Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Tears and standing ovation at tribute for the late Alison Davis

Colin Harte 20140906
Dr Colin Harte
At SPUC's national conference 2014 last weekend, Dr. Colin Harte paid tribute to the legacy of the late Alison Davis in his presentation "Suffering for what we value". Colin was Alison's carer for a quarter of a century until her death last year. Colin's presentation received a standing ovation, with some delegates moved to tears.

Alison was the co-ordinator of No Less Human, a group within SPUC which defends disabled people. Below are some keys points from Colin's address.

Alison was an extraordinary person. She was willing to suffer for the pro-life movement.

The killing of Louise, a baby with spina bifida was a turning point in Alison's life from pro-abortion to pro-life. Her first letter on pro-life issues (2 March 1981, on sedating and starving newborn babies to death, following reports of such killings by Dr Donald Garrow) was another turning point. She started work for SPUC's Handicap Division in 1983, now know as No Less Human.

Abortion of disabled babies in Northern Ireland was a cause of concern to Alison. David Alton's abortion bill - and the support of many people in the pro-life movement for the bill - was another cause of concern and suffering to Alison. The bill excluded disabled unborn children from the protection given to those who were not disabled. Alison said:
"I felt I was alone in thinking it was like robbing the poorest. Having so little, they would not miss what was taken from them."
Ann Widdecombe, the former MP, said, who supported the Alton Bill, said: "We are bargaining, saying if we agree you can kill them [disabled unborn children and others] will you support us in trying to save a few thousand other lives?" (The Times, 25 October 1989) Colin found this shocking.

Alison's response to the suggestion that by supporting incremental legislation pro-lifers could, as it were, achieve a reverse of the slippery slope process, was: "It shouldn't take much imagination to realise that attempts to ascend a slippery slope are going to be not only frustrating but self-defeating."

Alison felt isolated within SPUC at that time. Respect and gratitude is due to John Smeaton and SPUC in the last decade for moving away from a position that excludes the disabled.

Alison believed in the infinite value of every human person. Some people argue that a value cannot be ascribed to human beings, because value refers to the utility of objects, and is therefore contrary to human dignity. But Pope St John Paul II taught that humans do have value: they are priceless. Alison was first struck by the infinite value of human beings when she heard the late Lord Jakobovits, the-then Chief Rabbi, speak at Essex University. The tragedy is not that millions of babies are killed, but the judgement that one human life is expendable. This is because each individual life has infinite value.

At the end of her life Alison received excellent care from her hospital, her doctors, and her nurses. She refused pain relief to gain more to offer to God in her last moments of life. She chose to die in pain. Alison believed that the greatest privilege in the world is to suffer.

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