A blog launched on the 41st anniversary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the first pro-life organisation in the world, established on 11 January 1967. I wrote this blog in my role as SPUC's chief executive, commenting on pro-life news, reflecting on pro-life issues and promoting SPUC's work. I retired from my post on 31st August 2021 and will therefore be adding no further posts.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
floral tribute to unborn lives lost
Another picture, courtesy of William Jolliffe, taken at the service of prayer at Westminster Abbey, London, on the 40th anniversary weekend of the implementation of the 1967 Abortion Act (27th April 1968). It shows a simple floral tribute in memory of nearly seven million babies aborted under that legislation. It was laid at the Memorial to Innocent Victims to the left of the West Door built into the pavement surrounding the Abbey.
Sunday, 27 April 2008
Pro-life groups come together in 40th anniversary witness and prayer
Yesterday, in Parliament Square, London, eight brave people spoke to hundreds of listeners and thousands of passers-by about their personal abortion experiences on the 40 anniversary weekend of the implementation of the Abortion Act 1967 (on 27th April 1968). Their voices and stories are changing the nature of pro-life work in the UK and in other parts of the world. Their defence of life, summed up in their simple statement, is unanswerable : "I regret my abortion".
After the prayer service, we went back to join other SPUC supporters who'd stayed behind to spread the message about abortion's aftermath to the general public in the heart of London, forming a pro-life chain. 50 other such events were simultaneously held by SPUC branches in towns and cities throughout Britain.
Saturday, 26 April 2008
Do you provide a salt abortion?
A few minutes ago, I took a telephone call from an anxious-sounding young man asking if we can provide a salt abortion. I quietly spoke to him about SPUC's work in relation to abortion, the nature of abortion and the harm it can do to mothers and to others. Although I knew I was detaining him I tried to keep talking in order to explain the help that's available. He was a naturally polite person and listened for a little while. He said: "We know the baby deserves to be protected but sometimes it's just not convenient...". Finally, he said: "OK, I've got to go..." and we said goodbye.
This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967 coming into effect - on 27th April 1968. If you believe in prayer, say a prayer about everyone involved in the situation described to me by this young man asking if we could provide a salt abortion. There have been nearly 7 million abortions under the legislation passed by the British Parliament over 40 years ago. Pray that new casualties - casualties of inconvenience - can be prevented.
It's situations like this which I'll be thinking about when I give my talk this afternoon. One of the implications of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is that it might be used to widen even further British abortion legislation, making abortion even more easy to obtain. Sadly, there's a substantial pro-abortion majority in Parliament. I sincerely hope that when the Government's states that it has no plans to change the abortion law, it will seek to promote a consensus that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is not used to open up the Abortion Act on the floor of Parliament.
Friday, 25 April 2008
Tibet: more evidence of coercive population control
Channel 4's 'Dispatches' programme recently sent Tash Despa, a Tibetan refugee and now a British resident, to Tibet to travel undercover for 3 months to find out what life was like for ordinary ethnic Tibetans under Chinese rule.
Before entering Tibet, Tash interviewed a male Tibetan refugee, who recounted one occasion when "[t]he Chinese ordered us to attend a conference about Socialism. Its main purpose was to carry out sterilisation of women and to fine those who had more than 2 children."
Once in Tibet itself, Tash interviewed a male Tibetan torture victim. The programme's narrator explained: "Despite years of torture and imprisonment, this man is determined to continue to fight the Chinese. More recently he has been investigating the government's population control policies." The torture victim said: "There were 6 million Tibetans before Chinese rule. There are only about 5 million of them in the Tibetan region today. So there has been no population growth in this period. Yet now they are carrying out forced sterilisations in the Tibetan region. Those who refuse are punished. They are implementing this here and now. This is a violation of human rights."
The narrator continues: "Tash had made contact with a woman who claimed to have had personal experience of enforced sterilisation. She asked the team to arrive in the early hours of the morning, terrified of the consequences of foreigners being seen coming to her house."
Tash notes: "She's very nervous..."
Narrator: "She said she had a chilld out of quota under the terms of China's one child policy. As a result, she was given the choice of a fine she couldn't pay or sterilisation."
Woman: "Those who can't pay the fine have to have a sterilisation. If you have good connections you can buy a sterilisation certificate for around 1000 Yuan. But those who don't have any money have to have the sterilisation whether they like it or not. I was forcibly taken away against my will."
Tash: "Did you cry?"
Woman: "I cried when I was lying on the bed after the sterilisation. I cried thinking that I'd been forced to have a sterilisation when there was nothing wrong with me. I was feeling sick and giddy and couldn't look up. It was so painful. Apparently they cut the fallopian tubes and stitch them up. When they opened me up they pulled them out by the roots. It was agonising. They didn't use anaesthetic. They just smeared something on my stomach and carried out the sterilisation. Apart from aspirin for the pain there were no other drugs. And then from the day after the operation I had to look after myself. If I needed a drip I had to pay for it myself."
Tash: "Can you show me the scars from the sterilisation?"
The woman shows Tash her scars, recounting how "I was so frightened. I can't even remember how I felt. I wasn't the only one. About half a dozen women in our village had to undergo sterilisation."
Woman: "Yes, forcibly. No one would have done it willingly. They come to the door to fetch you by force. They threaten to confiscate stoves and anything valuable from the house. So people get frightened and go for the sterilisation. Some people were physically damaged by the operation. They have limps and have to drag their hips. Since then people are too scared to have many children."
The narrator resumes: "The Chinese government says that the one child policy does not apply to Tibetans. But this woman's experience is far from unique. In 2002 a UN special rapporteur said women in Tibet are subjected to forced sterilisation, forced abortion, coercive birth control policies and the monitoring of menstrual cycles."
Last month I blogged about the false claim that the one-child policy doesn't apply to Tibetans.
Please register your protest against coercive population control in Tibet and in China with the Chinese Embassy in London, 49-51 Portland Place, London W1B 1JL, email: email@example.com
Click below or here to view the whole Dispatches programme "Undercover in Tibet".
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Cardinal Lopez Trujillo's courage in defence of non-negotiable values of human life: Pope Benedict
Dr Ward told me: “The Holy Father spoke powerfully about Cardinal Lopez Trujillo’s zeal, passion and indefatigability in his promotion of marriage and the family and he spoke of the courage with which the cardinal defended the non-negotiable values of human life. He praised his tenacity in defence of family life, his love of the truth of the family and his love of the Gospel of Life. Pope Benedict stressed that the cardinal dedicated his life in Rome to the defence of the family and of life as a collaborator of the Holy Father.
“Pope Benedict praised Cardinal Lopez Trujillo’s strength – saying that he always had great generosity to children and that he exhausted himself for children and for the family.”
The Catholic News Agency reporting on the papal homily says: ‘“Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, whose motto was "Veritas in caritate", dedicated "his entire life to affirming the truth", said the Pope.’
Dr Ward’s conclusion regarding Pope Benedict’s homily was: “The Holy Father presented Cardinal Lopez Trujillo with his motto “Veritas in caritate” as the exemplar for the church and for those in the pro-family and pro-life movement”.
An interesting obituary on the late cardinal appeared in today's London Times.
Monday, 21 April 2008
alarming new artificial reproduction technique
The Times report is frightening. It refers to ‘fertilised embryos’ being ‘examined for quality’ and the ‘best one or two’ being transferred to the womb. Dr Ranoux, of BioXcell, said the company hopes to "market" their device in
The pro-life movement must work tirelessly to build public opposition to this kind of reproductive technology in which human subjects are treated as things. Compassion for childless couples should prompt funding for fertility treatments which respect the inalienable dignity of unborn human life and which also offer real hope of success, such as naprotechnology.
Cardinal López Trujillo on David and Goliath
Speaking at a meeting organised by SPUC at Central Hall Westminster on
"Like David, we have a few small stones and a slingshot, or so our limited resources often seem to us when we face such powerful forces. But we have God with us, the same God who guided David's smooth stone to its mark. Like David the shepherd boy, we are not afraid, because we know that the Lord of Life is with us. We know that we can bring down that evil Goliath! We must bring him down and we will!"
The complete text of his speech is on the EWTN website.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, defender of the family and human life, dies
In 1994, when the United Nations threatened to reach an international agreement supporting the right to abortion, the cardinal sparked a lightning storm of activity around the world which transformed the pro-life battle at an international level. As president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, his response to Pope John Paul II's urgent appeal concerning the dangerous situation at the United Nations, changed pro-life history.
He and his indefatigable staff in
Hundreds of delegates from pro-family and pro-life NGOs from around the world, including the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, personally encouraged by the Cardinal, went to the United Nations Conference on Population and Development in Cairo to lobby. The pro-abortion lobby's objectives for the
Since then, the cardinal never failed to support the efforts of pro-life and pro-family movements around the world, continuing to publish authoritative documents and to bring together the world's foremost experts and activists working in the service of life and the family. In so doing, he introduced the leaders of the pro-life world to each other and helped to forge a genuinely worldwide pro-life movement.
His Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality definitively presents Catholic church teaching on the anti-life, anti-family sex education which tragically prevails in so many schools, sadly including Catholic schools, throughout
He visited the
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
"Sad day for the unborn child in Europe, but the fight goes on"
Pat Buckley of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), who was present at today's debate, commented: "Today is a tragic day for Europe, not least because this report in favour of even more killing of unborn children was rushed through the Assembly without proper scrutiny. Plenary session speeches were limited to three minutes, amendment speeches to 30 seconds and scrutiny by the Assembly's legal affairs committee denied. It was disappointing to see that only 185 members out of 318 thought the issue important enough to be present. The only consolation is that the resolution is not legally binding."
Mr Nigel Dodds, MP and MLA for Belfast North, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and a minister in the Northern Ireland executive, said: "It's a sad day for the unborn child in Europe, but the fight goes on."
Read SPUC's release on today's vote here. You can find out how Assembly members voted here.
Pat Buckley (left) also spoke to me about the debate: "Mrs Gisela Wurm, a socialist deputy from
"Mr Christos Pourgourides of
"Senator Terry Leyden of
"Mr Joe Costello TD of the Irish Labour party went against the socialist consensus by voting pro-life. Maltese delegates also spoke in favour of protecting unborn life. There were 69 amendments proposed.
"Tragically, this is the first time that any international document has asserted a right to abortion."
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
New pro-life video
Fr Pavone is an outstanding pastor of the Church with a special ministry to those who have been damaged by their involvement in abortion or in other anti-life practices. His greatest gift as a defender of life is his ability to make the Catholic Church’s position seem both understandable and compassionate to Catholics and to non-Catholics alike. Fr Pavone argues that the Catholic Church’s authentic humanism is so often caricatured and distorted. His voice as the leader of Priests for Life unmistakably conveys the truth of Catholic teaching on life in all its human richness and compassion.
Monday, 14 April 2008
Tony Blair continues to avoid the questions
In my original letter to Mr Blair I asked him if, in the light of his reception into the Catholic church, he would tell us if he now repudiates:
- voting for abortion up to birth three times
- personally endorsing his government policy of supplying abortion and birth control drugs and devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parental knowledge or consent
- his government’s commitment to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right
- personally championing destructive experiments on human embryos
- 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;
He has refused, point blank, to comment on, still less to repudiate, these positions.
Here is the reply in italics, interspersed with my comments on it:
9th April 2008
Dear Mr Smeaton
Thank you for writing about the important issue of pro-life.
Mr Blair recognises that this is a subject of great concern to many people around the world and on which a variety of deeply held convictions are held.
This kind of statement from a public figure all too often prefaces a letter which does not answer the questions raised.
However the Foundation inevitably has to focus on a limited number of issues, especially as it develops its thinking and builds up its resources.
I didn’t write to Mr Blair’s Foundation or to Mr Blair about his Foundation. I wrote to Mr Blair, at his office, to ask him whether he repudiates his anti-life record in parliament and government.
It plans to concentrate initially on the following four areas: how the different faiths might work more closely together to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals;
I did ask Mr Blair about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically how the Labour government under his premiership (and under his successor) interprets the MDGs to include a right to abortion. Why can’t Mr Blair comment on that aspect of the MDGs, if the MDGs is one of the focuses of his Foundation?
educational projects, especially producing good material for school children here and abroad; an annual course at
Can Mr Blair tell us whether this educational material and his course will teach students that almost all world religions not only recognise the intrinsic value and sanctity of human life but condemn, in general, abortion and euthanasia?
and support for The Co-Exist Foundation's plans to establish Abraham House, a meeting place for the Abrahamic faiths in central
Again, I didn’t ask the Foundation to address pro-life issues – I asked Mr Blair to address them.
Nor, I am afraid, will Mr Blair be able to enter into correspondence on his personal beliefs on this or indeed other issues.
I did not ask Mr Blair to enter into correspondence on his personal beliefs. I asked him, a public figure, about his public record on matters of current public policy – under which hundreds of thousands of unborn British people, and unborn people in developing countries, are killed every year. As I have mentioned before, as a Catholic myself, I do not believe that public figures can be allowed to protect themselves from public scrutiny simply by being received into the Catholic church.
I am very sorry to have to send you what you will probably find a disappointing reply
Yes, no reply at all is pretty disappointing.
but I hope that the above explains the reasons for it.
The letter singularly fails to explain the reasons for such a non-reply.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Cardinal O'Brien goes on YouTube
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Dana to sing for the Pope
Dana and Damien Scallon, her husband, have always been alongside us in SPUC in the fight to protect the most vulnerable of the human race. As an independent member of the European parliament for
Sunday-week will not be her first meeting with Pope Benedict. She met him in 2004 when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. He congratulated her as she became the first woman to receive the San Benedetto (St Benedict) Award in
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Do charities know what's being said on their behalf?
Monday, 7 April 2008
Anti-life strategy emerging against HFE bill opposition
We have already seen how Lord Winston, the IVF pioneer, has accused the Catholic Church of lying about the HFE bill.
This strategy is known, not just as 'ad hominem', but also as 'obscurantism' - obscuring the facts of the matter to distract people away from the real issue. The real issue is the status of the embryo at the point of conception and the implications of embryo creation techniques for human dignity. Sir Martin claims that human-animal cell hybrids have been produced for many years, and accuses Cardinal O'Brien of ignorance for questioning the ethics of such work. Yet what the HFE bill proposes is not simply mixing human and animal cells to create more cells but creating whole living beings - embryos - which are genetically part-human and part-animal, in different proportions. Sir Martin seems to be using the classic anti-life line that early embryos are just clumps of random, disorganised cells, not whole individuals. Even Sir Martin, however, cannot successfully obscure the truth - he is forced to refer himself to 'embryos', 'embryo form' etc.
We should not be patronised by Sir Martin or cowered by his prominence. There are other experts in the field of stem cell biology with well-founded ethical and scientific objections to the HFE bill. This is not a debate of science vs religion, of academics vs churchmen. This is a debate within ethics, within science and about humanity.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
Help to block abortion in Europe
Saturday, 5 April 2008
Political furore in Tyneside over killing children "joke"
The councillor said his remark was “misplaced humour” and that he regretted it as soon as he had said it. Even so, a statement from North Tyneside Conservatives noted that his comments were “totally unacceptable” and “out of line with the view of the party at large.” The deputy mayor, a Labour councillor, said “whether he says it was humour or whatever, it is something we cannot really, as a human being, tolerate."
Alison Davis, the leader of No Less Human, SPUC's disability division, makes the following observations about this story:
- Such condemnation across the political spectrum, for suggesting death is a way of saving money, is in sharp contrast to the silence which greeted an announcement last month from members of Belgium’s coalition government. They stated that teenagers should be given the right to medically assisted suicide, and that the parents of terminally ill children should be given the right to choose euthanasia for them.
- Euthanasia is already allowed on infants in Belgium, and more than half of the Belgian babies who die before they are a year old have been killed by deliberate medical intervention. Meanwhile in neighbouring Holland, newborn disabled babies, particularly those with spina bifida, are legally killed under the so-called Groningen Protocol.
- Where is the political outcry over these equally “unacceptable” practices? Our politicians need to wake up to what is happening in our neighbouring EU countries, before the killing up to birth by abortion of disabled babies (in itself completely unacceptable), which is already allowed in the UK goes one logical step further and becomes the very thing the Tyneside politicians find so objectionable when it is merely a misplaced “joke.”
Friday, 4 April 2008
Blair in the cathedral and the “universal right to abortion”
The Times has the former PM describing the UN's Millennium Development Goals as the litmus test of the world's values. Mr Blair's Faith foundation, to be launched later this year, has these targets at the heart of its mission. However, the Millennium Development Goals were interpreted by the Blair government as supporting a universal right to abortion.
I have written again to Mr Blair to ask him if he will to reply to my letter of 11 January.
Amongst various other matters mentioned in my letter, I want to know whether he now repudiates his government’s commitment to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right.
An SPUC colleague who was in the cathedral yesterday tells me that Mr Blair hedged everything "like a typical politician". The BBC quotes him as saying: "There is nothing I look back on now and say that as a result of my religious journey I would have done things very differently but that is expressly not to say that I got everything right." Old habits die hard.
As I said in my post of 4th February, Tony Blair has reportedly got his eye on becoming president of the EU Council. While there’s a possibility of him 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 should be protected from public scrutiny simply by being received into the Catholic church.
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
abortion for disability
Alison Davis of No Less Human, SPUC's disability rights group, spoke powerfully at
Alison's talk focuses on the ignorance of many health professionals of the facts about the disabilities for which they are screening. She details current eugenic thinking in the health profession according to which pre-natal testing and abortion are a bargain compared with the perceived burden of caring for a disabled child. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has even opened up a debate on the infanticide of newborn disabled children. Alison, herself disabled, writes: "once we give up on even one baby, however young, disabled or 'unwanted' s/he may be, we inevitably start on the slippery slope that will result in more and more killings."