Friday, 30 May 2014

Scottish registered abortion numbers fall again

Top stories:

Scottish registered abortion rate falls again
The annual rate of registered abortions in Scotland has fallen again, reports The Scotsman. According to the newspaper, "A total of 11,777 terminations were carried out in 2013, representing a rate of 11.2 per 1,000 women aged 15-44, official health statistics show. It is the lowest abortion rate since 2002, when the rate was 11.1, and continues the downward trend since 2008, when abortion rates peaked at 13.3. In 2012, the rate stood at 11.9." [Scotsman, 27 May]

Government abortion guidance "weak" and "fails to uphold law" says SPUC
The government’s newly-issued guidance on abortion is "weak" and "fails to uphold the law", says SPUC, the UK’s main pro-life political organisation. The Department of Health last week issued guidance on various aspects of abortion law and practice, such as sex-selective abortion, pre-signing of abortion authorisation forms and doctors’ assessment of abortion cases. Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said that the guidance "endorses weak restrictions on some practices but promotes an underlying agenda of abortion-on-demand." [SPUC, 27 May]

Other stories:

Abortion
Embryology
  • Christian GP under investigation for refusing fertility treatment to lesbian couple [Mail, 27 May]
Population
Sexual ethics
  • Philippine bishops and local officials argue over teen pregnancies [UCA, 28 May]
  • Archbishop Smith/CBCEW defends homosexual civil partnerships, despite Catholic teaching to the contrary [John Smeaton, 22 May]
General
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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bishops' draft guidance appears to recommend Catholics assist transsexual people through "gender reassignment"

It is a matter of great concern to me and, I am sure, to many Catholics, that a draft document (of which I have recently become aware) prepared for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales should seem to recommend that Catholics co-operate with acts that are gravely contrary to the moral law. Applying Equality Law in Practice: Guidance for Catholics and Catholic Organisations, which is intended to give practical guidance to Catholics on the application of Equality Law, states:
"Transsexual people face many difficulties before, during and after transitioning to another gender. As such it is recommended to seek guidance on how to make the transitional process as easy as possible. This could include training for co-workers, as well as reference to medical and social advice".
The draft document appears to be recommending Catholics to assist another person in pursuing a course of action which will prove physically and psychologically damaging in order to protect themselves from the risk of coming into conflict with equality laws.

This is far from being the only problem with the draft document. My personal assistant, Matthew McCusker, has helpfully written an analysis of the document. The Executive Summary of Matthew's analysis can also be found below.

You may wish to send your comments on the draft document to the bishopof the Catholic diocese in which you live and to Archbishop Peter Smith, Chairman of the CBCEW’s Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship at Archbishop's House, 150 St George’s Road, London, SE1 6HX or to his email: aps@rcsouthwark.co.uk. If you have any further queries about this matter or about Matthew's analysis, please contact him at matthewmccusker@spuc.org.uk

Executive Summary

Matthew McCusker's paper is an analysis of Applying Equality Law in Practice: Guidance for Catholics and Catholic Organisations. Applying Equality Law in Practice, which is said to be approved by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, aims to “provide an accurate overview of equality law as it stands ... with a focus on religious issues.” The legislation under discussion is the Equality Act 2010, with subsequent legislation taken into account. Applying Equality Law in Practice is out for consultation until 31st May 2014. [JS: I am in correspondence with Archbishop Smith and I have requested that the Consultation close at a later date.]

Matthew's paper raises concerns about the content of Applying Equality Law in Practice and challenges the claim that it offers “informed advice and guidance”, which will prove to be “a resource which can be referred to when a particular issue arises”.

In particular Matthew argues that Applying Equality Law in Practice:
  • Fails to place the Equality Act 2010 in its social and political context.
  • Incorrectly claims that the “framework” of the Equality Act 2010 “is in line with Catholic teaching”.
  • Provides a distorted interpretation of the law by failing to distinguish acceptable definitions/usage of key terms from the distorted definitions/usage of key terms used by proponents of equality law.
  • Urges conformity to the Equality Act, and promotion of it, without adequate consideration of the moral dimensions of the law.
  • Fails to enunciate Catholic teaching on the questions under discussion and thus fails to offer real guidance to those seeking assistance “when a particular issue arises”.
  • Confuses “religious rights” and the natural moral law in such a way as to undermine claims to objective truth in moral matters.
  • Fails to uphold the rights of non-Catholics by retreating from the natural moral law to “religious rights”.
  • Fails to uphold the authentic dignity of those falling under the protected characteristics of “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment” by acquiescing in the false ideology which underpins the law and by failing either to share the truth in love, or to encourage others to do so.
  • Fails to offer moral support or encouragement to those who are concerned that the law poses a risk to their authentic rights.
In short, Applying Equality Law in Practice as currently drafted is inadequate as guidance for Catholic dioceses and “Catholic individuals and organisations” who need  advice “when a particular issue arises” relating to current equality law.

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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Bishop Sherrington celebrates national Mass for pro-life groups

Last night I was in in Bedford representing SPUC at a national Mass for the work of pro-life organisations at The Church of The Holy Child and St Joseph. The principal celebrant was His Lordship Rt Rev John Sherrington, auxiliary bishop of Westminster, who also preached on the abortion crisis in Britain and on the work of the various groups labouring in the pro-life movement. He thanked Dr Sue Sarsfield, chairman of Bedford SPUC, which co-organized the event with the Keepers of the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadelupe. Our Lady of Guadalupe is known worldwide as the Protectress of the unborn.

Dr Sarsfield is pictured above introducing the event with Our Lady of Guadalupe's missionary image to the right and welcoming the many pro-life groups invited and present at this lovely event so beautifully supported by the parish, including a fine youth choir. After Mass Bishop Sherrington joined the congregation for a cup of tea and a bite to eat and I took the opportunity of thanking him for coming to celebrate the Mass and for his inspiring homily. Thanks are due also to Canon Seamas Keenan, the parish priest, for hosting the Mass, and who provides in his church the national shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I was joined by Christopher Langley, a well-known pro-life leader in Luton, in saying the bidding prayers, and Ed Smith, of the Alliance of Pro-Life Students said the first reading. Other pro-life groups represented included leaders of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants and the Catholic Medical Association. The Knights of St Columba, of which I am proud to be a member, were also there in force.

The missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is now going on mission to Leeds where it will be welcomed by the Helpers of God's Precious Infants. Let me know if you would like the missionary image to come to your area and I will pass on the message to the Bedford organizers.

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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Government abortion guidance weak and fails to uphold law

The Department of Health last week issued guidance on various aspects of abortion law and practice, such as sex-selective abortion, pre-signing of abortion authorisation forms and doctors’ assessment of abortion cases.

Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, told the media:
"The government’s new abortion guidance is weak and fails to uphold the law – it endorses weak restrictions on some practices but promotes an underlying agenda of abortion-on-demand.

We welcome the government’s messages that abortion on the grounds of sex alone is wrong; that doctors must not pre-sign abortion authorisation forms; and that doctors cannot form a proper opinion of a woman’s condition without ever seeing her. These messages, however, are neither ground-breaking nor robust.

The Department of Health and the abortion industry have a close and ugly relationship. The Department contracts out millions of pounds’ worth of abortions to the private sector, which is keen to provide abortions (NHS-funded) to all comers. The Department also acts in Parliament as the defender of the pro-abortion lobby, briefing ministers and promoting policies that undermine the law."
 See below an in-depth commentary by Paul Tully:
In-depth commentary on government abortion guidance and the Sexual Health Team (SHT) of the Department of Health
The guidance published today shows the grip that the pro-abortion Sexual Health Team (SHT) has on abortion policy.  It arrogantly presumes to assert that abortion on grounds of the baby's sex is illegal while allowing the abortion industry to carry on aborting other 'unwanted' babies – despite the evidence of harm to women resulting from such abortions.

Aborting babies because they are girls is the only bad reason according to the feminist thinking which dominates the SHT's agenda.  Aborting so-called unwanted babies in general – in particular those of the poor, racial minorities, and un-wed mothers – should carry on uninterrupted according to the SHT.  Those with financial or other ulterior interests in promoting abortion industry – including medical bodies like the RCOG and the wealthy private abortion clinics - will not have their activities significantly curtailed.

The SHT shows contempt for the wishes of Parliament, which clearly requires that mental or physical health risks of continuing a pregnancy outweigh the risks entailed in abortion.  We have always maintained that abortion is bad medicine and is neither necessary to avoid risks to physical health nor helpful in reducing harm to mental health.  Abortion on physical health grounds is now hardly ever proposed.  Nearly all abortions, apart from those on disabled babies, are performed because two doctors claim (supposedly independently) that there is a risk to mental health.

The SHT guidance is wrong in law where it states (paragraph 13) that the threshhold of risk to mental health for legal abortion is simply a matter of the doctor's opinion.  The law states that the threshhold of risk is the comparison between continuing the pregnancy and aborting the baby.  The doctor must form an opinion as to which risk is greater.  He is not free to decide that a minor or minimal risk to mental health justifies an abortion if he knows the damage to mental health of undergoing an abortion would be the same or greater.

Yet every week, hundreds of doctors sign statutory forms certifying medical grounds for abortion which the department of health's own evidence review has shown to be false.  Today's documents indicate that the Secretary of State will continue to use his discretion to grant licences to abortion clinics where doctors do not bother even to see or talk to mothers - often in desperate straits - before signing away the lives of unborn children."
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