Saturday, 31 March 2012

I felt proud of Bishop Hopes, the auxiliary bishop of Westminster

Bishop Alan Hopes, the auxiliary bishop of Westminster, led a huge peaceful prayer vigil in central London last night outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic, one of Britain's largest abortion-providing groups.

I felt proud of Bishop Hopes as he gently raised his voice in prayer above a drum-banging, whistle-blowing, smaller group of abortion advocates who had been rallied to protest against the bishop's presence at the prayer vigil by The Guardian, a newspaper which makes no bones about its pro-abortion ideology. (In view of the Guardian's daily circulation of around a quarter of a million, it must have been disappointed with the turn-out to its pro-abortion "cause".)

Monsignor John Armitage, the vicar general of Brentwood diocese, was also there along with a number of other clergy. Looking around at the huge group of mainly young people attending the prayer vigil, he said to me "it shows you the power of episcopal leadership on abortion".

In my view, the cacaphonous, Guardian-led, pro-abortion protest in Bedford Square last night showed us three things:
  • that Catholics in Britain can be proud of Bishop Alan Hopes who calmly arrived at the vigil and led the prayers when the noisy group of protestors were in full cry
  • that we have something to learn from The Guardian newspaper - which, maybe more than we do, recognizes the power of episcopal leadership when bishops are prepared to make a compassionate stand for the right to life of unborn children
  • that when pro-life groups and individuals and Christian leaders join together in peaceful projects like the prayer vigil last night (under the quiet, dignified leadership of Robert Colquhoun and 40 Days for Life) we see growing visibly amongst us a renewed spirit of complete determination to end abortion in Britain.

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Friday, 30 March 2012

Professor David Paton's address on teenage pregnancy to SPUC's Belfast conference

Professor David Paton
Below is my summary of the address (full text and slides) given by Professor David Paton to SPUC's "Defending the Rights of Parents, Protecting Children" children conference in Belfast on 10 March, which I blogged about on 13 March. Many readers will know that he is professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University Business School and an expert on the issue of teenage pregnancy.

Professor Paton said:
What is the best way to reduce teenage pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? What does the evidence reveal?

One approach to address these questions is to compare jurisdictions that differ in their strategies yet are otherwise similar. For example, compared with England, Northern Ireland has restrictive abortion laws, lower provision of family planning services, and a stated goal to decrease the rate of teenage sexual activity. The results? Teenage pregnancy in NI (abortion plus births for U16s) is less than a third of that in England, and STIs for the same age group are also about one third. Diagnoses for gonorrhea, considered the best marker of sexual health, are strikingly lower in NI where there have been 4 diagnoses among U16s in the past 10 years compared with 160-200 each year in England.

In the last decade or so, NI has started to go the way of England, introducing better access to family planning services, sex education, and emergency birth control (EBC, the ‘morning after pill’). But a careful analysis of the data reveals that none of these appears to have had any positive effect at all. Teenage birth rates remain unchanged, and rather than improve, rates of diagnoses of STIs have steadily increased throughout the 2000s. For NI, going the way of England is very unappealing.

Besides comparing population figures from different countries, other research more specifically targeted at the efficacy of various strategies is also throwing light on what works and what doesn’t. It has been argued that ensuring teenagers have confidential access to family planning services and abortion will have a positive impact on teenage pregnancy and abortion rates. However, instead it can be demonstrated that the consequent reduction in perceived risk leads to increased risky behaviour, and combined with contraceptive failure, the net pregnancy rate could increase. This may explain what has happened in England.

Studies from the US, where some states have mandated parental involvement in contraception and/or abortion for minors, reveal a subsequent decline in abortion rates, overall conception rates and STIs. This should not be surprising given parental protective instincts. One somewhat tangential finding linked to these laws has been a decline in suicide amongst female minors.

What about mandatory early sex and relationships education (SRE), or alternatively abstinence-based education, and their impact upon teenage pregnancy? The evidence is unclear and in some cases conflicting. However, what can be said is the evidence so far suggests SRE is no better than abstinence-based education. The Netherlands has sometimes been held up as an example of low teenage pregnancy rates which have resulted from early and explicit SRE. However, The Netherlands actually has later SRE than the UK, and since the content of SRE is not mandatory by Dutch statute, it varies widely from quite conservative at one end to quite explicit at the other.

The upshot of all this is that the evidence is beginning to confirm the idea that advancing contraception, EBC, and abortion, as well as keeping parents away from their children’s decisions in this area, is having a detrimental impact on the lives and health of teenagers.

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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Must-read pro-life news-stories, Thu 29 Mar

The Hazell family
Top story:

Guardian publishes SPUC's response to its 'exposé' of SPUC's schools talk
The Guardian newspaper has published a letter by Anthony McCarthy, SPUC's education and publications manager, responding to its 'exposé' of SPUC's schools talk. Mr McCarthy wrote: "Your report on our schools talk has an air of shock at the mention of any potential risks of abortion, whether physical or psychological (Revealed: what children are being told about abortion, 24 March). Where such risks either do or may exist, it is not surprising that many will deny them and/or seek to silence those who raise them ... Supporters of abortion may not like to hear such things, but do they have a right to stop schoolchildren hearing them?" [John Smeaton, 29 March]

Other stories:

Abortion
Embryology
  • Sperm donors should all be identified, says committee in Australian state of Victoria [BioEdge, 29 March]
Euthanasia
  • Swiss mercy deaths rise sevenfold in just 11 years, with more women dying by assisted suicide than men [Mail, 28 March]
Sexual ethics
General
  • UK couple (pictured): "We loved our little Down's baby so much we adopted another" [Mail, 29 March]
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Guardian publishes SPUC's response to its 'exposé' of SPUC's schools talk

The Guardian newspaper has published a letter by Anthony McCarthy, SPUC's education and publications manager, responding to its 'exposé' of SPUC's schools talk. Anthony's letter is preceded unfortunately by a joint letter from Britain's leading abortionists, attempting to whitewash the abortion industry and calling for abortion to be made even more widely available. Here is the text of Anthony's letter as published in The Guardian:
Your report on our schools talk has an air of shock at the mention of any potential risks of abortion, whether physical or psychological (Revealed: what children are being told about abortion, 24 March). Where such risks either do or may exist, it is not surprising that many will deny them and/or seek to silence those who raise them. In this highly politicised area, readers would be well advised to study the evidence from both sides carefully before coming to their own conclusions. In the case of breast cancer, it is at least established that carrying a first (early) pregnancy to term protects against breast cancer, and that was the clear context of the passage quoted from the website paper we sent you (www.spuc.org.uk/documents/papers/pike20120525).

There is also some apparent shock or disapproval at our speaker's reported claim that abortion after rape might be a source of trauma, or that a child of rape might be seen as something positive coming out of the experience. Many raped women do, however, feel this way, and a recent Irish survey found that over 57% went on to parent their babies after birth. Yes, our abortion laws do make unborn children non-persons, and yes, they do allow abortion up to birth for disability. Yes, that is hard to square with respect for disabled people. Yes, women do deserve better than abortion.

Supporters of abortion may not like to hear such things, but do they have a right to stop schoolchildren hearing them?

Anthony McCarthy Education and publications manager, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Must-read pro-life news-stories, Wed 28 Mar

Veronica Price, SPUC runner
Top stories:

Commons welcome of DPP assisted suicide policy undermines protection for vulnerable
The House of Commons’ welcome of the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) policy on prosecuting assisted suicide undermines society’s protection of the most vulnerable. Last night the House of Commons passed unopposed a motion to “welcome” the DPP’s guidance, published in February 2010, as well as to encourage advances in palliative care. SPUC Pro-Life has warned that the DPP’s guidance effectively decriminalises assisted suicide by removing any realistic chance of prosecutions for assisting suicide. [SPUC, 28 March]

Department of health seeks to sanitise its abortion partners
23 March 2012: The Health Secretary has announced that abortion clinics are going to be subject to "unannounced inspections" and scrutiny by a team of regulators. SPUC warned that the health secretary’s expression of concern regarding abuses of the Abortion Act are contradicted by Department of Health and Department for International Development policies which promote abortion on demand. [SPUC, 23 March]

African mothers want healthcare not abortion, international conference hears
Mothers in Africa want maternal healthcare, not abortion, an international conference in central London has heard. The "Abortion or maternal health? What should the UK be funding in developing countries?" conference, held by SPUC, heard from an international line-up of leading experts in maternal healthcare, law and research. The conference was attended by medical professionals, bioethicists, students and religious representatives from many countries.[ RSPUC, 22 March]

Sporty mum running for the unborn this year
Veronica Price (pictured) is a 27 year old mother of 4 children who has decided to put her passion for sport at the service of unborn children. Veronica will be running in the 2012 London Marathon for SPUC and its work of defending children in the womb. Pleae follow the link to read Veronica's story, and how to donate. [SPUC]

Other stories:

Abortion
Embryology
Population
Sexual ethics
General
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Commons welcome of DPP assisted suicide policy undermines protection for vulnerable

Keir Starmer, the current DPP
The House of Commons’ welcome of the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) policy on prosecuting assisted suicide undermines society’s protection of the most vulnerable.

Last night the House of Commons passed unopposed a motion to “welcome” the DPP’s guidance, published in February 2010, as well as to encourage advances in palliative care. SPUC Pro-Life has warned that the DPP’s guidance effectively decriminalises assisted suicide by removing any realistic chance of prosecutions for assisting suicide. The guidance was published following the successful court challenge by euthanasia supporter Debbie Purdy. SPUC Pro-Life was an official intervener before the courts in the Purdy case.

Paul Tully, SPUC Pro-Life’s general secretary, told the media:
“Listening to the debate, it was clear that MPs opposed to assisted suicide had the moral high ground. The dangers for vulnerable people were well described by new MPs like Paul Maynard and Fiona Bruce; and long-standing members like Frank Field and Dr John Pugh warned of the serious consequences to which assisted suicide leads. It belies the substance of the debate that the motion was allowed to pass without going to a division. The DPP's prosecuting policy has emptied the Suicide Act, which sets out the crime of assisting suicide, of its meaning and much of its force. The DPP's policy should be rescinded or revised to ensure the the right to life for all."
Highlights from the debate included:
  • Ian Paisley Jr MP skewered Richard Ottaway MP’s attempt to manipulate the parameters of the debate.
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg MP asked: How can prosecutors be sure that someone assisting suicide is motivated by compassion, not other factors?
  • David Winnick MP claimed wrongly that multiple sclerosis (MS) patient Debbie Purdy has terminal illness. MS is not a terminal illness.
  • Disabled MP Paul Maynard said assisted suicide sends message that some lives (e.g. disabled) are not worth living. Legal assisted suicide for one person would diminish the value of the life of every person, he said. He also said that the true definition of compassion is being lost: it is not feeling sorry for someone but ‘fellow suffering’.
  • Dr John Pugh MP and David Burrowes MP argued that enshrining the DPP’s guidelines in statute would fetter the DPP, denying the discretion given to him by other statutes.
  • Fiona Bruce MP said that UK is a world-leader in hospice care. It prioritises care, not ending life. A palliative care specialist told Mrs Bruce that doctors are concerned that legal assisted suicide would put them in a very difficult position regarding their patients.
  • Fiona Bruce MP also said that disabled peer Baroness Campbell says assisted suicide won't stop with the terminally-ill but will threaten the disabled.
  • Solicitor-general Edward Garnier QC opposed the motion to put the DPP’s guidance on a statutory footing.
  • Fiona Bruce MP said that improving palliative care services is important, not least as it reduces requests for assisted suicide.
  • Anti-life MP Emily Thornberry claimed wrongly that Diane Pretty, the late motor neurone disease (MND) patient, suffocated to death. In fact she died peacefully. (SPUC led a group of interveners in the Pretty case, which was defeated at every stage.)
  • Glenda Jackson MP said that Lord Falconer's Commission on Assisted Dying was biased and funded by the assisted suicide lobby.
  • Dr John Pugh MP said that euthanasia is a logical conclusion of assisted suicide.
  • Naomi Long MP said that it is difficult to assess if a patient is terminally-ill. The proposed terminal illness 'safeguard' is therefore dubious.
  • Ian Paisley Jnr MP argued that the House of Commons would be foolish to put in place a law deciding when someone loses their life. He also said that assisted suicide would open a Dutch-like floodgate to euthanasia.
  • Frank Field MP said that euthanasia was the unspoken issue in today’s debate. He added that some relatives have vested interests in patient's death.
  • Mark Pawsey MP said that his family experience tells him that legalising assisted suicide would be wrong. It would be a slippery slope for our nation.
  • Edward Leigh MP said that we must never let old people feel they are burdens. Life must come first and we must proclaim life.
  • Jim Shannon MP called on Parliament to uphold the Hippocratic Oath's "First do no harm" principle and the Oath’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide.
  • Robert Halfon MP said that legalising assisted suicide is dangerous, and called on MPs to remember that ‘life unworthy of life’ was the basis of the Nazi euthanasia programme.
  • John Glen MP argued that a blanket law banning assisted suicide is the only way to protect vulnerable people.
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Monday, 26 March 2012

Catholic bishops in England give increasing support to pro-life vigils

Catholic bishops in England are increasingly giving support to pro-life acts of witness outside abortion clinics. It is a most encouraging sign.

Two weeks ago I reported on a huge pro-life witness in Stratford supported, amongst many others, by Bishop Thomas McMahon (pictured right), the Catholic bishop of Brentwood, who was represented by Monsignor John Armitage, the diocesan vicar general, who is also responsible for three parishes.

Here is Bishop McMahon's message in full which was read out by Monsignor Armitage:
Your gathering to-day has my unqualified support.

Abortion has reached a new height in this country in recent months by the fact that a number of clinics now allow abortion purely according to gender and also allowing private clinics to seek business through television and radio advertisements.

With 200,000 abortions a year we already have one of the highest rates in Europe.

I am with you in prayer and sprit and may your prophetic stance and prayerful vigil draw attention to this great evil of our time.
Then last week I reported that Bishop Alan Hopes, (pictured right) the Catholic auxiliary bishop of Westminster, is due to attend a 40 days for life vigil in central London. I urged (and I urge again) as many as possible to be present this coming Friday to support Bishop Hopes in his pro-life witness.

And I have now heard that Bishop John Hine, (below right) Catholic auxiliary bishop of Southwark is joining the vigil at Marie Stopes abortion facility, Brewer Street, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1RV, on Friday, 27th April 2012, the 44th aniversary of the Abortion Act. Bishop Hine is celebrating the 12.30 Mass at St. Francis's Church, Week Street, Maidstone. He is then joining in the vigil which begins with a prayerful and peaceful procession with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Marie Stopes Clinic and concludes with a return procession at 2.30 p.m. This event is organized by Helpers of God's Precious Infants, an international pro-life group founded by Msgr. Philip Reilly under the direction of Bishop Thomas Daley of New York. Its main apostolate is prayer vigils at abortion facilities.

Strong, compassionate, pro-life leadership, such as the leadership shown by these bishops, lays the foundation for a great campaign for life in the months and years ahead. I congratulate the pro-life groups who are winning, by their example, episcopal support. And I thank Bishop McMahon, Bishop Hopes, and Bishop Hine, for their courage in speaking out for the helpless unborn and their mothers.

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