so much prominence to possible defences to a criminal charge that they appear to represent the law on abortion. In turn, abortion is presented as a “service” to which patients must have access rather than a tightly controlled exception to a criminal prohibition.

Health department guidance is very important since it is the basis on which clinical decisions are made. SPUC believes the current guidance undermines the law, creates a serious threat to unborn children, to the safety of women and to the rights of medical professionals.

The lives of unborn children in Northern Ireland are at stake— we must act before it’s too late

The health committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly has expressed concern that the guidance makes no mention “of the rights of the unborn baby” and has argued that “it must be made clear that all those involved, including health care professionals and counsellors need to take the rights of the child into consideration.”

The guidance presents abortion as a legitimate treatment for protecting mental health—over 98 percent of induced abortions in Britain are undertaken supposedly because of a risk to the mental or physical health of women— ignoring a mountain of evidence that abortion is a cause of mental ill-health. Research shows that women who abort have a suicide rate six to seven times higher than those who give birth to their children, while teenagers are five times more likely to seek subsequent help for psychological and emotional problems compared to those who carry ‘unwanted’ pregnancies to term.

The guidance also states that medical personnel have “no legal right to refuse to take part in the termination of pregnancy” and obliges general practitioners who declare a conscientious objection to abortion to “have in place arrangements with [another healthcare professional]... to whom the woman can be referred.” 

Abortion lobby determined to strip away rights of the unborn

In the past the pro-abortion lobby has focused on liberalising the law in Northern Ireland. It was robust opposition from the Northern Ireland Assembly to Diane Abbot’s attempt to extend the Abortion Act which helped to persuade Gordon Brown to cut short the debate on abortion during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act last October.

During the passage of the first HFE Act in 1990 an amendment to extend the Abortion Act was comfortably defeated due to the strength of public opposition in Northern Ireland.

Recommendations from human rights committees to introduce a new law have also been rejected by successive governments for the same reason. Having failed in numerous attempts to have the Abortion Act introduced the Family Planning Association brought a court action seeking guidance on when abortion was legally available in Northern Ireland in the same way Debbie Purdy brought her case asking for guidelines on assisted suicide.

The courts have proved to be influential in liberalising abortion in many countries, the US and France for example. In December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights will consider a case, brought with the help of the Irish FPA, which is intended to have Ireland’s protection for children before birth overturned on the grounds that it breaches the human rights of women seeking abortion. SPUC has intervened in the case since the implications are so grave.

Pro-life concerns ignored

In Northern Ireland abortion is still a criminal offence not a medical service. The health department has largely ignored the concerns of the pro-life movement by refusing to fundamentally amend the guidance.

Despite a public petition with 21,000 names rejecting the original draft of the guidance, a motion against it in the Assembly in 2007, and a recommendation from the health committee to incorporate explicit protection for the child, the health department has refused to introduce the fundamental changes needed to do this.

So far lobbying by the public, politicians (from across the divide) and the united efforts of the pro-life movement have achieved only modest changes.

All we can do now to ensure that existing legal protection for women and children is accurately reflected by the guidance is pursue the legal option. It’s our last resort.

Legal action could be the last hope for our babies; we need your help to fight this critical battle

The hearing of our application for a Judicial Review of the abortion guidance is scheduled to be held in the High Court in Belfast on 27th-28th October. Our lawyers have estimated that the challenge is likely to incur legal costs running into many thousands of pounds.

On 26th October 2009, Aaron Doherty from Portstewart in Northern Ireland will take part in the Dublin Marathon in a bid to raise funds to fight our case.

Aaron is a member of SPUC’s national executive committee and has been giving pro-life talks in schools for almost 20 years. Like many of you, his tireless efforts represent an indispensable part of SPUC’s campaign—delivering copies of the Pro-life Times, distributing the Society’s literature and being a voice for the unborn in everyday life. These activities are every bit as vital in saving lives as the legal battles we engage in.

And, just as we rely upon an army of dedicated individuals to help get the our message across, so we are also dependant on everyone who gathers sponsorships and collects donations when we need to defend the rights of the vulnerable in the law courts.

Please consider what you can to help SPUC’s  Judicial Review fund today and help protect our babies before it’s too late. You can do this by:
The liberalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland would seriously damage the prospects of protecting unborn children in the Republic of Ireland too, so please pray for the success of our case. May God bless you for all the good you do to help unborn babies.

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Sir Ludovic Kennedy RIP

Sir Ludovic Kennedy, the famous broadcaster and campaigner for euthanasia, has died of natural causes, aged 89. May he rest in peace. SPUC extends its sympathies to his loved ones. Sir Ludovic was president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (which has now repackaged itseld as "Dignity in Dying”).

In a talk she gave earlier this year, Alison Davis of No Less Human quoted Sir Ludovic, who wrote in 2001:
"The patient must be beyond the help of treatment, and find his suffering, physical or mental, unbearable ... Nor is it only pain...which causes people to long for death, but the miserable side-effects which often accompany it – incontinence, vomiting, bedsores, breathlessness, oedema, insomnia – leading to a gradual disintegration of the personality and death without dignity."
Alison commented:
"I experience all the symptoms he cites apart from bedsores, and have done for many years, so presumably my personality must be well disintegrated by now. Perhaps my friends are too polite to tell me!"
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