Saturday, 10 April 2010

Pro-life campaigners to hold nation-wide street witness

Pro-life campaigners are due to give silent witness to unborn babies killed in the 42 years since the implementation of the Abortion Act, as well as to the hurt caused to women by abortion.

On Saturday 24 April*, SPUC supporters will form a chain, standing at intervals holding placards which bring home the reality of abortion. The event is known as the Pro-life Chains and will be held from 11am till 1pm.**

The 1967 Abortion Act came into effect on 27 April 1968. Since then, more than six million unborn children have been killed through registered abortion in Britain. This figure does not include abortions which may be caused by birth control drugs and devices. Nor does it include the number of embryos destroyed or discarded during and after in vitro fertilisation.
The full list of locations for the event is below.*** Media outlets are welcome to send a reporter and/or photographer to cover the event. Media and supporters interested in the event should contact Tony Mullett, national organiser of the Pro-life Chains, by telephone on (01772) 258580 or by email to tonymullett@spuc.org.uk

* 17 April in Nottingham and 1 May in Ashton-under-Lyne.
** except Nottingham on 17 April, where the event will be held from 10am to 12noon.
*** Chains will take place at the following towns on Saturday 24 April 2010, 11am to 1pm, unless otherwise stated:
  • Ashford
  • Ashton-under-Lyne  - 1 May
  • Balsall Common
  • Banff
  • Bath
  • Bedford
  • Bideford
  • Birmingham, Edgbaston
  • Birmingham, Erdington
  • Birmingham, Handsworth
  • Blackpool
  • Brighton
  • Cardiff
  • Cheltenham
  • Chester
  • Chorley
  • Coleraine
  • Eccles
  • Edinburgh
  • Enniskillen
  • Farnham
  • Godalming
  • Guildford
  • Huddersfield
  • Hull
  • Leigh
  • Leyland
  • Lincoln
  • Liverpool, Crosby
  • Liverpool, Wavertree
  • Llanelli
  • Loughborough
  • Narborough
  • Newcastle under Lyme
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Nottingham -17 April, 10am to 12 noon
  • Peterborough
  • Plymouth
  • Preston
  • Sale
  • Salisbury
  • Sheffield
  • Shipley
  • Stockton
  • Swansea
  • Telford
  • Torfaen
  • Truro
  • Uxbridge
  • Vale of Glamorgan
  • Worthing
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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Don't fall for David Cameron's pitch on abortion time limit

David Cameron, the Conservative party leader, has responded to questions from readers of The Catholic Herald on several pro-life and pro-family issues. Mr Cameron was asked:
"Will you press for a reduction in the month for which abortion is allowed?"
Mr Cameron replied:
"My own view is that we do need to review the abortion limit. I think that the way medical science and technology have developed in the past few decades does mean that an upper limit of 20 or 22 weeks would be sensible. So I supported the two amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which would have changed this and I’ll continue to support a modest reduction in the abortion limit. But what’s really important here is that Members of Parliament are always allowed a free vote on this issue. This is an issue of conscience, so it would be wrong to put pressure on Parliamentary colleagues when it comes to voting on this."
It should be noted that:
  • by "abortion limit", Mr Cameron only means the 24-week limit for abortions done on social grounds. As he made clear in August 2008, he wants abortion up to birth on disabled children to remain available.
  • Mr Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the Conservative party health spokesman, have made clear that they support wider access to abortion in various ways. If there is a free vote by MPs, as promised by Mr Cameron, it will provide the pro-abortion lobby with an opportunity to increase the numbers of abortions, as happened under the Conservative administration under Margaret Thatcher.
  • Mr Cameron is only endorsing a reduction of two to four weeks (and for social abortions only). This ignores the vast majority (87% or more) of abortions which are performed before 12 weeks. Only one to two per cent of abortions are performed after 20 weeks. There is a serious danger of MPs who back a cosmetic lowering of the upper time-limit for social abortions of voting in favour of wider access to social abortions earlier in pregnancy.

Nadine Dorries, the leading advocate within the Conservative party of reducing the 24-week social abortion limit, has made her pro-abortion position clear:
"I should like to make my personal position clear, because it has been misrepresented in the past few days. I am pro-choice. I support a woman’s right to abortion—to faster, safer and quicker abortion than is available at the moment, particularly in the first trimester. That is my position ... [O]ne of the main problems is that many young women who present at a hospital or at a doctor’s are made to wait two to four weeks before a termination. I want to make my position clear: I am not against abortion per se. Actually, I would go further: I would like the morning-after pill to be available from every school nurse and in every supermarket pharmacy—and it should be free for young girls, and not £25 at the chemist’s, as it is at the moment." (Hansard, 20 May 2008)
"I have no issue with abortion at the right time." [Daily Mail, 6 March 2008]
She introduced a 10-minute rule bill in 2006 which included a provision to fast-track abortion once the final consent had been given. This provision, if the bill had succeeded, could have led to even more resources being spent on killing the unborn.

There is no reason to believe that the new parliament will be significantly less pro-abortion than the old one. Before the votes on abortion in 2008, advocates of reducing the upper time limit for social abortions had claimed they there had been a sea-change in parliamentary opinion in favour of such a reduction. Yet all the amendments calling for reductions in the upper time limit for social abortions were rejected by large majorities, with the number of MPs voting with the pro-abortion lobby exceeding 390. This sea-change was revealed to be wishful thinking stoked by media hype. With the numbers in parliament stacked against the pro-life movement, it makes no sense at all to add to the calls of the pro-abortion lobby for Parliament to amend the abortion law.

Some observers predict an influx into the new parliament of the so-called Notting Hill Set, socially liberal Tory party candidates with similar views to David Cameron. If so, the result may well be increased pressure to remove restrictions on abortion on demand in early pregnancy and allow nurses to perform certain types of abortion. Most MPs will only accept restrictions on late-term abortions in return for measures making abortion more easily available in other ways. Also, negotiating any lower limit is likely to involve a trade-off with more exceptions being allowed beyond the 24-week limit – up to birth. The number of abortions resulting from these changes would exceed the small number (about 750) of social abortions after 20 or 22 weeks. In any case, those doctors who want to do late abortions can simply get around any lower time-limit, by falsifying gestational age and/or fudging the grounds. As David Steel, the author of the Abortion Act 1967, has said:
"Putting an upper limit on abortions deemed to be done for "social reasons" would have negligible impact on either ease of access for concerned women or current medical practice."
It should also be noted that:
  • It was under a Conservative government that parliament voted for abortion up to birth.
  • It was also under a Conservative government that the upper limit for abortions was raised for abortions generally. People mistakenly claim that the time limit was reduced from 28 weeks to 24 weeks by the Conservative government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. However, because of amendments to the law made by the 1990 Act, the previous limit, which was based on the capability of the baby to be born alive – not a fixed number of weeks (28) – was abolished and a 24 week time limit was introduced but only for certain cases. In other cases (including where the abortion is carried out on the grounds of disability) abortions can be and are now carried out right up to the time of birth. Every child who had reached the stage of development of being “capable of being born alive” was protected by the pre-1990 law. Since 1990 that protection has been removed. So the effect of the 1990 Act was to increase the time limit for abortion in most instances and in many cases right up to birth.
  • It was pro-lifers who pressed for the 1990 Act to contain provisions relating to abortion, in the hope of being able to insert some restrictions, particularly early time limits. Sadly this tactic backfired, resulting in a less, not more, restrictive abortion law.

Elsewhere in the interview, David Cameron answers questions on sex education. His answers, and the Conservative policy positions on them, are partly good, partly bad and partly mistaken.

SPUC is political, not party political. Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, the leaders of the other two main parties, share David Cameron's pro-abortion record and position. My critique of David Cameron's answer on abortion is motivated purely by a desire to protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion. The issue of the upper time limit for social abortions is at best a dangerous distraction. At worst, it will entrench discrimination against disabled children and set the scene for an expansion of abortion.

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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Huge pro-life and pro-family victory is won in British Parliament

In a significant victory for the pro-life and pro-family movement, the Government have agreed to delete their clauses on Personal, Social Health and Economic education (PSHE) contained in their Children, Schools and Families Bill.

SPUC had warned that the PSHE clauses in the bill would make sex and relationships education compulsory from 5 to 16 years and that government-backed resources for teaching primary school children, including some produced for Catholic schools, include explicit images of male and female sex organs, lessons on menstruation in mixed classes (boys and girls) and graphic details of sexual intercourse.

SPUC also warned that secondary schools, including faith schools, would face pressure to link sex and relationships education to contraception and abortion services. The government's advisers want confidential health clinics in all secondary schools so they can offer teenagers advice on contraception and abortion without their parents' knowledge. SPUC warned that the impact of this would be to damage teenagers' health, betray parents and destroy unborn lives.

Now that the election has been called, the Government have been forced to negotiate with the Opposition Parties in order to get as much of their legislation through as possible. This is known as the "wash up".

The Government Minister responsible for the Bill, Baroness Morgan (pictured) has now added her name to motions tabled by Baroness Verma (the Conservative spokesperson on education), Lord Alton of Liverpool - and co-sponsored by Baroness O'Loan - which effectively remove the offensive clauses in the bill.

This means that when the House of Lords passes the Children, Schools and Families Bill tomorrow evening, it will be minus the PSHE provisions. A huge pro-life victory.

Credit is due to all those who lobbied against a bill which SPUC has said would have been the biggest expansion of the culture of death through thousands of state schools in England - promoting abortion provision for children and simultaneously sounding the death knell for parents' right and responsibilities to be the primary educators and protectors of their children.

It seems that the Conservatives stood firm in their opposition to the sex and relationships education clauses in the bill, as did Lord Alton and Baroness O'Loan.

I would also pay tribute to over 100 Catholic headteachers and governors, three Catholic bishops and over three hundred clergy, both Catholic and from other denominations/faiths, who signed a letter to the Sunday Telegraph opposing the bill. The initiative was led by Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust. The massive support the letter received from leading Catholics showed just how out of touch the Catholic Education Service (CES) is with the concerns of the Catholics community in England and Wales. Tragically, as I reported over the weekend, Archbishop Nichols of Westminster said nothing in his Good Friday interview on BBC Radio to distance himself from the general support given by the Catholic Education Service ( acting on behalf of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales) to the Government's plans on sex and relationships education. On the contrary. I will write more fully about this, later this week.

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Sunday, 4 April 2010

I offered my Easter Triduum in reparation for archbishop's comments in BBC interview

Happy Easter!

Last Wednesday, I was contacted by the BBC to ask if I would take part in a radio discussion the next morning (Thursday) about Archbishop Vincent Nichols's interview to be broadcast on Good Friday morning on BBC Radio West Midlands. I said I would do so - provided the BBC supplied me with the text of the entire interview, which they would not do.

On Good Friday morning I listened to the Archbishop's interview (and again this morning when the interview was repeated). As a result of what I heard I decided to respond to the call from the National Association Catholic Families to offer up my Easter Triduum for what the archbishop had said and for the policy of some church leaders on the government's plans for sex and relationships education.

Archbishop Nichols's widely reported comments on contraception during the BBC West Midlands interview must be seen in the context of his seriously misleading remarks on the Government's plans for compulsory sex and relationships education in all state schools in England, including in Catholic schools. I will write more fully about this later this week.

Tragically he said nothing during the interview to distance himself from the general support given by the Catholic Education Service, on behalf of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, to the Government's plans. On the contrary. Our children, our unborn grandchildren, our nation's families, Catholic and non-Catholic, are being thrown to wolves. Legislation more completely opposed to the common good of British society would be difficult to devise.

However, I also offered my Easter Triduum in thanksgiving for the three Catholic bishops and over three hundred clergy of various denominations who wrote last week to the Sunday Telegraph as follows:
"Parents and guardians have the primary responsibility for bringing up their children in accordance with their own values and culture. They may entrust the task of formal education to a school of their choice, but the overall responsibility for the upbringing of their children remains theirs.

"The Children, Schools and Families Bill undermines this principle and seeks to impose a particular ideology by means of statutory sex and relationships education from the age of 5 (which primary schools do not currently have to teach). We would therefore urge Parliament decisively to oppose it ... "
I believe that history will judge these bishops' and priests' intervention as a significant moment for the churches.

The BBC reports that Archbishop Nichols is expected to say today: "Talk of sin is not always popular - unless we are talking about other peoples' sins.
"In recent weeks the serious sins committed within the Catholic community have been much talked about.

"For our part, we have been reflecting on them deeply, acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness."
Today and in the decades to come I believe that we must make reparation for the policy of those church leaders in England today who give general support to the British government's plans, through its sex and relationships education policies and legislative plans, to abuse and corrupt our children of all faiths and none.

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