Friday, 26 April 2013

Must-read pro-life news-stories, Fri 26 April

Top story:

Abortion ruling welcomed by SPUC who backed Glasgow midwives
SPUC has welcomed the verdict in the appeal by two Glasgow midwives fighting for their right to opt out of abortion. Connie Wood and Mary Doogan, who won their appeal against the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, are senior midwives each with more than 20 years' experience and had the role of Labour Ward Co-ordinators. SPUC has given the midwives its backing throughout the case. Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said: “The difference this judgment makes is that hospital managers must recognise that the legal right to opt out of abortion goes beyond those who directly undertake abortions. [SPUC, 26 April]

Other stories:

Abortion
Sexual ethics
General
  • My tribute to the late Dr Margaret White, former SPUC vice-president [John Smeaton, 26 April]
  • Foreign and gay couples 'to be banned from having surrogate babies in India' [Mail, 25 April]
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My tribute to the late Dr Margaret White, former SPUC vice-president

St Mark's church, Englefield
This afternoon I have had the privilege of paying tribute, at the invitation of her family, to the late Dr Margaret White. She died on 17th April and was for many years vice-president of SPUC. She had reached the marvellous age of 93 – complaining to her doctor a week before she died that she could only get through a quarter of The Times crossword (due to drugs she was receiving). This is what I said at the Thanksgiving for her life at St Mark's church, Englefield:
In 1974, as an inexperienced south-east London lad from West Norwood, in my early twenties, I helped to start a branch of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Our local branch invited Dr White, then a leading member of the Society, to speak about abortion at a public meeting in Upper Norwood. For me she was the epitome of worldly glamour, smoking her cigarettes with an elegant cigarette holder, and opening her talk as follows:
"My grandmother was a bareback rider in a circus. She galloped round the ring one way and picked up a handkerchief with her teeth. She galloped round the other way and picked up her teeth in a handkerchief."
Referring with good-humoured mockery to the false statistics being put out by our pro-abortion opponents, Margaret said things like:
“I spit on them – and where I spit no grass grows.”
I was captivated and bewildered by this great lady.

Her involvement in the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, founded in January 1967, goes back to the very early days of the Society. The joint-founder of SPUC, Elspeth Rhys-Williams, now Elspeth Chowdharay-Best, and present here this afternoon, personally proposed her as member of the Executive Committee – and she went on to become vice-president of the Society and to travel the world promoting the pro-life cause. Her contribution to the pro-life movement was vast.. I will pick out just a few highlights.

I received recently the following email from Jón Valur Jensson:
“Life goes on, dear colleagues and combatants for the right to life of the unborn. Here am I, an Icelandic pro-lifer who got his initial enthusiastic awakening from Dr Margaret White.”
And poignantly a few months ago I received the following message from Peggy Hartshorn, the president of Heartbeat International, the US-based pregnancy-care organization with over 2000 counselling centres in America:
“I hope all is going well with SPUC. If you can, would you also email me the contact information for Margaret White (you said she was in a nursing home)? As I mentioned to you when we met, she is one of the founders of Heartbeat International and came over several times to speak to our conference while she was still able to travel. I would love to write her!”
Her book about abortion Two Million Silent Killings, published in 1986, one of her many publications, received the following commendation from Bishop Maurice Wood, the bishop of Norwich:
“This compassionate and hard-hitting books is the most robust and loving defence of the unborn child which I have read. It combines Christian orthodoxy, social caring, and medical knowledge will be hard to refute by any theologian, sociologist or doctor who may resist its bold pro-life stance”.
Bishop Wood was chairman of the Order of Christian Unity, also an organization in which Margaret was a leading light. Joanna Bogle, the chairman of the Order Christian Unity, and also here today, tells me that Margaret White joined the Order of Christian Unity in the early 1970s, when it had been reorganised and taken over by Lady Lothian.
“Margaret worked with enthusiasm on Christian projects and produced some excellent materials: one of the best was "Real Questions - real answers", a booklet for schools based on the real questions that teenagers asked her about sex and relationships. Through the Order of Christian Unity and other groups, she became a regular speaker in schools, and the young people would write questions on any topic they wanted, and put them anonymously in a box and she would answer them. Over the years she did much good work this way, speaking to young people with honesty, kindness and real wisdom.”
Joanna reminded me:
“She could be amusing and forthright: I remember when it was suggested, by some well-meaning people, that we might ask that the Government appoint a Minister for the Family ‘Oh no!’ she said ‘It would certainly turn out to be a Minister against the family!’ She knew only too well how government bureaucracy worked.”
Humour, including earthy humour, was as natural to Margaret in her campaigning work as breathing is to the rest of us. Whether she was talking about abortion, or inappropriate sex education, or the effects of contraception or hormonal replacement therapy on women’s health, she would spice up her talks on these subjects and make people laugh. Although she was a distinguished doctor, who debated as an expert speaker on various topics at both the Oxford and Cambridge Union, a member of the General Medical Council, a vice-president of the Mothers’ Union, her sense of fun, rollicking good humour, and compassion for the most vulnerable were always the most obvious things about her. She had zero sense of self-importance.

In her latter years, Margaret’s good-humoured mockery was still very much in play in a letter she had published in The Times on euthanasia. The trouble was, not everyone understood the intended irony in her letter, published by The Times in August 2009, which read:
"Sir, I am over 90. My husband and I worked full-time in medical practice, my husband until 70, and I till 66. My husband has died and the pension I receive for myself and as my husband's widow does not cover the cost of my nursing home.

During our lives we saved for our children but the income from our savings, with the pensions I receive, are not enough to make up the cost, so I am forced to draw on my capital.

I am happy here in the nursing home with no wish to die, but were voluntary euthanasia to be made legal I would feel it my absolute duty to ask for it as I now have 19 descendants who need my legacy.

I am sure I am not alone in this resolution.

Dr Margaret White
Winchester"
Margaret’s true legacy is far more important than money. As Joanna Bogle rightly said: Margaret helped many young people – and I would add many older people too – to have a vision for life. A vision which wisely teaches people to understand that her beloved medical profession was not infallible; a vision which embraced poor women in Puerto Rica used as guinea-pigs in contraceptive trials by the manufacturers of the pill – an alarming number of whom had died of unspecified heart attacks. And a vision which embraced the most innocent, most vulnerable members of humanity and of her own family whom she adored. I conclude with an extract of the SPUC executive minutes on 6th May 1989:
“Phyllis Bowman [my predecessor as national director of SPUC] reported that on her retirement from the Bench Margaret White had asked her fellow JPs to make a gift to a fund she was establishing under the umbrella of the SPUC Educational Research Trust. She had herself given £1,000 to this. The purpose of the Anna Fund was to help parents of Downs children to get the kind of remedial help that at present was only available through Professor Lejeune. The name came from her granddaughter, Anna, who had been born with Downs Syndrome and who had had to be flow to Paris before any remedial help could be found. The committee congratulated and thanked Margaret and her daughter for this excellent and noble idea.”
Thank you Margaret. God rest you!
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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Abortion ruling welcomed by SPUC who backed Glasgow midwives' case

SPUC has welcomed today’s verdict in the appeal by two Glasgow midwives fighting for their right to opt out of abortion.

Connie Wood and Mary Doogan, who won their appeal against the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, are senior midwives each with more than 20 years' experience and had the role of Labour Ward Co-ordinators. (See further below for a statement by the midwives today.)

SPUC has given the midwives its backing throughout the case. Responding to the judgment, Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, told the media earlier today:
“Today’s verdict is very welcome and we congratulate Connie and Mary on their tenacity and deep sense of professionalism. We hope that the Health Board will abide by this verdict and enable life to return to normal for Connie and Mary. The result is a tremendous victory for these devoted and caring professional women. This outcome will be a great relief to all midwives, nurses and doctors who may be under pressure to supervise abortion procedures and who are wondering whether the law protects their right to opt out. 

The difference this judgment makes is that hospital managers must recognise that the legal right to opt out of abortion goes beyond those who directly undertake abortions. For the sake of good morale and good relations with all members of staff, it is important that the Board move to re-establish normal working relations straight away. The mothers and babies depending on the Southern General Hospital deserve no less.

“Mary Doogan and Connie Wood deserve the fullest support and gratitude of their medical colleagues for resisting the pressure to give up their legal protections. It is important to recognise that their stand applies to people of all faiths and none: the right to refuse to participate in abortion is based on conscientious objection, whether religious or purely moral, so it applies to everyone.

They are anxious to get back to normal after the protracted internal grievance procedure and legal action. This dispute has seriously disrupted their professional lives over the past 4 years and more.”
Statement by Connie Wood and Mary Doogan:
"Connie and I are absolutely delighted with todays judgement from the Court of Session, which recognises and upholds our rights as labour ward midwifery sisters to withdraw from participating in any treatment that would result in medical termination of pregnancy.
In holding all life to be sacred from conception to natural death, as midwives we have always worked in the knowledge we have two lives to care for throughout labour; a mother and that of her unborn child.

Today's judgement is a welcome affirmation of the rights of all midwives to withdraw from a practice that would violate their conscience and which over time, would indeed debar many from entering what has always been a very rewarding and noble profession. It is with great relief we can now return to considerations that are all to do with child birth and midwifery practice and less to do with legal matters.

Lastly, we wish to thank the many individuals the length and breadth of Britain and, indeed, further afield, who have given us great help and support throughout the duration of our dispute with GG&CHB. Though too numerous to individually highlight, special mention has to be given to both sets of family,  without whose support we could not have taken on this case, to SPUC and to  our very talented legal team whose expertise and support we could not have done without. Thank you to each and everyone."
Background to the case:

Midwives employed at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital as  Labour Ward Co-ordinators (LWCs) were told that they had to oversee abortion procedures when the hospital reorganised abortion services, transferring late abortion patients to the labour ward rather than the gynaecology ward.

Previously midwives who opposed abortion on grounds of conscience had always been allowed to opt out of any involvement under the conscience clause in the Abortion Act, which recognises the right not to participate in abortion treatment.

The Court of Session heard arguments about whether midwives in the role of LWC are entitled to opt out of delegating and supervising abortions in which staff midwives are providing most of the hands-on treatment, with LWCs as the first line of back-up.

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Monday, 22 April 2013

Why the government's plans to redefine marriage must be opposed

On Saturday I spoke to the Union of Catholic Mothers of the Archdiocese of Southwark, at Amigo Hall next to St George's cathedral. You can read a report of my address on the SPUC website. In summary, I said:
  • David Cameron and his government were seeking to deny children’s birthright, to be brought up by both a mother and a father, by institutionalising fatherless and motherless families.
  • Legalising same sex marriage is not about being nice to people with same-sex attraction and letting them get married if they want to. It is about the destruction of the oldest human institution in the world which protects the mental and physical wellbeing of men, women and children
  • Research by Dr Patricia Morgan, commissioned by SPUC and presented to Parliament, shows that in countries in which same-sex marriage has been legalized, real marriage is undermined.
  • Government statistics on abortion clearly show that unborn children are four to five times less likely to be aborted if they are conceived within marriage. Undermining marriage will result in more unborn children being killed.
  • Same-sex couples will demand the right to have children – making it even more difficult for pro-life groups effectively to oppose in vitro fertilisation. Defending the right to life of unborn children will be increasingly viewed as an attack on the rights of homosexual couples.
  • Same-sex marriage is about the sexual rights of adults. Real marriage is about best interests of children.
  • Claims by government ministers that a teachers will continue to have the right to teach children that marriage is between a man and a woman do not stand up to legal scrutiny nor to statements made by political leaders such as David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Balls.
  • Schools will come under further pressure to teach pupils about homosexual sex.
  • Whether the battle is won or lost on the government’s same-sex marriage bill, those in society, including the UCM, who have a clear understanding of what’s at stake must maintain an unceasing educational campaign to warn parents and the general public about the impact of same-sex marriage legislation.
  • Unless we continue to insist, through taking our information door-to-door throughout the country, future generations of children will simply never know, still less experience for themselves, that the natural habitat for children is the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman as a permanent exclusive union, as upheld in international human rights instruments.
  • We must act now to prevent our country descending into centuries of barbarism.
  • I urge members of the UCM to write to their Members of Parliament calling on them to vote against the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Bill. Briefings can be found at www.spuc.org.uk
  • I urge UCM foundations to leaflet their parish churches on the weekends of 5th May and 12th May – since the third reading of the Bill could be as early as the week beginning 20th May. Leaflets are available from SPUC. Telephone me at 020 7820 3128 or email me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
  • I appeal to leaders to come forward who would be willing to organize a team of people locally to provide a permanent outreach to the local community. We need 900 groups who are each capable of leafleting 10,000 local homes.
  • I greet the West Norwood UCM foundation at whose meeting on 21st February 1951 my birth of the day before had been announced!
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Must-read pro-life news-stories, Mon 22 April

Eamon Gilmore
Top story:

Abortion law timetable on track, says Irish deputy PM
Eamon Gilmore, the Irish deputy prime minister, has said that the Irish government's timetable for abortion legislation is on track. He told journalists: “We have a timetable which is to have this legislation dealt with by the summer recess." The Irish Times reports that draft legislation is due to be published tomorrow (23 April). [Irish Times, 22 April]

Other stories:

Abortion
Euthanasia
  • Battle for right to die to be enshrined in law is 'doomed to fail', claims Manchester university ethics expert [Mancunian Matters, 19 April]
Sexual ethics
General
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