Friday, 27 January 2012

Baby-saving pro-life counsellors are under threat, so let's focus on defending them from all quarters

Mothers in crisis need pro-life support
Last night on Newsnight Diane Abbott MP and Nadine Dorries MP (two political personalities about whose positions on abortion I have written about previously) were debating Ms Abbott's decision to leave a parliamentary group discussing abortion counselling.

There is a danger that the dust thrown up by the show-down between these ladies obscures the most important fact in this issue: pro-life counsellors, whose work saves lives, are under threat. The Department of Health, Mrs Dorries, Mrs Abbott and the advertising code-writers are all either considering or have already decided in favour of legal or quasi-legal restrictions on pro-life counsellors.

Last Saturday The Telegraph reported that one of the proposals being considered by the cross-party group set-up by the Department of Health is:
"for a system of 'voluntary registration'. This would would mean any organisation offering counselling to women with a crisis pregnancy would have to meet minimum standards, and only use appropriately-trained counsellors. A cross-party group of 10 MPs which has held secret talks over the proposals has become deeply divided about whether organisations running such services should be required to declare any ethical stance - such as holding pro-life beliefs."
How would such a “system” work in practice?

Firstly, it is likely to be the pro-abortion Department of Health, with advice from pro-abortion advisers, which would decide what constitutes "minimum standards" and who are "appropriately-trained counsellors".

Secondly, last night Mrs Dorries told Newsnight:
"I would like anybody with any kind of interest - whether financial or any other kind of interest -  in a woman's decision to abort, to declare that interest."
Kirsty Wark, the presenter, asked Mrs Dorries:
"And if you have independent counselling, do you want people who are independent counsellors to actually have to declare that they are actually against abortion or not?"
Mrs Dorries answered:
"Yes" ... "There should be no-one who is in a room with a woman in a crisis pregnancy who has any agenda whatsoever, be it religious or financial."
Some people think that such statements from Mrs Dorries are just clever tactics. If so, they are also dangerous tactics. With powerful and well-resourced opponents in the pro-abortion lobby, she is liable to be held to account for such statements.

And thirdly on 30 April, the following changes to the advertising code will come into effect:
The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (rule 11.11.1): "Advertisements for services offering advice on unplanned pregnancy must make clear in the advertisement if the service does not refer women directly for a termination."
The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing Code (rule 12.24): "Marketing communications for services offering advice on unplanned pregnancy must make clear if the service does not refer women directly for a termination."
The requirements supported variously by the Department of Health, by Mrs Dorries and by the advertising code-writers come from the pro-abortion lobby, which wants to deter pregnant mothers undecided about abortion from contacting pro-life counsellors, and which wants pro-life counsellors effectively black-listed and black-balled.

So pro-lifers must not be distracted by the sparring of two headline-catching MPs - both of whom support legal abortion and its expansion. Rather, we must work to save lives by defending pro-life counsellors from the dictatorship of relativism.

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Act now to get government to block advertising by commercial abortion centres

The government should use its powers to stop TV advertising by commercial abortion centres. The question-and-answer briefing below will give you the information you need to help make this happen.

Q: What has happened?
A: This week the two bodies which draft the advertising code of practice made changes to allow “commercial post-conception advice services” - in reality, abortion clinics which earn income from performing abortions - to advertise on television and radio, in print and elsewhere. Pro-abortion organisations have welcomed the change; pro-life groups, some columnists and many ordinary people (some not pro-life) have objected to it. The change will come into effect on 30 April.

Q: Who exactly has made this decision?
A: Two committees, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). These are committees of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). They are not statutory authorities. BCAP draws up the Code of Advertising Practice on behalf of Ofcom.

Q: But aren’t abortion clinics already allowed to advertise? Didn’t Marie Stopes run TV ads a while ago?
A: In early 2010 BCAP decided that there was nothing under existing law or codes to prevent non-commercial abortion centres from advertising on TV and radio, as long as the advertisements didn’t actually offer abortion directly. An advertisement by Marie Stopes International, one of the largest abortion chains in the UK and internationally, was shown shortly afterwards on TV.
The advert cleverly avoided mention of abortion. It was all done by implication. It depicted a young woman worried about her period being late. The advert asked: "Who can help her?" and the answer given was Marie Stopes. Thousands of people complained that advertising abortion in this way was illegal, indecent, dishonest and untruthful, but BCAP approved the adverts anyway. SPUC argued (and still argues) that the decision was wrong, not least because Marie Stopes was (and is) run on a commercial basis, with ‘business development’ managers, millions of pounds put aside for ‘future projects’, lucrative contracts with governments, income from fee-paying clients, and perks for its staff typical of commerce (but rare for charities).
This past week (20 January 2012) BCAP have gone further and actually changed its code to allow commercial abortion centres to advertise on TV and radio. This change gives a clear, added confirmation to so-called charities providing abortion that making money from abortion won’t bar them from advertising on TV and radio. Also, this decision will be useful to Marie Stopes and similar abortion operators if at some point they decide to drop their official status as charities, or decide to split up their operations between registered charities and registered (commercial) companies.

Q: Will abortion centres have to say that they perform abortion or have a financial interest in abortion?
A: No. BCAP considered such a requirement but rejected the need for it.

Q: Will pro-life organisations be allowed to advertise on TV and radio?
A: In principle, yes.

Q: If pro-life organisations are allowed to advertise, what’s wrong with allowing abortion centres to advertise?
A: Commercial abortion providers can afford broadcast advertising; whereas groups which provide objective information about abortion and its impact on women's health will be unlikely to afford to advertise. Most pro-life advice services charge nothing. Abortionists can just add the costs of advertising into their charges. Thus there will be a disproportionate opportunity for abortion providers to advance their cause.
CAP have said that any organisation giving post-conception pregnancy advice must first provide “suitable credentials” before being allowed to advertise. There is a real danger that the credentials of pro-life organisations will not be regarded as “suitable” because they refuse to offer abortion or refer women for abortion, and because they reject “official” guidance, such as the guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), which was drawn up with the help of abortion providers.
CAP have also said that advertisements by pro-life pregnancy centres must make clear that they do not refer women for abortions. CAP have admitted that they have adopted this requirement based on advice from the pro-abortion Department of Health, the pro-abortion RCOG and a pro-abortion parliamentary committee report.

Q: It’s a free country, with free speech. What’s wrong with abortion centres being allowed to promote what they have to offer?
A: Abortion centres mislead women, by telling them that their unborn babies are just 'products of conception', and that abortion is not killing but simply ending a pregnancy. Allowing commercial abortion centres to advertise on television immediately treats abortion as if it was a service or a desirable product.
Also, this move will increase the number of organisations able to advertise abortion. Marie Stopes and similar organisations have a vested financial interest in abortion, which they can now sustain through broadcast advertising. These organisations offer virtually no practical help to women who keep their babies, yet nowhere does this have to be mentioned.

Q: What should we think about the ASA, BCAP and CAP in the light of this decision?
A: The advertising industry is displaying a bias to support the devious and sleazy agenda of abortion operators, who have ideological and commercial interests in promoting abortion. The ASA already demonstrated a bias against pro-life groups when it attempted to ban advertisements which stated correctly that morning-after pills may cause early abortions. As an industry-based group, it is free to reflect the views of the broadcasters and publishers who want lucrative advertising deals. It is a great shame that it has not acted more impartially.

Q: What should happen now?
A: Jeremy Hunt MP, the cabinet minister with responsibility for media, is reportedly “very unhappy” about the decision but apparently lacks the resolve to act. However, Ed Vaizey MP, his deputy, told Parliament on 2 June 2010 that Mr Hunt has the power to order Ofcom, the statutory regulator, to order TV and radio stations not to broadcast certain advertisements. In contrast, ASA, BCAP and CAP are not statutory bodies. They are not answerable democratically or judicially to anyone, nor do they have power to impose any penalties or hold anyone to account. MPs should remind Mr Hunt of his powers in relation to Ofcom, and urge him to use those powers to rein-in ASA, BCAP and CAP, which have acted irresponsibly.

Q: To whom should I write?
A: Please write to your Member of Parliament (MP), asking him/her to write to Mr Hunt on your behalf, reminding Mr Hunt of his powers in relation to Ofcom, and urging Mr Hunt to use those powers to block all advertisements by abortion centres.
You can write to your MP at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. If you’re not sure of your MP’s name, please visit http://www.spuc.org.uk/mps (where you can also send an electronic message to your MP). Please copy or forward any replies you receive from MPs to SPUC’s political department, either at SPUC HQ or by email to political@spuc.org.uk

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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Read this for updated links to Brian Comerford and his pro-life radio drama "TERMINATION"

On Friday I blogged that a very brave Irish radio drama producer, Daniel Reardon, made an extraordinary production of TERMINATION - about the unborn child and abortion - by the writer Brian Comerford. Reportedly, Mr Reardon's employers, RTE Radio 1, Ireland, did not share his courage, and I'm told that a scheduled broadcast of Brian Comerford's work was "aborted".

Brian has emailed me and asked me to update readers with the following:
Brian also wrote:
"As yesterday's news item was about the media being permitted to advertise abortion services, it outrages my sense of fair play that a radio drama that might be seen and heard by many as an inconvenient truth, is suppressed."
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Catholic politicians must uphold the right to life, Pope reiterates

On Thursday Pope Benedict addressed a group of US Catholic bishops in Rome (pictured). I recommend strongly reading the whole (brief) address, but in particular I wish to highlight this statement:
"...the issues which are determining the future of American society. ... In this regard, I would mention with appreciation your efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics involved in political life and to help them understand their personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God's gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights."
In other words, Catholic politicians must vote against and oppose abortion, abusive embryo research, euthanasia and the homosexual agenda, which variously threaten the gift of life, human dignity and authentic human rights. This is because such threats "threaten the future of humanity", as Pope Benedict said earlier this month. Dr Jon Cruddas, the Catholic MP who has voted for or otherwise supported abortion, euthanasia and so-called homosexual rights, should take note, as should Dr Cruddas's supporters at The Tablet and the Las Casas Institute.

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