Thursday 31 January 2008

The Forced Abortion Olympics

I see that Mia Farrow is hitting the headlines, dubbing the Olympic Games in China The 'Genocide Olympics' They might equally be called "The Forced Abortion Olympics". Maybe you're asking: Why are Western nations turning a blind eye to China's appalling systematic attacks on the rights of unborn children, on women's rights, and on the rights of families, with its inhuman one-child policy?

The answer is: many Western governments, including our own UK government, are complicit in the policy (and Times columnist Melanie Reid clearly agrees with it). The UK is the fourth highest funder of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), according to their annual report , and UNFPA's involvement in China's one child-policy is very well-documented

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Lords must reject embryology bill

Last night the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill completed its Report stage in the House of Lords and is due to be debated at Third Reading next Monday, 4th February.

Many Lords, following the government's lead, were dismissive of a call for the establishment of a national bioethics commission. Lords also voted against an amendment to ban late-term abortions of disabled babies, by 89 votes to 22.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC’s political secretary commented in a press statement: "Total rejection of the government's bill is the only adequate response pro-life parliamentarians can make in the anti-life climate of the current parliament. Lords should move to vote against the bill in principle and as a whole at Third Reading.”

For reasons explained here, we are opposed to introducing amendments to the Abortion Act in this Parliament.

Do we live in a civilised country? Draw your own conclusions.

Last night the House of Lords considered the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill at Report Stage. During a debate on Baroness Masham’s amendment which was aimed at eliminating disability as a specific ground for abortion, Baroness Meacher (pictured) argued that it would have been in the “best interests” of two children she knew with cerebral palsy to have been aborted.

She said:

“I want to speak about the rights of the child. The Mental Capacity Act refers to the child having capacity; if they do not have capacity, it is important for the professionals to consider their best interests. If we could hold to that, we would be doing pretty well.

“I happen to know two tiny children who were born at 25 weeks with very severe cerebral palsy. They were natural births. Those two children cannot breathe naturally; they have to be helped to breathe. They will never talk. They lie on their backs and can do nothing. My belief is that there are children, born at those very early ages, who are not viable people. It would be in their best interests to have been aborted.

“There rests my case. We need to consider the best interests of these babies.”

Baroness Meacher’s statement is interesting and significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, none of the other peers present shouted “Shame”; secondly, the Mental Capacity Act does not apply to children; thirdly, Baroness Meacher’s reference to the Mental Capacity Act suggests what SPUC has always pointed out – that “best interests” in that legislation can be defined in such a way that mentally incapacitated patients may now be killed in their “best interests” – as happened to Tony Bland; fourthly, Baroness Meacher clearly considers that her own capacity and achievements in life put her right to life in a different category from the right to life owed to people with cerebral palsy – that she is “viable person” but “they” are not “viable people”.

The pro-abortion lobby got their arguments pretty muddled up during the debate on Baroness Masham’s amendment. Lord David Steel (pictured), the main sponsor of the Abortion Act 1967, responded to Baroness Masham’s reference to Beethoven; that, given Beethoven’s family history, he might have been aborted. Lord Steel said that Baroness Masham’s argument was "fundamentally false because you cannot have abortion retrospectively. Nobody has ever said either to Beethoven or to any of these (disabled) children I have referred to: 'Oh I wish you had never been born.' That is an absurd argument and not one that should be sustained.” Enter Baroness Meacher stage right! (See above)

Baroness Tonge, a leading supporter of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, spoke along much the same lines as Baroness Meacher. She said: “I said in Committee that we were not talking here about disabled human beings, but about some grossly abnormal human beings; many of those whom I have seen bear little resemblance to human beings.

“In Committee I mentioned the child with anencephaly that I delivered. It had no brain and a grotesque appearance...”

And so she goes on.

For a loving and civilised view of anencephalic babies, read the report of the remarkable case of Marcela Jesus Galante Ferreira from Brazil, to which Alison Davis drew my attention:

“Little Marcela de Jesus Galante Ferreira has broken all the records of survival. The anencephaly she suffers should have caused her death hours or days after birth, but to the amazement of many, she is now four months old, becoming the new pro-life symbol in Brazil and the most uncomfortable celebrity for some pro-abortionists who have criticized doctors for helping the infant.”

Alison Davis (pictured), the head of No Less Human, a division of SPUC, and who has spina bifida, put the ethical position to me this way:

“Every baby is entitled to his or her natural life-span however long or short that may be. And we do them an injustice if we cut short their life by even a minute. Every person is entitled to their life whether it lasts one minute or a hundred years.”

For reasons explained here, we are opposed to introducing amendments to the Abortion Act in this Parliament.

new monthly Catholic ethics forum

Andrew Swampillai has alerted me to a “new pro-life initiative for young people”. He tells me: “A group of medical students and young doctors have started a monthly Catholic ethics forum in association with the Linacre Centre. It is aimed at exploring the Catholic position on bioethical issues and geared towards anyone interested, especially in the healthcare profession. Being the first of its kind in London, we thought it may be of interest to your blog readers and people on your email lists. Our first talk is [tomorrow, Wednesday 30 January] at 6.30 pm at Vaughan House (behind Westminster Cathedral) and will be given by Dr Charlie O' Donnell and is entitled So you want to be a good Catholic health professional?" More information is available from Stephen Barrie on (020) 7266 7413.

Monday 28 January 2008

Keeping things in perspective on the HFE bill

It’s reported that cabinet ministers, members of the all-party parliamentary pro-life group, and others are calling on Geoff Hoon MP, the Government’s chief whip, for a free vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Of course it’s right that politicians should demand the freedom to vote according to their consciences, without being penalized by their party, on a bill which, if passed, will cost the lives of countless human beings. This is also a bill which, like the Abortion Act, will be copied in countries around the world.

However, pro-life lobbyists must not confuse the issues. Whatever their party leaders may threaten, politicians have a moral duty to vote against a bill which will:

  • extend the creation of embryonic children in the laboratory ('test-tube babies')
  • allow embryonic children to be abused and killed for a wider range of research purposes
  • permit the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos.

We must keep things in perspective. No punishment meted out by Gordon Brown on cabinet ministers or backbench politicians, however dreadful, absolves them of their moral responsibility to vote against such a bill.

Opposition to IVF grows in Poland

There’s a most encouraging report that opposition to IVF is growing in Poland. The rising opposition is attributed to statements from the country’s bishops.

Tragically, IVF, as a way of bypassing infertility out of compassion for infertile couples, is widely accepted in the UK. It’s important for opponents of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill to understand that its proposals are a logical development of the practice of IVF which amounts to the manufacture of human beings. At the same time, we must continue to promote ethical alternatives to IVF such as naprotechnology as does Life and the SPUC education and research trust.

NaProTechnology or Natural Procreative Technology is a new and innovative medical science that works cooperatively with the body's natural procreative cycles, enhancing the chances of procreation naturally and healthily. It is proving to be more successful than IVF.

Saturday 26 January 2008

my quotations of the week

Last Sunday, Bishop Philip Tartaglia described the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, on which I blogged yesterday, as "a state sponsored attack on human life". Here are a few snippets from his excellent homily, delivered last Sunday in St. Mirin's Cathedral, Paisley.

"...It seems that hardly a year passes that the bishops need to bring before you yet another state-sponsored attack on unborn human life. It almost seems that the powers of evil are never done fomenting the culture of death among hapless human beings by attacking the innocent unborn or the weak terminally ill with the great lie that these lives have no value at all or only have the value that powerful men and women are prepared to concede them.

"The latest twisted enterprise is legislation soon to be presented by the Government at Westminster which would allow the creation of human-animal embryos. You should know that such procedures are banned in other countries. They have rightly been described by the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life as a "monstrous act against human dignity, and I am sure that that is the instinctive reaction of our moral reason..."

On Wednesday, Cardinal Pell's profound and beautiful speech on the challenges facing those defending the culture of life, given the week before in Seoul, South Korea, was published in Zenit.

Cardinal Pell quotes Dr Shinya Yamanaka, the Japanese scientist who has had ethical qualms about destructive human embryo research:

"'When I saw the embryo', he said, 'I suddenly realised there was such a small difference between it and my daughters. . . I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way'.

"There were of course, many differences between this several day old human embryo and Yamanaka's daughters in terms of its maturity, size, appearance and capacities. Yet his knowledge and awe of the embryo's intrinsic potential for human growth and development allowed him to recognise the essential similarity between them -- their common humanity and shared dignity. Yamanaka's breakthrough is, amongst other things, the fruit of the virtue of reverence."
On Thursday, in his weekly newspaper column, The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, called on Mexicans to reject pressures from the United Nations to legalise abortion in every state throughout the country - as I blogged earlier in the week. In memorably blunt language he wrote: “Let us remain, then, with the fundamental idea: abortion is killing, killing is a crime condemned by God’s, by man’s law and by the Constitution of Mexico."

On Saturday, the moving story of Lorraine Allard, 33, hit the headlines. At four months pregnant, she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and was offered a termination. She refused and she gave birth to Liam 15 weeks prematurely. She told her husband: "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live." Everything else this week pales into insignficance.

Friday 25 January 2008

last chance for Lords to stop Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill

The last chance for the House of Lords to stop the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill is currently scheduled for Monday 4 February. Peers will be debating the use of human embryos in experiments. The Bill seeks, among other things, to:
  • extend the creation of embryonic children in the laboratory ('test-tube babies')
  • allow embryonic children to be abused and killed for a wider range of research purposes
  • permit the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos.
Over recent weeks, the Government and supporters of embryo research have blocked all substantial efforts to lessen the evils of the Bill during its passage through the Lords. Although it is unlikely that pro-life Lords will defeat the Bill, a strong vote against it now will help and encourage MPs to oppose the Bill when it goes to the House of Commons - probably in mid-February. Many people wrote to the Lords in November asking them to oppose the bill at second reading - this had great impact and helped encourage pro-life peers in their opposition to the bill.

Please write to one or more Lords as soon as possible, urging them to move for a vote against the Bill. You can contact peers from our page of parliamentarians' email addresses. You are free to write to any Lord(s) you wish. Please write to one or more - as many as you can. The most important thing is to contact them soon, and to urge them to vote against the bill at third reading.

SPUC activist honoured

On Wednesday I blogged on how Mrs Frances Levett was due to receive a civic award for her work for the society. The picture shows her at yesterday's ceremony with Fr James O'Hanlon, parish priest of St John the Baptist and St Peter, Welby Lane, Melton Mowbray, who proposed Mrs Levett for the award.

International Student Pro-Life Conference, Scotland: 28th – 30th March

Kaye Smith, the student conference organiser in our SPUC Scotland office, says: "This conference is a unique pro-life event which promises to be a special weekend of fun, education, training and a great opportunity to network with fellow students making a difference in their schools and university campuses around the world."

Celeste Beal, great niece of famous civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, will be the keynote speaker. As the theme for the conference is Human and Civil Rights, Celeste will explain why she believes abortion is today’s most pressing civil rights issue. As a young student herself, Celeste is passionate about her youth and pro-life work and has a strong desire to help, motivate, uplift and positively impact the world and the people she meets.

Other areas of pro-life work will be explored.

The arts will also form a part of the conference with a special screening of the movie, Bella, winner of the Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award 2006, which has been welcomed by the international pro-life community.


All those wishing to attend the conference must register beforehand. Information relating to the conference, including registration, venue and accommodation is available on our special conference website. For further information, or to book places, phone SPUC Scotland on (0141) 221 2094 or email or

plain speaking on abortion

In his Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II wrote of a "dangerous crisis of the moral sense" about abortion. He said: "Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name [JP II's emphasis], without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception".

Readers of this blog, whatever their religious faith, will like the idea of church leaders doing what the late pope recommended. Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, has knocked a United Nations official off her pedestal for proposing the legalisation of abortion throughout Mexico. The cardinal writes: “Let us remain, then, with the fundamental idea: abortion is killing, killing is a crime condemned by God’s, by man’s law and by the Constitution of Mexico."

I think I've got that your eminence. Thank you. I do recommend that everyone reads what you've said.

Thursday 24 January 2008

the aftermath of abortion

I met on Tuesday with Margaret Cuthill and Cathy McBean, our British Victims of Abortion team in Glasgow. We were making plans for SPUC's Silent No More events throughout Britain in the coming year which I wrote about recently. At these events, Margaret and others - women and men - will be sharing with the public their personal painful experiences of abortion. In this way the Society reaches out to others who may be affected by an abortion and are struggling in silence. There is an online list of the forthcoming Silent No More events. For further information about the work of British Victims of Abortion, which is funded by the SPUC education and research trust, contact Cathy or Margaret on (0141) 226 5407.

Cathy McBean (left) and Margaret Cuthill at BVA HQ, Glasgow.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

SPUC activist to be honoured by MP and mayor

A pro-life activist is to receive an award for her work for SPUC in Leicestershire. Mrs Frances Levett, treasurer of SPUC's Rutland and Melton branch, will receive a Community and Charity Champion award from Mr Alan Duncan, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, and Councillor Pam Posnett, mayor of Melton, tomorrow.

Mrs Levett's citation for the award mentions that she has been a member of SPUC since 1972. As well as helping run the Melton branch, she has helped found other local branches. Mrs Levett ran a study-day on post-abortion syndrome for more than 80 people at Glenfield Hospital, and was among the organisers of an SPUC float at the Melton Show parade. The award is supported by the Melton Times newspaper.

Defending life by conscientious objection

The Portuguese Medical Association has re-elected its president who defied pro-abortion pressure from the government there. [LifeSite, 22 January] Dr Pedro Nunes has promised not to change the association's pro-life code of practice, according to a message I received from Professor Jerónima Teixeira (pictured), a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist from Portugal. We should be encouraged by the courageous pro-life witness of doctors in Portugal.

The battle to defend human life increasingly centres on conscientious objection. In recent months, the Pope made a powerful plea to pharmacists to resist pressures to collaborate in supplying “products which have clearly immoral aims”. [Pharmalot, 29 October] Benedict XVI made apparent references to:

  • so-called contraceptive drugs
  • devices which may work, in part, by preventing the embryo from implanting in the lining of the womb
  • drugs to enable persons, perhaps with a terminal illness, to commit suicide.

He said: “In this area, it is not possible to anesthetize consciences, for example, about the effects of [a drug’s] molecules to prevent the implantation of an embryo or to shorten a person’s life.”

SPUC is also playing a role in developing the practice of conscientious objection in order to protect human life. For example, we are fighting against euthanasia and the impact of the Mental Capacity Act through Patients First Network. This group helps you tell doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers how you expect to be treated in hospital if you are mentally incapacitated.

The pro-life movement worldwide should be working on ways to build a powerful, peaceful resistance movement against abortion, in-vitro fertilization, human embryo research and euthanasia, to complement the vital political, educational and caring work already being carried out.

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Lords must reject bill before the government makes it even worse

The importance of radical opposition to the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill continues to impress itself as the plot unfolds. Last night the House of Lords again considered amendments to the bill, the second day of the bill's Report stage. Peers from across the House tabled amendments seeking, in the most modest way, certain ethical constraints upon the bill. One of those amendments tried to retain within the Bill a modicum of respect for the role of fathers. The government rejected even such a timid amendment and the House followed suit by voting against it.

A disturbing amendment from the pro-embryo research lobby however, seeking to loosen ethical constraints, was ostensibly resisted by the government but with sympathetic noises and comforting reservations. Lord Patel, a leading pro-cloning peer, promoted an amendment to permit the creation of cloned embryos from cells donated in the past, where the donors have not been informed of any possibility of their being cloned. Baroness Royall, the Government spokeswoman, started off by opposing the amendment but then promised to go away, reflect on the matter to find a way to accommodate it if possible and return with any possible solution.

Those moving more ethically-conscious amendments don't have the force of numbers to get the government to accept any major ethical constraints on the bill. What is there left to do? Only to maintain a radical, principled opposition that sends the message to the government and parliamentarians that the bill is evil. The mock battle between the government and the embryo-research lobby must be seen for what it is - just an exercise in passing the buck.

At the bill's forthcoming Third Reading its critics should join together to try to stop it before it reaches the House of Commons. Some of them will baulk at this, pleading that the unelected House of Lords must hand the bill over to the elected House of Commons, or that the House of Lords is just a revising chamber and so it shouldn't block government bills. Yet Parliamentary convention won't stop the government continuing to sanction the killing of the innocent. That will only stop when enough parliamentarians are pro-life enough to stand and oppose it.

Monday 21 January 2008

let's support Portugal

Whilst I’m on the subject of abortion being forced on people, let’s turn to Portugal, a country somewhat closer to the UK. I got a message today from Thereza Ameal, one of the pro-life leaders there, begging for our spiritual support.

You may recall that last November, the Portuguese government piled pressure on doctors to change their ethical code on abortion. Reuters reported on 15th November:

“Portuguese doctors have rejected a government ultimatum to remove an ethical ban on performing abortions after this deeply Catholic country approved the practice in July.

"Pedro Nunes, the head of Portugal's Medical Association, said doctors had every right to object morally to an abortion, which is stated to be wrong in the association's ethical code, despite government threats to take him to court.

"Having an opinion and ethical principles is what separates rational beings from a flock of sheep," Nunes said.

"The ethical code states doctors must respect human life from its beginning and the practice of abortion constitutes a grave ethical failure.

"This has nothing to do with abortion. It has to do with doctors having the right to have their own opinion," Pedro Nunes, who represents around 35,000 doctors, told reporters.

"The health minister threatened to take us to court if we did not change our code ... but the code can only be changed by doctors and not by a health minister."

Thereza writes today:

"We are preparing some events of praying here in Portugal for the sad anniversary of the referendum of 11th February 2007.

"We have [continuous] prayer in different churches, in front of the Holy Sacrament, … from the 1st to the 15th February, 24h a day and we hope to have it also until the rest of the month.

"We asked … hundreds of parishes to pray the Rosary before or after the Sunday Mass (10th February) and during the Mass to make a short prayer for Life.

"In the 29th January a group of people will also start to pray in front of the abortion clinics. They are looking for people to pray for them and for this work

"Please, pray for Portugal and for all who are working for Life here. It is very difficult with this Government."

I’m sure that many will be joining Thereza in spirit and in prayer, especially on 29th January and on 11th February, the anniversary of the abortion referendum.

The resistance to abortion in Portugal is alive and well. Anything the pro-life movement in other countries can do to help – through practical support, sharing experience and expertise, and prayer – is vital. International Planned Parenthood Federation and its powerful allies must not be allowed free rein to quash pro-life resistance in this beautiful, civilized, corner of Europe.

Business as usual with China which forcibly abort its citizens

In the midst of the intense attacks on human life in the UK today - not least in the form of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently before Parliament – we must not forget families living in China, which are being persecuted with the financial and moral support of our Government and the European Union.

Perhaps, like me, you feel a bit helpless about the position in China. With Presidents and Prime Ministers trooping off to Beijing to win multi-billion pound business deals for their countries, the human rights of those oppressed by China’s one-child policy appear to nowhere on the international political horizon.

I was delighted to see the Sunday Mirror, yesterday, drew attention to “China’s one child scandal” – as they headlined it – in a story by Nick Owens and Dick Jones. They say:

“Gordon Brown is in China this week, conducting his most high-profile overseas trip since becoming Prime Minister. He is touring the country's booming business districts as he strengthens trade links between Britain and the world's fastest-growing economy. And, as the eyes of the world turn to Beijing for this year's Olympics, visits to China's new sports stadiums will be high on the Brown itinerary. But away from the red carpets, handshakes and photo-calls lies a sinister programme that won't be on the PM's agenda - China's one child policy. It's a system that's been enforced ruthlessly - sometimes barbarically - across the country.”

SPUC’s youth and student division organized a protest outside the China embassy last term and similar events have been held in Sydney, Australia, by students at Campion College. But we must do more. Write to me at if you would like to discuss ideas for action.

Cardinal argues for national bioethics commission

His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor argues today for a bioethics commission to be established by the Westminster Parliament. He writes:

"I hope that the House of Lords seizes this opportunity not just to frame laws for today but to plan for the future by establishing this new framework for ethical consideration. A national bio-ethics commission is long overdue. We need one for the sake of the common good."

But would a bioethics commission lead to a deeper concern for proposals relating to the sanctity of human life? Or would it lead to politicians hiding behind the learned discussions of the great and the good when challenged by constituents to vote against an anti-life bill? I can imagine MPs’ responses when challenged by pro-life constituents: “I will study the draft bill carefully – and the findings of the Bioethics Commission, which as you know includes representatives from the Catholic Church etc etc…”

However, leaving aside the merits or demerits of such a Commission, I will be worried if it gets into the Bill this evening. It could become an excuse for pro-life peers not to oppose the bill with the vigour and determination that its appalling proposals deserve. The setting up a Bioethics Commission will not outweigh the evil of a Bill which permits many new abuses of human beings. We must do everything in our power to urge Peers to oppose the Bill at third reading. Check out SPUC’s website for further information on the Bill. Write to me at if you want more information on what you can do about the Bill.

Friday 18 January 2008

Embryo scientist challenged successfully in life radio debate

Last night Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary (pictured), debated against Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research and one of the leading scientist-promoters of destructive embryo research, on BBC Radio 5 Live. The catalyst for the debate was the granting of licences to two sets of researchers to create human-animal hybrid embryos. Anthony argued that “deliberately blurring the line between humans and animals is simply not an ethical way to approach the cure or treatment of disease”. Dr Lovell-Badge responded: “People didn’t want to have to blur the lines between animal and human...”. So there we have it: scientists are knowingly and intentionally striking at what makes us human.

Dr Lovell-Badge claimed that an early embryo is just a collection of cells and not a human being, because in the first few days after conception it is not possible know which cells will form which particular part of the child’s body, or even form the placenta. Anthony countered that Dr Lovell-Badge was confusing “the physical development of the embryo with the genetic properties of the embryo....What makes us human is our genes, not which cells go to which parts of the body later in development.”

Dr Lovell-Badge tried to stump Anthony by claiming that there was very little or no difference between the early embryo and the genetically-modified skin cells created recently in Japan, cells which might have flexibility equal to that of embryonic stem cells. However, Anthony corrected Dr Lovell-Badge by pointing out that “those cells [induced pluripotent cells] are embryonic-like –they’re not embryo cells. They haven’t come from an embryo. We’re not talking about embryos: we’re talking about embryonic-like cells; or cells which have similar properties to embryos; or which have similar potential for pluripotency as embryonic stem cells. So we’re talking about two completely different things.”

Here are some more things Anthony said in the debate:

“Embryonic stem cell research is highly speculative and extremely primitive in terms of its development. There’s no reason to believe that cures or treatments for conditions such as motor neurone disease will come from embryonic stem cell research, whether the stem cells lines used are taken from hybrid embryos or from purely human embryos. No one can fail to be moved by the stories of persons with motor neurone disease; and yes, we have a moral duty to try to cure and treat disease. We must, however, never do wrong that good may come of it. We believe that, where embryos are human, to create them, exploit them by taking their stem cells and in the process kill them, is contrary to the basic right to life. We would instead encourage advances in adult stem cell research, which is already providing benefits for patients in over 70 different conditions. We would say that if any cures or treatments are to come for, say, motor neurone disease, they are more likely to come from ethical alternatives such as adult stem cell research, rather than this highly speculative, primitive and ethically dubious area [embryo research].

“Human life begins at conception. At conception we have a full genetic complement of a human being. Today I am no different genetically from what I was when I was created at the first point of conception. Embryos, therefore, have an equal right to life and an equal place as members of the human family. Where we are talking about hybrids – depending on the genetic mix and the different types of hybrids that can be created – they may or may not be human. We don’t know. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why we shouldn’t create them: because we have no way of knowing how they should be treated if we don’t know if they’re human, animal, neither or both. So it’s fundamentally contrary to at least human dignity, and may well be contrary to human life, to the right to life, because it involves the exploitation and through that the killing of human embryos.”

“The early human embryo may be a bunch of cells, but it’s the most amazing bunch of cells! The reason why it is the most amazing bunch of cells is because it’s a self-directing, self-developing organism. It directs its own development; it doesn’t rely upon other people to direct its development; it just needs its natural environment, which is the womb, to grow. When the embryo is in the womb, in fact it tells its mother: “I’m present! I’m a human being! I’m your flesh and blood! Don’t miscarry me!” It is a being, and we would say that it is a person, because it is a member of the human family and therefore it is a human person. Simply because it’s small and not recognisably human in shape, doesn’t mean that it’s not human.

“The small percentage of animal input into cytoplasmic hybrid embryos or cybrids may be extremely important, and may change its functionality. If , for example, such an embryo was implanted and brought to birth, would be a rational being?”

Thursday 17 January 2008

doctors’ college to give platform to pro-abortion lobby

The distortion of good medicine by the pro-abortion lobby continues apace. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is holding a one-day course on tackling obesity and teenage pregnancy on 8th March. Three of the five listed speakers are from the pro-abortion lobby: the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Brook Advisory Service and the Margaret Pyke Centre. Their presence at this course is entirely inappropriate. The claim that they work to reduce the rates of teenage pregnancies and provide contraception as a means of reducing recourse to abortion is simply false - their own words attest to this. Dr Judy Bury, a former director of the Edinburgh Brook Advisory Centre, explained this clearly:

"Twenty years ago women were more resigned to unwanted pregnancy, but as they have become more conscious of preventing conception so they have come to request terminations when contraception fails. There is overwhelming evidence that, contrary to what you might expect, the provision of contraception leads to an increase in the abortion rate."

As long ago as 1973, David Malcolm Potts, one of Brook's senior medical advisors predicted:

"As people turn to contraception there will be a rise, not a fall in the abortion rate."

He acknowledged this again in 1979 saying:

"No society has controlled its fertility…without recourse to a significant number of abortions. In fact abortion is often the starting place in the control of fertility."

And BPAS's Ann Furedi, for example, told a reporter at last year's Marie Stopes International Global Safe Abortion conference:

"Abortion is normal....Abortion is always necessary as a backup to contraception....For many women abortion is the solution to the problem of unintended pregnancy."

In 2000, Mrs Furedi had also told a conference on abortion law that policymakers should "stop using the abortion rate as the indicator of a problem" but "accept it as an essential method of family planning". She observed: "Sex is an accepted part of an adult relationship for which we do not expect to suffer unwanted consequences." [Daily Mail, 16 October 2000]

As Professor David Paton of Nottingham University has ably demonstrated, greater access to birth control drugs and devices does nothing to decrease the rates of teenage pregnancy or teenage abortions. The makers of birth control pills admit that it can stop young embryos from implanting in the womb (the technical term for this implanting is ‘nidation’ – e.g. see the summary of product characteristics for Norgeston, a common type of birth control pill using the same ingredient, levonorgestrel, as the morning-after pill)

The RCGP should not be giving a platform to the pro-abortion lobby and its flawed, extreme ideology. It's important that concerned doctors contact the RCGP about this. If you know doctors likely to be concerned, ask them to write the President of the RCGP, Professor David Haslam, by email at or by post to 14 Princes Gate, London, SW7 1PU.

MEPs vote for sexual rights for children

Members of the European Parliament yesterday approved a report which is likely to have serious implications for family life right across the EU. Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child sets out what EU states must do to uphold and promote children's rights.

The report covers issues such as the protection of children from exploitation, abuse and violence. It acknowledges that the family protects children and calls on member states to make “every effort to support families by means of appropriate public policies.” Unfortunately some parts of the report threaten to do just the opposite.

Six articles in the report refer to sexual and reproductive rights under the headings of health and education. In Article 144, the report: "Calls on the Commission and Member States to facilitate access for young girls to information and education about reproductive health and reproductive health services;".

Articles 162 to 165 go on to stress the need to promote sexual and reproductive health services for children and Article 168: "Calls for Member States to ensure that all children and adolescents in and out of school are provided with tailored and comprehensive scientific information on sexual and reproductive health in order to make informed choices on issues related to their personal well-being, including the prevention of STIs and HIV/AIDS;"

The terms reproductive rights and reproductive health services is UN code for abortion. This means the EU strategy on the rights of the child will almost certainly be used to force governments throughout Europe to introduce the same policies which in Britain supply birth control to school girls and provides secret abortions when the contraception fails.

Kathy Sinnott, the pro-life MEP for Ireland south, said: “We can only assume that this repeated inclusion will lead to the assertion that abortion should be common practice for adolescent children…”

In two votes, the articles recognising sexual and reproductive rights for children were passed with 460 and 500 votes in favour and 180 and 150 votes against. With such a substantial majority of MEPs backing this report, it is highly likely that it will be crucial to the way the European Court of Justice interprets the children’s rights in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

On 19 October last year EU heads of state and government meeting in Lisbon decided to give legally binding value to the Charter in the new Lisbon Treaty. If and when the Charter comes into force, no parent in the EU will be able to protect their children from the influence of the birth control lobby and secret abortions.

Patrick Buckley of European Life Network said: "This is yet another step in the attempt by anti life politicians and powerful international NGOs to impose their will on all European nations. The report is a cyanide cocktail. It has many palatable aspects but it is laced with all the trappings of the culture of death which has plagued Europe for some years. There is not and never can be a right to abortion. In addition the sooner our children are protected from the anti-life propaganda that passes as sexual and reproductive health education the better. EU Parliamentary decisions of this nature bring the EU project into disrepute and highlight very worrying aspects of the Lisbon treaty.”

report on transplants rings alarm bells

A new report on organ donation says that a patient becomes a potential donor "when a decision has been taken – in the best interests of the patient – that further active treatment is no longer appropriate and should be withdrawn". That phrase from Organs for transplants – a report from the Organ Donation Taskforce may seem innocuous or even reasonable. However, the words which ring alarm bells are "treatment" and "best interests". In recent years, those words' legal meanings have been radically changed for the worse.

In 1992, the House of Lords dealt with the case of Mr Tony Bland, who had been severely brain-damaged in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster. Mr Bland was said to be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), which is better described as a persistent non-responsive state. The judges let doctors stop giving him food and fluids by tube and thus allowed intentional killing by neglect for the first time.

The Lords had turned English law on its head by ruling that tube-feeding was medical treatment. Because this so-called treatment offered no hope of curing Mr Bland, it was futile and, on that basis, could be withdrawn. The Law Lords said that keeping someone alive who was severely handicapped was not necessarily in his best interests and, on that basis too, treatment (i.e. feeding) could be withdrawn. They also ruled that, if Tony Bland's feeding tube was withdrawn, the cause of his death would be deemed as his underlying disease, not the lack of sustenance. The tube was removed and Mr Bland died from dehydration (not PVS) after nine days.

Since then, the English courts have made a number of similar decisions. Worse, the 2005 Mental Capacity Act (MCA) enshrined the Bland judgment in statute law and extended it. The way that the government bulldozed the MCA through parliament is very like the way they're currently pushing through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, as I blogged yesterday.

The MCA defines treatment even more broadly than the judges in Bland. This means that other kinds of basic care (maybe even spoon-feeding) could be withheld from patients. The MCA also creates a test for establishing patients' best interests. This includes many woolly and subjective factors but it makes no reference to the patient’s life or health, which used to be the criteria in case law. A doctor can thus disregard life and health when considering a patient's best interests.

This situation applies to any mentally-incapacitated patient, not just to people with a living will or power of attorney. Patients with a wide range of disabilities can thus be denied necessary treatment or care under the MCA. These include patients who, like my late father, suffer a stroke which worsens their dementia, and Alzheimer's sufferers.

The MCA also gives third parties (such as people with lasting powers of attorney) dangerous powers to insist upon life or death decisions. It also enables government-approved "independent mental capacity advocates" and court-appointed deputies to influence such decisions.

While the law has been changing, so has medical practice in many UK hospitals. Our family discovered this during the last few weeks of my father’s life on which I wrote a diary at the time.

Organs for transplants – a report from the Organ Donation Taskforce was published yesterday by the Department of Heath (which covers England) with the Northern Ireland DHSSPS, the Scottish government, and the Welsh Assembly Government. It's targeted at national health service administrators. Ms Elisabeth Buggins, chair of the task force, writes: “The UK has one of the worst records for organ donation in western Europe. The Taskforce was, however, greatly encouraged by the evidence it considered from across the world and believes that a 50% increase in organ donation is possible and achievable in the UK within five years. We are convinced that this goal will only be realised if our recommendations are considered and acted on as a whole.” We at SPUC will be studying the report to identify any sanctity-of-life issues in its 66 pages of recommendations and rationale.

hybrid embryos approved

The regulator has approved the creation of embryos that are part-animal and part-human for medical research. This is a disaster for human dignity, as I've been saying to the media.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Government commands Labour Peers to vote for human-animal hybrid embryos

Yesterday the Government told its members of the House of Lords to oppose an amendment seeking to ban the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos. They did this during the first day of the Report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (or HFE) bill. The process is called "whipping", a quaint Parliamentary idiom which means "secures attendance for voting in a particular direction". An amendment to the bill was defeated by 268 votes to 96, a majority of almost three to one.

The Government is blatantly determined to push its legislation through Parliament. In this situation the major thrust of the pro-life campaign, the efforts of the churches, and the efforts of pro-life politicians, must be to expose the massive attack on the sanctity of human life and on the dignity of the human person which this Bill represents. Parliamentarians must decide: Are they on the side of right or wrong? Of good or of evil? Future generations will look back at how Parliamentarians voted and what they said during the debates - in the same way we look back now at the debates and voting on the Abortion Act 1967.

It's now all the more important that pro-lifers contact Peers to urge them to vote against the Bill at third reading which could be as early as the 28th of this month.

Lord Tebbit described the nature of the issues at stake as follows: "These are matters that are more of ethics than of technology. Because something is scientifically possible does not mean that it should be done. Because it might bring great benefits to particular people does not mean it should be done. If we accept arguments of that kind we are effectively saying that the end justifies the means."

Another notable part of the debate was an oft-repeated misrepresentation of Christian teaching on early human life. Lord Walton of Detchant claimed:

"Many centuries ago in the Roman Catholic Church, St Thomas Aquinas, that great theologian, averred that life did not begin until the foetus was capable of independent existence outside the womb, but a pope in the middle of the 19th century laid down the edict that life began the moment the sperm entered the egg. In consequence, people of the Roman Catholic faith, ever since that time, have believed firmly that they should oppose all aspects of embryonic research."

Lord Walton’s claim is easily rebutted. The Catholic church and its leading authorities (including St Thomas Aquinas), from the earliest times to today, have always forbidden the destruction of the fruits of conception. Differences of opinion among theologians before the mid-19th century related not to embryo destruction (always forbidden), but at which stage of development the embryo possessed a soul and whether lighter or harsher penalties should be applied for embryo destruction before and after the soul’s presence. St Thomas could only use the science available to him at the time, derived from Aristotle, which suggested that the embryo was not sufficiently developed enough to possess a soul until some weeks after conception. It was only in the mid-19th century and advances in embryology that scientists could be sure about the physical evidence of how human life begins (at fertilisation). The Catholic church therefore changed, not its teaching on the wrongness of embryo destruction, but its penalties for embryo destruction, to be equal from fertilisation onwards.

Tuesday 15 January 2008

embryo bill, Report stage, House of Lords

The House of Lords will today debate again the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology or HFE bill, now at Report stage. Detailed information about the bill can be found on SPUC’s website at The Government seem determined to ram this bill through the House of Lords quickly, and have only allocated two days for Report. No date has yet been announced for Third Reading.

The Government have tabled a series of amendments aimed at making the bill sound better and at the same time trying to reduce any opposition to its main provisions. Anti-life Peers have also tabled some amendments to extend even further the scope of destructive embryo experimentation. In addition, some Peers have tabled amendments seeking to remove or ameliorate some aspects. Unfortunately, the bill is so fundamentally flawed, no amendments can make it ethical.

The whole purpose of this bill is to consolidate and to extend the killing and abuse of early human life. Whatever amendments may be agreed, pro-life supporters should lobby parliamentarians to urge them to oppose the bill in principle and as a whole, in particular by voting against the bill at the crucial stages of Third Reading in the House of Lords and at Second and Third Readings in the House of Commons. Pro-lifers can email Peers via You can also email your MP via

Monday 14 January 2008

he just blew in from the windy city

Fr James Heyd is a full-time staffer for Priests for Life in Chicago. He passed through SPUC's new HQ in Kennington, London, today on his way back home from a fortnight's work in Uganda.

Apart from successfully raising funds for the building of a school in Uganda, Fr Heyd has two main priorities for pro-life work in that country. With the co-operation of bishops he met there, he hopes that a Ugandan section of Priests for Life will be established. Secondly, he wants to encourage pro-life work amongst Muslims in Uganda. Like SPUC, he finds that Muslims, as a community, are naturally pro-life. He was interested to hear about the work of Muslims in SPUC in the UK.

Fr Heyd looks at SPUC's website with Paul Danon, its webmaster.

the dangers of changing the law on organ donation

Mr Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, wants to change the current system of organ donation so that people's consent is assumed unless they actively opt out. While most people probably regard organ donation as a valuable life-saving practice, presuming consent touches on a number of real problems.

Many arguments for an opt-out system are utilitarian, where the goal is just to obtain a better outcome i.e. a greater number of organs donated. The worst situation would be where people's deaths could actually be hastened because their organs were needed for someone else. There is already pressure for this. The International Forum on Transplant Ethics proposed that lethal injections be given to people who are long-term unconscious, in so-called persistent, or permanent, vegetative state, and for whom life has been deemed unworthy of living. It is argued that such injections could produce better-quality organs than if the person died naturally. While the donor would be dead when the organs were taken, the death would nevertheless have been caused to enable their removal. Even if the patient had given consent, medics would be involved in hastening his or her demise.

Donation of anything is customarily based on consent. They are, after all, my organs. However, in an opt-out system, where most people's wishes are unknown, consent is absent and you can't really speak of organ donation any more.

An opt-out system also represents a high level of interference by the state in personal life. The dead person's body effectively becomes government property.

The evidence even seems equivocal about whether such a change would increase the number of organs available. Some countries with opt-out systems do worse than the UK but some do better, suggesting that other factors may be more important.

Opt-out systems come in soft and hard versions, depending upon whether next of kin are consulted. With a soft opt-out system, as in Spain, grieving relatives are presented with a choice that many find very difficult. With a hard opt-out system, relatives can find their exclusion from the decision process very painful.

An opt-out system also requires high public awareness so that everyone who objects to organ donation actually does opt out. It's argued that opting in cannot produce high donation rates because many people who want to donate simply don’t register but, with an opt-out system, many people's genuine wishes would be over-ridden.

An opt-out system could further alienate those who already distrust the authorities. Indeed, some people who are registered to donate say they would opt out in protest at state interference if consent were presumed.

Consent might also come to be presumed in other medical contexts. It could be argued that presumed consent should extend to the use in research of tissues and organs obtained at autopsies, despite the strongly negative public reaction to revelations of such practices at UK hospitals in recent years.

While opt-out systems tend to refer to organs from deceased persons, they could also be made to apply to tissues. If they did, there could be implications for consent regarding the use of tissue from miscarried or aborted foetuses.

By contrast with opting out, opt-in systems are aligned with the ethical view that people should actively give their consent.

Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail today raises another extremely serious concern. She says: "There is, however, a yet more fundamental objection to the opt out proposal. This is the serious doubt whether people whose organs are harvested are dead." This is a matter to which I shall return.

doctors and SPUC's patient information service

Dr Michael Culloty, a retired general practitioner, approached me today after I presented the White Flower appeal in St Theresa's church, Hatch End, north London. He was interested to hear about the number of doctors making use of SPUC's patient information service.

Hundreds of doctors will be ordering leaflets in the next few weeks in response to the Society's patient information service campaign to give to patients who ask for an abortion. The leaflets provide factual information about the development of unborn children and about what abortion and its aftermath really involve. Just as importantly the leaflets explain who the can contact for support and help in a crisis pregnancy.

Dr Culloty told me that more doctors should oppose abortion by conscientious objection and he hoped they would do so as a result of SPUC's initiative. His parting shot was unanswerable: "I notice that everyone who supports abortion makes sure they've been been born themselves first!"

Dr Culloty is pictured here at St Theresa's after the White Flower appeal with Alma, his wife.

Also, I met Fr Chacko Panathara (pictured) on Sunday at St Raphaels, Yeading. Fr Chacko is a Vincentian priest who ministers to the Indian community in west London. He wants Indian Catholics to get fully engaged in campaigning work to defend unborn children.

Friday 11 January 2008

SPUC White Flower Appeal

Last Sunday I spoke at Masses in St Joseph's church Wealdstone in north west London the spiritual home of some 3000 Catholics and my family's parish church. I was speaking at the annual White Flower appeal of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

The theme of this year's appeal is the Society's outreach to women and men suffering after abortion. Too many people are suffering the emotional pain of abortion in silence. SPUC's Silent No More campaign is helping to break this silence. Women and men are now speaking out publicly about their experience in towns and cities across Britain.

SPUC’s partner in the Silent No More Campaign is British Victims of Abortion, which is funded by the SPUC Education and Research Trust. It plays a key role in SPUC’s outreach work by offering free and confidential counselling and support. A Post-Abortion Helpline is available 7 days a week. The helpline number is 0845 603 8501

SPUC is not a Catholic or religious group of any description. But it must be said the support SPUC gets from Catholics in the UK is fantastic. I guesstimate that there have been approximately 40 thousand White Flower Appeals in Catholic parishes since the project began nearly 30 years ago.

Naturally SPUC is grateful to the Catholic laity. But we are particularly indebted to Catholic priests for their vote of confidence in the Society's pro-life work.

The picture shows Fr Michael Doherty SDS, my parish priest, and John O'Brien, grand knight of the Knights of St. Columba, Council 295, in Kenton. Like thousands of Knights of St. Columba throughout the UK, John is a stalwart supporter of SPUC and its White Flower Appeal.

SPUC challenges Blair over life-issues

I wrote today to Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, to ask him if he will repudiate some of his previous political actions now that he has become a Catholic. I'm sure that SPUC's Catholic members, like me, are pleased to hear of anyone's conversion to our church. However, it's natural to feel concern about how Mr Blair behaved both as a backbencher and as prime minister. This is an opportunity for him to come clean and give witness to the pro-life stance, which we earnestly hope he has now embraced. I hope that, in his various new roles on the world stage, Mr Blair might try to undo some of the harm he has done.