Thursday 28 February 2008

one-child policy propaganda

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, has commented today on how Western media outlets are disseminating misinformation by the Chinese Communist regime allegedly implying that China might scrap or significantly relax its one-child, forced-abortion population control policy.

Reuters and the Guardian have today published reports analysing comments by Zhao Baige, Chinese's population control minister, to a Beijing press conference. The headlines read "China could scrap its one-child policy" and "China considers ending one-child policy", even though nothing in the minister's comments suggests such a move.

Anthony comments: "Experts know that the Chinese Communist regime makes misleading statements about human rights when the international spotlight is on China, such as now in the run-up to the Olympics. Such statements are intended for Western consumption only and specifically designed to mislead Westerners into wishful thinking that the regime's crimes against humanity, such as the one-child policy, are coming to an end.

"The false claim by the Guardian's Tania Branigan that the one-child policy's 'enforcement system is far less punitive than in the 80s and early 90s' is one such example of how the Chinese regime has been successful in planting such misinformation into the Western media.

"After the Olympics, the Western media should conduct on-the-ground investigations into the one-child policy's implementation, where they will discover the reality of continuing forced abortions rather than the myths the Communist regime has led them to believe," Anthony concludes.

Pictured is Hui Rong Mesrinejad, a refugee from the one-child policy (read more about her story here).

Most Excellent Order?

It’s sad to see that Vivien Crouch, a nurse who promotes the culture of death to schoolchildren, has been made an OBE (Officer of the British Empire). The notice from Buckingham Palace says that:

“For the last 27 years she has worked as a school nurse in the Bath area. She ensures that young people are aware of and can access confidential guidance on sexual health issues. One of her innovative approaches was opening up the way for girls, at one school, to access emergency contraception through establishing a drop-in clinic linked to a local GP practice. She works alongside schools, young people and parents to promote and develop effective programmes of sex and relationships education to allow young people to make informed decisions....She is a trustee for the Brook Advisory Service which promotes the rights and needs of young people in sexual health.”

We know of course that “confidential guidance on sexual health issues”, “emergency contraception”, “informed decisions”, and “rights and needs of young people in sexual health” are all euphemisms for abortion and its promotion without the knowledge or consent of parents.

Brook started in 1964 as an offshoot of the Family Planning Association, which is basically the UK’s national branch of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the world’s largest provider and promoter of abortion. Brook pioneered the tactic of divorcing children from their parents' protection by an absolute rule of confidentiality when providing ‘counselling’ (i.e. brainwashing with anti-life propaganda), which often leads to Brook referring them for an abortion.

See today's SPUC release commenting on the latest teenage pregnancy statistics.

Although it is true that OBEs and most other recipients of royal honours are nominated by the Government and not by Her Majesty the Queen herself, it is nonetheless sad to see any link between our monarchy and the culture of death. In 1989 HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) visited Brook to celebrate its 25th anniversary, one of a number of cases over recent decades when members of our Royal Family have either explicitly or implicitly supported anti-life activities. I hope that one day our national leaders, both royal and governmental, will give a better example to society by promoting a culture of life.

Wednesday 27 February 2008

abortion is never therapy

It’s good to read the report about scholars from the Catholic University of St. Paul, in Arequipa, Peru, pointing out that abortion is never a therapy, even in pregnancies when the life of the mother is endangered. The scholars’ statement is made in response to an aggressive pro-abortion protocol published by the regional government which lists 24 reasons for which a “therapeutic abortion” may be justified.

The scholars have medical science on their side. In 1992, a group of Ireland's top gynaecologists wrote: "We affirm that there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of a mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child." (John Bonner, Eamon O'Dwyer, David Jenkins, Kieran O'Driscoll, Julia Vaughan, 'Statement by Obstetricians', The Irish Times, 1 April 1992)

The Peruvian scholars’ statement also usefully draws attention to the distinction between abortion – the direct killing of the unborn child – and ethical treatments in which the death of the child is foreseen but not intended.

Monday 25 February 2008

abortion amendments at best a distraction

The Daily Mail reports today that David Cameron, the Conservative leader, would like to vote to reduce the current 24-week deadline in what is the first Parliamentary vote on the issue since 1990. "If there is an opportunity in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, I will be voting to bring this limit down from 24 weeks.”

With all due respect to Mr Cameron and the Daily Mail, they are jumping the gun.

Or rather, they are watching the wrong hare – one that isn’t even running yet. Of prior importance is the HFE bill itself – a hare that is running, and on a disastrous course. It is a wholesale extension of the already deplorable law on embryology. The bill contains a plethora of measures that will lead to the abuse, manipulation and destruction of countless more embryonic human lives.

Talk about abortion amendments is, at best, a distraction which will prove helpful to the government which wants to maximise its majority at the Bill’s second reading.

Friday 22 February 2008

Euthanasia, the white rose and students

One of SPUC's most important campaigns involves campaigning against euthanasia, and another involves university students, including Christians. Today marks the 65th anniversary of the trial and execution of the leaders of the White Rose Society, a group of Christian students at Munich University which resisted Nazism. These students read the famous 1941 sermon by Clemens August von Galen, Catholic bishop of Munster, against the Nazi euthanasia programme. One of the group, Hans Scholl, stated in the spring of 1942: “Finally someone has the courage to speak”. Bishop Galen's protest prompted and encouraged Hans Scholl and fellow student Alexander Schmorell to write their own anti-Nazi leaflets in June-July 1942. In his sermon Bishop (later Cardinal, and more recently declared 'Blessed') von Galen said:
"Once admit the right to kill unproductive persons . . . then none of us can be sure of his life. We shall be at the mercy of any committee that can put a man on the list of unproductives. There will be no police protection, no court to avenge the murder and inflict punishment upon the murderer. Who can have confidence in any doctor? He has but to certify his patients as unproductive and he receives the command to kill. If this dreadful doctrine is permitted and practised it is impossible to conjure up the degradation to which it will lead. Suspicion and distrust will be sown within the family itself."
The students took a white rose as their symbol, to represent purity and innocence in the face of evil. Pictured here is Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl (centre), and Christoph Probst (right) with a white flower between them. (The 2005 film 'Sophie Scholl - The Last Days' has won many awards.) SPUC adopted the same symbol and SPUC's White Flower appeal is held every year.

Human and civil rights was the White Rose Society's main theme and the human and civil rights is also the main theme of the international student pro-life conference SPUC is organising in Scotland, March 28-30 (visit for more information)

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Fr John Fleming on the Mental Capacity Act

I am in Nottingham today with Fr Fleming, the bioethicist, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and adviser to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). He is speaking to Catholic clergy in England this week on behalf of the Society. His talk includes an unflinching analysis of the Mental Capacity Act.

The Act provides for euthanasia by omission of reasonable care, Fr Fleming says. It does this by a faulty understandings of ordinary care, autonomy and “best interests”.

Ordinary care

Fr Fleming explains Pope John Paul's teaching that the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. However, under the Mental Capacity Act, artificially-delivered food and fluids is seen as medical treatment.


Autonomy is the right to self-determination, the right to free choice. However, free choice is linked to fundamental human values and inalienable human rights such as the right to life. A person cannot exercise his autonomy by giving away his right to freedom, for example, by selling himself into slavery. Neither can he use his autonomy by denying his right to life as the Mental Capacity Act permits.

Neither can my autonomy be exercised by another person. The Mental Capacity Act falls prey to a false understanding of autonomy in this respect too. “Autonomy” cannot be handed on like a baton in a relay race, Fr Fleming says. You can make decisions on my behalf when I am not able to do that for myself but that is not an exercise in autonomy. It might be you acting autonomously on my behalf.

This leads to another danger: Relatives can be overcome with identifying with the patient's suffering and the problem of transference arises: "Please put grandma out of my misery".

“Best interests”

Hurt a child and the law intervenes, Fr Fleming says. The law ensures that parents' choices on behalf of their children are constrained by the child's objective “best interests”. However, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 imposes no such constraint on those with power of attorney for, and doctors caring for, mentally incapacitated patients.. The patient's “best interests” in the new law are not objective but are subjectively defined.

The Mental Capacity Act by enshrining in law euthanasia by neglect is the first legislative step to active euthanasia, and those behind it know that's the case, Fr Fleming says.

Remembering but not mourning Deng Xiaoping

Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of Deng Xiaoping, the de facto leader of Communist China between 1978 and 1992. Deng is well-known for having ordered the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Deng is less well-known as the founder of China's one-child policy, which is implemented by forced abortions and many other coercive means. The one-child policy only started in 1979 once Deng, one of the founders of Communist China, had taken control of the regime. Deng - who himself had six children! - said in 1987: "In order to reduce the population, use whatever means you must, but do it!” Deng is pictured here with Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and author of the infamous NSSM 200 (National Security Study Memorandum 200), which recommended that the United States should promote population control in the developing world in order to secure American interests. The West should reject the amoral Realpolitik of NSSM 200 and instead ensure that the Chinese Communist regime cannot use this year's Olympics to divert attention from its crimes against unborn children and their mothers.

Monday 18 February 2008

Saving the children?

Save the Children, the international humanitarian charity, has again undermined its cause by promoting an anti-life approach. In a report issued today entitled "Saving children's lives: why equity matters" (PDF 428KB) Save the Children states that in Sierra Leone "understanding of sexual and reproductive health is low" and so "[i]n 2005 [Save the Children] provided basic reproductive health equipment" to clinics in a particular district. The staff in the Save the Children-supported clinics are now enabled "to discuss a range of health and family planning issues" with pregnant women. The report goes on to claim that "[a] huge reduction in neonatal deaths is also possible if pregnant mothers can access appropriate support, including help to control the timing and frequency of pregnancies....The effective use of contraception can help mothers to control their fertility and space their pregnancies in a way that enhances their health and that of their babies." We can say a number of things in relation to this report:
  • Save the Children is not pro-life - indeed, as detailed in SPUC's charity bulletin (PDF 123KB), it supports the ideology of abortion;
  • 'Reproductive health', 'family planning' and 'contraception' are terms which often entail abortion operations and/or abortion-inducing birth control drugs and devices;
  • Even where the particular methods of artificial birth control used are not themselves abortifacient, the mass provision of artificial birth control is accompanied by a rise in abortion - the killing of children - as leaders of the pro-abortion lobby acknowledge;
  • Population control endangers a country's prosperity by depleting its best natural resource - people - and money that could otherwise be spent on primary health care.

Friday 15 February 2008

the rights of the unborn in international law

I was in Ireland this week with Dr John Fleming, President of Campion College, Sydney, a new Catholic university. He was speaking to priests in Galway on the rights of the unborn in international law at a meeting organized by Pat Buckley, director of European Life Network, Ireland.

Dr John Fleming is a Catholic priest, married with three children. He is a bioethicist and widely published in that field. He was a foundational member of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee, which produced the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights.

He has recently co-edited a book Common Ground, launched in Melbourne last September, which contains a chapter by Fr Fleming entitled “What rights, if any, do the unborn have under international law?”

Copies of his book are available from SPUC at £15 plus postage and packing.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Why Humanae Vitae was right about contraception

It's good to see that Janet Smith, the famous author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation later and editor of Why Humanae Vitae Was Right is speaking in Westminster Cathedral Hall on 6th March.

After 34 years working in the pro-life movement, I am convinced that the teaching of Humanae Vitae on the inseparable connection between the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marriage act is of fundamental importance for the future of the family and for the sanctity of human life throughout the world. Furthermore, I believe that what is happening today to the family and to the sanctity of human life in Europe provides overwhelming evidence of the prophetic importance of Pope Paul VI’s words:

“The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life." Humanae Vitae, 11

In a presentation in Warsaw last May, at the World Congress of Families, I said:

Britain is witnessing the fulfilment of the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s historic encyclical which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. Speaking about the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative significance of sexual intercourse he wrote: “Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.” (Humanae Vitae 17)

Moreover, as Pope John Paul II points out in Evangelium Vitae (13), there is a close interconnection between contraception and abortion.According to the manufacturers, one of the contraceptive pill’s modes of action is to cause an early abortion.

Last year [2006], a teacher at a Catholic comprehensive school for boys and girls in Kent, England, spoke out publicly about the sex education given to her class of 13- to 14-year-old children. The teacher, a Miss McLernon, said: “I think people should be aware of what is going on in schools. I witnessed the nurse using a plastic model to show these children how to put on what she said was a chocolate flavoured condom.” She went to on to explain to her pupils that flavoured condoms had been made because prostitutes didn’t like the taste of rubber.

Miss McLernon added: “Every child in the class was given a card explaining where you could get free contraceptives and the abortion-inducing morning-after pill. The card also gave details of a website for young people explaining how a surgical abortion could be arranged. This is a Catholic school where you would expect children to be protected from this sort of thing.”

Sadly, more and more Catholic parents are telling us at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children about terrible experiences in Catholic schools, both at secondary and primary school level. Protests on the part of Catholic parents and teachers seeking to protect young people do not appear to be heard.

The full text of my talk is here. A list of resources published by Janet Smith is here.

Monday 11 February 2008

The intrinsic wrongnesss of IVF

A story in the Sunday Telegraph points towards the intrinsic wrongnesss of IVF, proving how allowing human life to be created outside the body and inside the laboratory has led to the killing of human beings and the abuse of human dignity. The Sunday Telegraph reports that the government has admitted that in recent years there have been hundreds of accidents in which embryos have lost, damaged or destroyed by IVF centres.

It is only because legal permission for IVF has turned early human life into a commodity that the IVF centre staff involved haven't been charged with unlawful homicide. Imagine the outcry if hundreds of new-born babies were accidentally lost, damaged or destroyed by neo-natal medics.

Sunday 10 February 2008

Build peaceful pro-life resistance

In addition to developing prudent political opposition to the killing policies of the UK government and parliament, we need, I believe, to develop peaceful, pro-life resistance campaigns against such policies. My belief is reinforced by news I received this weekend.

Morning-after pill manufacturer’s admissions and evasion…

A reader forwarded me a letter sent to her friends this week by Bayer Schering Pharma, the manufacturers of the morning-after pill (which may cause an early abortion by preventing the embryo from implanting in the lining of the womb).

The Bayer Schering letter underlines three major concerns for UK citizens, especially parents:

  1. There is very limited medical evidence on the effects of the morning-after pill on girls under the age of 16. [Levonelle 1500 delivers 50 times the daily dosage of the Norgeston daily mini-pill.]
  2. Scherings carefully avoid answering the question of whether they are accountable for any ill-effects arising from the administration of the morning after pill. If Scherings isn’t accountable for the effects of their product, who is?
  3. If pregnancy occurs after taking the morning-pill, the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy should be considered.

Bayer Schering’s important letter is a reminder of the shameful teenage pregnancy policy of the government, personally introduced by Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, in June 1999. His government’s policy, amongst other things, targeted children under the age of 16 to be given the morning-after pill without the knowledge or consent of parents. Tony Blair said: “This is a comprehensive programme of action which we will put into practice straight away”.

The government pursues this policy with reckless disregard for the unknown ill-effects of the morning-after pill on the children, our children and grandchildren.

Ectopic pregnancy is a significant cause of maternal death.

Health professionals, pharmacists, teachers, school governors should be encouraged by pro-lifers to resist the government’s policy by conscientious objection. Those who make decisions on our children’s behalf – providing abortifacient birth control and abortions to children under the age of 16 and others – must be made aware that we hold them accountable for those decisions.

Contact me if you want to join SPUC’s peaceful pro-life resistance campaign.

Friday 8 February 2008

suspended sentence for assisting suicide

This time last week the press reported on the sentence given to a man from West Sussex who, reportedly, placed a plastic bag and pillow over his wife’s face after she had taken an overdose of pills. His wife, Mrs Cook, had multiple sclerosis. Mr Cook was given a suspended jail sentence for assisting her suicide “on the ground of diminished responsibility”.

Alison Davis (pictured), the leader of No Less Human, a division of SPUC, wrote to The Times about Mr Cook’s sentence. Alison believes that the underlying reason for the light sentence was that Mrs Cook was disabled, depressed and wanted to die. Since Alison’s letter to The Times has not been published, she suggests that I publish it instead:

“It seems to me that this [kind of sentence] has become the norm when disabled people who are simultaneously depressed are deliberately killed. It is assumed that the disabled person is "right to want to die" and no effort is put into trying to ameliorate the effects of severe depression - something that would be done as a matter of course for people with no obvious disabling condition.

“I have several disabling conditions and use a wheelchair full time. I experience severe spinal pain on a daily basis, and even morphine doesn't always control the pain.

“Twenty years ago, when doctors thought I didn't have long left to live I decided I wanted to die. It was a settled wish that lasted over 10 years. I attempted suicide several times, and had assisted suicide been legal then I would have requested it. Under the rules that apply in Holland, Belgium and Switzerland I would have qualified for it. Failing that, if I could have found someone prepared to "assist" me to die, I would have jumped at the chance.

“It took my friends many years to help me change my mind about wanting to die. I still have the same level of pain now, and my disabling conditions have deteriorated significantly. What has changed is my outlook on life. If assisted suicide had been available to me then,no one would ever have known that the future held something better for me, and that the doctors' prognosis was wrong.

“I suggest that what sick and disabled people like me really need is help and support to live with dignity until we naturally die. Cases such as that of Mr & Mrs Cook only serve to underline a negative view of the value of suffering lives, and create a double standard - non-disabled depressed people are treated, disabled depressed people are killed. This is unfair, unjust and unworthy of a civilised society.”

supporter climbs 22,800' peak for SPUC

One of our supporters has climbed the highest mountain in the world outside the Himalayas to raise funds for SPUC’s work. Mr Mark Norbury, who is British-born but lives in Canada, set off to climb Aconcagua, Argentina, on the 10th of last month and reached the summit of the Andean mountain on the 27th. He has since made it safely back to base camp.

Mark had to contend with altitude sickness, windburn and sunburn. He said: “Nearing the summit I felt really dizzy with the altitude and my body kept telling me to just lie down and rest, but I continued on, one step at a time. I never once seriously considered giving up. I'd come this far and was so determined to reach the top. I crawled on to the summit at 4 pm.”

Mark has been a keen mountaineer since his youth. His first climb was Great Gable in the Lake District, England, at the age of two. In 2002, he conquered Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa. Aconcagua is 6,962 metres (22,841 feet).

Mark said that deciding which organisation to support through sponsorship for his climb was not difficult. “Protecting the lives of children is, I believe, the most important challenge facing the world at this moment. Life begins at conception, as scientists can prove, and there is little that distinguishes a baby within the womb from a baby who has been born. Both are dependent on their mother for nourishment, warmth, love and all that sustains their life. The average mother or her doctor would not dream of killing a baby after birth, yet sadly it has become socially and politically acceptable to kill a baby within his or her mother's womb."

If you would like to make a credit/payment card donation to Mark’s fundraising efforts please ring (01772) 258580.

Thursday 7 February 2008

Britain's failing teen pregnancy strategy

The British government's teenage pregnancy strategy aimed to cut the conception rate among under-18s by 15% between 1998 and 2004, and to halve that rate by 2010. It has spent more than £250 million yet has only achieved an 11.5% reduction. The most significant reduction in the rate from its high point in 1998 was in 1999 before the strategy was implemented. The pace of reduction actually slowed down once the strategy was implemented. Central to the strategy has been the availability and promotion of birth control - both "contraception" which may work abortifaciently and abortion via the Abortion Act 1967.

The human cost of this policy is incalculable. While the conception rate in 1998 for England and Wales was 47.1 per thousand, only 42% of those conceptions led to abortion. The conception rate in 2005 was 41.4 per thousand, but 46.4% of these ended in abortion.

Britain now has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in western Europe. [Daily Mail, 6 February] The government wants teenagers to use long-term birth control methods such as injections, implants and intrauterine devices. [Daily Mail, 6 February] However, contrary to the government's claims justifying its policy, the availability of birth control is not a factor in teenage pregnancy rates.

The social causes of teenage pregnancy

Professor David Paton of Nottingham University (pictured) found that teenagers in poor areas were more likely to visit birth control clinics, yet those areas had higher teen pregnancy rates. Teenagers in better-off parts of England were less likely to go to clinics even though the rate was lower there. [The economics of family planning and underage conceptions, Journal of Health Economics, March 2002] Professor Paton found that social deprivation was a factor in teenage pregnancy. More recently, he has said: "An improvement in general education levels appears to be the most significant factor in reducing teenage pregnancies."

Although politicians want to throw yet more birth control at this problem, they do also acknowledge the social factors. Ms Beverley Hughes MP, the children's minister, speaks of "tailored support for all teenage parents to reduce future teenage pregnancies." A ministry statement says that such support: "… would also tackle the underlying causes of early pregnancy such as low aspirations, disengagement from learning, poor educational attainment and poor emotional health." [Department for Children, Schools and Families, 29 January]

Mr Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, recently told parliament: "The map of teenage pregnancy in Britain is the map of poverty and deprivation. Last week, I put together some statistics, which, for the first time, were done by constituency, rather than by local authority. They show that the map is a consistent line of the poorest communities in this country". [Westminster Hall Hansard, 29 January]

Mr Bryant's report, based on extensive interviews with teenage mothers, said that in 2005 there were 39,804 conceptions among under-18s in England - a rate of 41.3 per thousand. Teenage pregnancy was linked with deprivation, leading to a: “vicious cycle of underachievement, benefit dependency, ill health, lack of aspiration, poor parenting and child poverty.” Press coverage refers to Mr Bryant's warning that some teenage girls were getting pregnant to get a council flat. This may or may not be true, but no amount of sex-education or free condoms is likely to prevent a girl who wants a baby from becoming pregnant.

The relationship between household-type and poverty

Social disadvantage is directly associated with family breakdown. Children raised by two married parents do better financially, academically and socially. Children raised outside a stable family structure find it harder to form stable, committed families for their own children.

National government surveys in the US show that, in families where the parents have always belonged to each other and to their children, there is the lowest level of child poverty (12%) and in stepfamilies it is 13%. The level of poverty in divorced, single-parent families is 31% and, with cohabiting parents, it is 39%. Separated, single-parent families have a poverty-level of 41%, while always-single mother households are at 67%. [Dignity of the child from conception and its right to life, home, and family, Dr Patrick Fagan, World Congress of Families IV, Warsaw, Poland, 12 May 2007]

Therefore, the biggest single contribution government could make to reducing social deprivation, child poverty and, consequently, teenage pregnancy, would be to ensure that children were raised by both biological parents in a married relationship.

Undermining parental rights

The teenage pregnancy strategy actually undermines families by removing the parents' rights to decide the nature of the sex-education their children receive and when they should receive it. A Council of Europe document states: "In exercise of any functions which it assures in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions." [article 2, Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as amended by protocol 11, Paris, 20 March 1952.]

Ms Beverley Hughes recently said to parliament: "What that strategy has been designed to do is, first, encourage parental engagement." [Westminster Hall Hansard, 29 January] However, in the field of sex-education, Ms Hughes's government has removed parents' rights. It is now threatening to target children in primary schools, and to make sex-education mandatory. Government policy has also assailed parental authority by secretly supplying birth control and abortion to underage children.

Moral hazard and contraceptive failure

People are more likely to avoid risks when there is no safety-net. Teenagers engage in risky sexual behaviour if they think they can get birth control without their parents finding out, and a secret abortion if contraception fails. Insurance companies call this moral hazard. [Professor David Paton, Faith, July-August 2007]

Contraception is much more likely to fail than people generally believe. A report published on the 29th of last month by Marie Stopes International in Australia shows that some 43% of women who became pregnant unintentionally were using oral contraceptives when they conceived and another 27% reportedly used a condom. This highlights the foolishness of a sexual health strategy which is founded on the assumption that children will be more efficient in the use of contraception than adults.

Health risks of hormonal birth control

The evidence shows use of birth control (especially by those under 20) is associated with significant risks. The teenage pregnancy strategy could actually be contributing to the human and economic costs of sexual ill-health. Hormonal birth control such as the pill is associated with cancer. Despite news stories suggesting the pill can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, there is a well-established link to an increased risk of cancer of the breast, cervix and liver. These effects are even more dangerous when exposure to pill is begun before physical maturity, and goes on for many years.

Cervical cancer

The connection between cervical cancer and the pill, has been under investigation since 1964. Since then studies have confirmed a heightened risk, particularly to teenager users. In 1988, research on 47,000 women published in The Lancet showed the connection between use of the pill and genital cancers.

Breast cancer

This probably presents a greater risk to pill-users than cervical cancer. Research in the Netherlands in 1994 showed a heightened risk associated with long term use. In 1995 The Lancet cited research which concluded women who had started oral contraceptive use at between 20 and 24 years of age had three times the risk of developing breast cancer before the age of 46 than those who had never used it.

Further studies have concurred with this and the Netherlands Cancer Institute reported the particular danger of use before the age of 20. In 1996 research conducted by Malcolm Pike showed a 50% increase of breast cancer in women who started on the pill before the age of 20. The results of tamoxifen, the anti-oestrogen drug, in the prevention of breast cancer confirms the role of oestrogen (and therefore the combined pill and morning-after pills) in the development of cancer. Bringing a pregnancy to full term safeguards against breast cancer.

Blood clots

The risk of death from clots can begin within one month of starting on the pill. In 1968 hospital admissions for blood clots were shown to be nine times greater in women who used the pill than those who did not.

Despite the development of the low-dose pill, this risk remains four times greater in users of the pill. Women with hereditary high cholesterol are advised not to use the pill. Users with a hereditary defect of the clotting factor in their blood face a 30-fold increased risk of developing clots compared to normal non-users.

Liver tumours

These are rare and, although not usually malignant, such tumours can cause death if they rupture.

Minor side effects

These include depression, raised blood pressure (with an increased risk of stroke even in girls as young as 14), and conditions such as eczema and chloasma.

Sexually transmitted diseases

While the discussion of teenage sexual health has focused on teenage pregnancy, the rise in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases has been alarming. There are serious implications for the future fertility of children and teenagers who contract such diseases.


The teenage pregnancy strategy is not working. While the conception rate has fallen slightly, the number of recorded abortions continues to rise, without even including early abortion caused by birth control drugs and devices. (The manufacturer's description of the Norgeston mini-pill concedes that it can stop young embryos from implanting in the womb (nidation).)

The government stubbornly insists that what is needed is even more birth control, yet this has been shown not to be a factor in teenage pregnancy. The government pays lip-service to the social factors which do lead to teenage pregnancy yet undermines the traditional family which is more likely to give children an emotionally stable and materially adequate upbringing. In all this, we are scarcely told about how birth control can fail and can threaten women's health.

For further information on anything mentioned here, or on what you can do in your area to counter the government's failed teenage pregnancy strategy, contact me at

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Northern Ireland unity against British abortion law

I attended a meeting today at the Northern Ireland Assembly led by Jeffrey Donaldson (right), a DUP MLA and MP and chairman of the all-party pro-life group at Stormont and Pat Ramsey (left), an SDLP MLA and vice-chairman of the group.

Also there were Johanna Higgins, a pro-life barrister, Karen Jardine of the Evangelical Alliance, Mrs Betty Gibson, chairwoman of SPUC Northern Ireland, Liam Gibson, SPUC development officer in Northern Ireland, Bernie Smyth, leader of Precious Life, Lynn Coles of Silent No More in Northern Ireland, Aidan Gallagher of Human Life International, Ireland and a number of other MLAs and pro-life activists.

Everyone at the meeting was united in opposing the imposition of Westminster-style abortion legislation on Northern Ireland which was overwhelmingly opposed in a debate at Stormont last October 22nd on a motion which was agreed unopposed.

Monday 4 February 2008

Lords fail to oppose unethical embryo bill

The House of Lords this evening approved the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill on third reading without any substantial restraining amendments. The Lords failed to divide on the Bill.

An attempt by Baroness Williams of Crosby to ensure that embryos could only be used for research when no alternative exists was rejected. Pro-embryo research peers said it was over-restrictive and impracticable.

The clause would have required researchers to produce evidence that the research couldn’t be done without using human embryos, and that the project was likely to produce an outcome. This was opposed by the government as well as peers involved in embryo research, and the House voted by 197 to 41 against the amendment. Following this defeat, critics of the bill failed to divide the House over the bill as a whole, allowing it an unopposed third reading.

During the debate, Lord Jenkin of Roding, a former health minister pointed to the lack of any moral framework behind the proposals – though not opposed to embryo research in principle himself. He said it was a “not to the credit of the House [of Lords]” that the Bill, now at its final stage in the Lords, still lacked any underlying ethical principle.

The Bishop of Chester urged that scientists should have more respect for dead people than to use their cells to create cloned human embryos or hybrid embryos for research, but the government assured the House of Lords that this would be permitted in the bill before it became law. Lord Jenkin rightly identified the total absence of a moral foundation for the bill. The Warnock report in 1984 accorded the human embryo a vague ‘special status’, and the 1990 embryology law paid lip-service to this principle. The current government rides roughshod over any such pretence of ethical sensitivity. The idea that anyone who has previously given general permission for the use of their tissue in research may now be cloned is shocking. This also applies to children who have died, and whose cells may have been cultured and developed into cell lines for legitimate research.

Lord Walton, in arguing for the creation of cloned embryos in such situations, said that it would only apply where there was “no indication that the donor had any objection”. Lord Walton’s assurance was absurd and misleading. Those who donated tissue 20 or 30 years ago would not have had any way of knowing that Lord Walton and his colleagues would be putting forward such obscene proposals now – and therefore no opportunity to express an objection. He will do grave damage to the reputation of doctors and researchers, and the government may seriously harm critical services like the blood donor service if they do what they promise and incorporate this in the bill. Many patients and donors will not want to give any of their genetic material to UK institutions if this becomes law.

"Guilt and Anger over Abortion"

Under this arresting headline, the Sunday Times yesterday carried three excellent letters .

One of them is particularly powerful:

"Like most educated, modern young women, I had believed that abortion was a right that should be freely and safely available...Five years later, not a day passes that I do not regret my decision. The gut-wrenching guilt and the anger at those who played a role in the event, have only worsened over time – especially after the birth of my first child."

These letters remind us how important it is to keep on telling the truth about abortion. Your sensitive witness in the media may save lives from an abortion - a mother's, a father's, and an unborn baby's.

You might want to Have Your Say in The Sunday Times on-line letters page.

Tony Blair "bid" to be president of EU council

“I’ll be president of Europe if you’ll give me the power – Blair” ran the headline in The Guardian on Saturday, and it certainly caught my eye.

I wrote to Tony Blair early last month following reports that he had been received into the Catholic church.

I asked him if he now repudiates:
  • voting in 1990 for abortion up to birth three times during Parliamentary debates on what became the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990;
  • personally endorsing his government’s policy of supplying abortion and birth control drugs and devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parental knowledge or consent;
  • his government introducing legislation which has led to a law which allows, and in certain circumstances requires, doctors to starve and dehydrate to death vulnerable patients;
  • his government’s commitment to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right;
  • personally championing destructive experiments on human embryos.
I have no wish for Tony Blair to don sackcloth and ashes. I’ll do that for my own sins before I judge anyone else.

However, Tony Blair’s position on abortion, abortifacient birth control, IVF and euthanasia by neglect is a matter of public record. As prime minister he was in the forefront of championing the culture of death not only in Britain but also, on abortion, around the world through the UK’s foreign policy.

Particularly while there’s a possibility of Tony Blair running for public office in any part of the world, citizens have a right and a duty to challenge him on his political record on pro-life matters. As a Catholic myself, I do not believe that politicians can be protected from public scrutiny simply by being received into the Catholic church.

If Tony Blair does repudiate these positions, I will be the first to shout it from the rooftops.

Friday 1 February 2008

scientists want to make embryos from dying children's tissue

The government is under pressure to let scientists take tissue from dying children and use it to make human and human-animal embryos. The creation of human or hybrid cloned embryos is morally contentious and highly controversial in the community. On these grounds alone it should not proceed.

The speculative nature of the proposal

Even if there was an ethical argument for such research, the proposal is highly speculative and any potential benefits are unknown. My source, a BBC website story, quotes the bodies which are lobbying for this as writing: "The Bill, as it stands, imposes a barrier to one of the most potent tools for research into the most severe childhood diseases." This is untrue. No-one actually knows whether cloning or the formation of other hybrids has any research value. No-one knows either if such embryo formation can apply to the study of the severe childhood diseases which lobbyists mention. Previous arguments for miracle cures from using embryos have yielded no treatments, and research has arguably proven of limited value. This article seems to reflect similar overblown claims.

There have also been no specific explanations about why hybrid embryos in particular will be of any research or treatment value. Some scientists or other advocates think all they have to do to get an unethical proposal through is to claim that cures for diseases will be forthcoming. The proponents ought to be pressed to explain in greater detail, on reasonable scientific grounds, how they think hybrids will advance research into diseases, and on what already established scientific research using other interspecies hybridisation they are making their claims.

Viable alternatives

There already are good alternative research methods. Work by Yamanaka and others with induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells has made nuclear transfer unnecessary, whether using human or animal eggs. Professor Ian Wilmut, who cloned Dolly the sheep and holds the UK licence to clone humans, announced in November that he was walking away from his cloning licence in favour of iPS, which he declared to be both "100 times more interesting" and "easier to accept socially". Professor James Thomson, who first discovered human embryonic stem cells, confirmed that these new iPS cells derived from human skin had every property of cloned embryonic stem cells, and declared, "Isn't it great to start a field and then to end it?"

Professor Martin Pera, former director of embryonic stem cell research at the Australian National Stem Cell Centre, wrote of "a new year and a new era". He said the generation of iPS cells through direct reprogramming "avoids the difficult ethical controversies surrounding the use of embryos for deriving stem cells". [Nature 451, 135-136 (10 January 2008) doi:10.1038/451135a]


It is generally agreed that consent should be sought from any participant in research, and particular care must apply where vulnerability by age or condition exists. This is a basic principle of research ethics and there are very limited circumstances under which it can be waived. Such circumstances might include:

  • when it is reasonable to believe that the participant would have consented if they were able
  • the risk to participants is minimal
  • the project is not controversial and does not involve significant moral or cultural sensitivities in the community
  • the research supports a reasonable possibility of benefit over standard care
  • any risk or burden of the research is justified by its potential benefits to him or her
  • the research objectives cannot be pursued by any other means.

Even if the proposed research were ethical and even if certain outcomes could be guaranteed, consent could not be waived on several of these grounds.

Ethical objections

Even if can be proved that embryos from dying children's tissue can produce therapies, and even if the consent issue could be addressed, the ethical objections simply rule out the practice. Last year we described those objections in our submission to a parliamentary committee on a bill which was the forerunner to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill now before parliament. We said that the former bill: "Accelerates the waning respect for human life that is marking scientific endeavours in the modern biotechnological era."

Premature baby study welcome but isn't guide to abortion law reform

According to PA a study from University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) found survival rates for babies born alive between 22 and 25 weeks of gestation rose from 32% in 1981 to 71% in 2000.

The professor behind the research, Professor John Wyatt, said it showed what could be achieved if staffing levels were kept consistent and adequate resources were pumped into units.

Anyone who has experienced the trauma of a premature birth will warmly welcome scientific advances in saving both prematurely-born babies; and Professor Wyatt’s work in this field helps to fulfil the provision in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that says that children need special care and protection both before and after birth.

A child's capacity to survive is not what makes him or her a human being. When a premature baby, after receiving expert treatment, sadly dies, doctors are not criticised for treating a non-person. They have tried to save a baby, but sadly failed.

From a political perspective, it is important to note that the viability of unborn children should not be used as a guide for reforming the law on abortion. Viability is a criterion which varies from place to place in the country and from place to place in the world. Viability has nothing to do with the humanity of the child in the womb; it has everything to do with technological progress and the excellence and dedication of medical staff.

Passing legislation on such an arbitrary basis leads to legislatures making equally arbitrary exceptions – as the UK Parliament did in 1990, making abortion lawful up till birth for disabled babies and on certain other grounds.

Contact me for more information on this vital aspect of the abortion debate.