Friday 30 January 2009

Mexico's experience proves once more: strong religious leadership defeats abortion

There's excellent news from Mexico. Not only has the Mexican state of Colima rejected an initiative by Mexican socialists to legalize abortion by an overwhelming majority (19 votes to 1!), the Catholic Church has been given the credit for this pro-life victory.

Reportedly, Adolfo Nunez Gonzales of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who introduced the measure, has attributed his defeat to the influence of the Catholic Church, saying:
"It's not a secret for anyone that the Catholic Church is a sector with a lot of power and weight, and that, of course, what is said in a church one Sunday or whatever day the mass is done, influences the people to analyze it all week".
Excellent! That's exactly what Pope John Paul II called for, in 1995, in Evangelium Vitae when he wrote: "What is urgently called for is a general mobilitzation of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life ... " (EV, 95)

Four years earlier, on 19 May 1991, Pope John Paul wrote a personal letter to "each of my brother bishops" saying: "All of us, as pastors of the Lord's flock, have a grave responsibility to promote respect for human life in our dioceses. In addition to making public declarations at every opportunity, we must exercise particular vigilance with regard to the teaching being given in our seminaries and in Catholic schools and universities."

Equally excellent are the outspoken comments of Archbishop Raymond Burke, called to Rome recently to head the Church's top canonical court, who has observed that the US bishops' statement Faithful Citizenship had contributed to Obama's victory in the recent US presidential election. LifeSite news reports as follows:
"Archbishop Burke, citing an article by a priest and ethics expert of St. Louis archdiocese, Msgr. Kevin McMahon, who analysed how the bishops’ document actually contributed to the election of Obama, called its proposal 'a kind of false thinking, that says, there’s the evil of taking an innocent and defenceless human life but there are other evils and they’re worthy of equal consideration.

“But they’re not. The economic situation, or opposition to the war in Iraq, or whatever it may be, those things don’t rise to the same level as something that is always and everywhere evil, namely the killing of innocent and defenceless human life.”
What's happened in Mexico shows that with strong religious leadership, from all faiths and none, throughout the world - the pro-life movement not only can prevail, the pro-life movement will prevail. We've seen this also in Northern Ireland - where politicians of different faiths who are totally unafraid of declaring their religious faith - have resisted pro-abortion efforts to impose Britain's Abortion Act on Northern Ireland for over four decades.

Let's continue to hear it for the unborn from bold bishops and from other religious leaders. Abortion is the top political issue of today. 4,000 babies are killed in Britain every week. If it were 4,000 policemen, teachers, Catholics, Muslims, being killed each week - who would doubt that this was the top political issue on which to judge politicians? If a difference is being made for the unborn, then they're not being treated as fully human.

It breaks my heart. I still find it shocking that we live in a country which allows us to murder our children: Fr Guy de Gaynesford

The parish priest of St. Mary's and St. Petroc's, Bodmin, Fr Guy De Gaynesford, delivered a moving homily in support of the White Flower Appeal for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Listen to it here.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Latin American reaction to Obama's funding of overseas abortions

Mr Barack Obama's presidency began ignominiously with an order to allow US funding for abortion overseas. The Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, said the move, which would cost lives, contrasted with the decision to leave Iraq. Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez said the president was mistaken and the measure would further bring down America's morality. Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso, vice president of the Argentinian senate, said using taxpayers' money for abortion eroded the principal human right – the right to life. Congresswoman Martha Lorena de Casco of Honduras said the move threatened her country's legislation. Mrs Christine Vollmer of the Latin American Alliance for the Family said: "Instead of a positive message of wanting to work to better conditions for every Latin American, President Obama has announced his willingness to fund the enemies of the people of Latin America whose laws generally are very respectful of the right to life before birth." Yes to Life of El Salvador said Mr Obama shouldn't press their nation to imitate America's "tragic, anti-life experience".

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Fearless Bishop O’Donoghue makes plea to fellow bishops on catechetics

In a forthright talk at Oxford University this evening, Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue has fearlessly explained how many Catholics in Britain have rejected “much that is essential to Catholic faith and practice, relentlessly criticising the Church’s past, placing their own judgement above the authority of the Church, these ‘Catholics’ advocate, and import into the Church, what the secular world holds up as ‘good’ as being in keeping with the ‘tolerance’ and ‘compassion’ of Jesus – divorce, contraception, abortion, IVF, homosexual acts/unions, embryonic stem cell research.”

Bishop O’Donoghue was speaking at the Newman Society, Oxford University's oldest student Catholic society, on Why I wrote Fit for Mission: Church, the bishop's document, published last year, which has won a number of plaudits from the Vatican. (Cardinal John Henry Newman pictured above)

Bishop O'Donoghue's talk provided a frank analysis of how secularism is influencing the Catholic Church, continuing a theme he developed in last weekend’s Catholic Herald. He spoke about “obstacles” put in the way of “the authentic implementation” of the Second Vatican Council by Catholics “particularly in positions of leadership in schools, seminaries, parishes, and dioceses”.

“ … Looking around at the pathetic situation of catechetics in this country”, Bishop O’Donoghue said, “and the extent of ignorance and apostasy among generations of Catholics since the Council, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Why has Pope John’s vision for the Council not been realised in this country?’…”

In a plea to his brother bishops, he asked: “Why are some Catholic education authorities, even bishops in this country, so fearful of Fit for Mission Schools?” – an earlier document in which he called on parents, schools and colleges to reject anti-life sex education.

“After all”, the bishop said, “it only re-iterates the teaching of the Church and it is has been widely and publicly welcomed by the Vatican and many bishops, clergy and laity around the world?”

Bishop O’Donoghue continued:

“In Fit for Mission? Schools and Fit for Mission? Church I have sought to identify the obstacles that have blocked the true vision and grace of the Council. Let me briefly list what has got in the way and continues to do so …

“… Catholics in this country have interpreted the Council as signalling a wholesale rejection of aspects of the Church’s identity, out of a desire to be open to modernity … A wide-spread caricature of the Council’s Decree on Religious Freedom has resulted in many Catholics holding that if – in conscience – they disagree with any teaching of the Church then they have the freedom – even the duty – to reject that teaching.

“For many, the authority of the autonomous conscience has overthrown the authority of Christ given to Peter and the Apostles. Catholics have forgotten that a conscience ill-informed about the divine law and natural law has a predisposition to make errors of judgement, due to being easily swayed by passion and self-interest, and weakened by habitual sin. As a consequence for some Catholics the objective authority of the Church’s doctrine, morality and discipline has been replaced by a subjective, personal judgement of the so called ‘pick and mix’ generation of Catholics … ”

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists must resist anti-life laws, says Turin archbishop

Cardinal Severino Poletto (pictured), the archbishop of Turin, is reported to be urging Italian doctors to resort to conscientious objection if they are ordered to let Eluana Englaro—known as the Terri Schiavo of Italy—die of starvation.

Cardinal Poletto's statement immediately follows strong comments from the Vatican condemning US President Obama's arrogance over abortion. Obama's promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act which seeks to compel medical professionals to provide abortions, with no opt-outs for conscientious objection, reflects political trends elsewhere in the world. This includes Britain - on euthanasia by neglect - and in Europe, where unelected international bodies are seeking to advance a new doctrine of human rights, including the right to abortion, as human rights expert Jakob Cornides has pointed out.

Cardinal Poletto's intervention and leadership in the case of Eluana Englaro are exactly what's needed in the world today. He says: “No human law can go against conscience, obliging it to commit acts that are against our own convictions ... This is valid for a doctor who is being asked to practice an abortion, as well as for the one who is forced to remove Eluana’s feeding tube, or for the pharmacist who refuses to sell a certain pill”.

SPUC has been reporting on this story since July last year. Eluana was injured in a vehicle accident in 1992 since when she has been in a semi-coma "showing some signs of extremely limited consciousness", according to Monsignor Barreiro, director of the Rome office of Human Life International. He added: "However, we are not fighting for Eluana's life because she has limited signs of consciousness but because of her dignity as a human being".

Cardinal Poletto's comments reflect the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, re-stated on 1st August 2007 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in "Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration".

The CDF document, which is in question and answer form, begins:
"First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a “vegetative state” morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

"Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented ... "

In a most helpful commentary on their responses to the US bishops, the CDF shows how the Church's position on "the nutrition and hydration of patients in the condition commonly called a 'vegetative state'" has been its consistent teaching on this matter, making a careful distinction between this medical situation and the "use and interruption of techniques of resuscitation". The Commentary states:

" ... The Address of Pope Pius XII to a Congress on Anesthesiology, given on November 24, 1957, is often invoked in favor of the possibility of abandoning the nutrition and hydration of such patients. In this address, the Pope restated two general ethical principles. On the one hand, natural reason and Christian morality teach that, in the case of a grave illness, the patient and those caring for him or her have the right and the duty to provide the care necessary to preserve health and life. On the other hand, this duty in general includes only the use of those means which, considering all the circumstances, are ordinary, that is to say, which do not impose an extraordinary burden on the patient or on others. A more severe obligation would be too burdensome for the majority of persons and would make it too difficult to attain more important goods. Life, health and all temporal activities are subordinate to spiritual ends. Naturally, one is not forbidden to do more than is strictly obligatory to preserve life and health, on condition that one does not neglect more important duties.

"One should note, first of all, that the answers given by Pius XII referred to the use and interruption of techniques of resuscitation. However, the case in question has nothing to do with such techniques. Patients in a “vegetative state” breathe spontaneously, digest food naturally, carry on other metabolic functions, and are in a stable situation. But they are not able to feed themselves. If they are not provided artificially with food and liquids, they will die, and the cause of their death will be neither an illness nor the “vegetative state” itself, but solely starvation and dehydration. At the same time, the artificial administration of water and food generally does not impose a heavy burden either on the patient or on his or her relatives. It does not involve excessive expense; it is within the capacity of an average health-care system, does not of itself require hospitalization, and is proportionate to accomplishing its purpose, which is to keep the patient from dying of starvation and dehydration. It is not, nor is it meant to be, a treatment that cures the patient, but is rather ordinary care aimed at the preservation of life.

"What may become a notable burden is when the “vegetative state” of a family member is prolonged over time. It is a burden like that of caring for a quadriplegic, someone with serious mental illness, with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, and so on. Such persons need continuous assistance for months or even for years. But the principle formulated by Pius XII cannot, for obvious reasons, be interpreted as meaning that in such cases those patients, whose ordinary care imposes a real burden on their families, may licitly be left to take care of themselves and thus abandoned to die. This is not the sense in which Pius XII spoke of extraordinary means ... "

Monday 26 January 2009

Vatican condemnation of Obama's "arrogance" is well-judged

It's the morning after the night before as the world wakes up to the terrible reality of Barack Obama's presidency of the US.

In a well-judged response, the Vatican has been swift to pronounce a severe judgement on one of Obama's first presidential decisions: to sign an order to "aggressively promote" abortion as a tool of population control in developing countries - as I explained in my blog "The party's over ... " last week.

The BBC reports that: "Senior Vatican official Monsignor Rino Fisichella (pictured), President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, urged Mr Obama to listen to all voices in America without 'the arrogance of those who, being in power, believe they can decide of life and death' ... If this is one of President Obama's first acts, I have to say, in all due respect, that we're heading quickly toward disappointment".

His predecessor, Monsignor Eli Sgreccia, put it even more strongly, likening Obama's policy to that of King Herod and his slaughter of the innocents.

These strength of the Vatican's response to Barack Obama's action is well-judged, in view of the gravity of the situation. In addition, the new President has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act which seeks to compel medical professionals to provide abortions, with no opt-outs for conscientious objection. Such presidential action will only serve to strengthen moves elsewhere in the world - the Philippines, Kenya, the European Institutions, and Britain - where attacks on conscientious objection are either proposed (as in the Philippines and in Kenya); are government policy or enshrined in legislation (as in Britain) or are being powerfully promoted (as in the European institutions).

As I've mentioned before, peaceful resistance is the way forward for the pro-life movement worldwide - as well as continuing our existing educational, political, and compassionate caring work. SPUC's campaign of peaceful resistance is focused on resisting euthanasia at the bedside and the Society's Safe at School campaign. Please contact me at for further details.

In addition, later this week SPUC is launching its campaign to make the right to life a top priority issue at the next general election. Abortion, euthanasia, IVF and embryo research cannot be dismissed as a "single issue" of no more significance than any other social justice issue. As Bishop Sgreccia says: we're fighting against the "slaughter of the innocents" and it's time for the campaign strategy of the pro-life movement, which includes our supporters in the faith communities, fully to reflect that reality.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Stem cell scientist prays that Obama has "crisis of conscience" on federally-funded execution of human embryos

SPUC's news summary service (for which you can sign up here) reported Friday's news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US has approved a test of the treatment of spinal injuries in around 10 people with paraplegia using human embryo cells.

The company concerned, the Geron Corporation, wants to do a similar test with diabetics. President Obama is expected to lift President Bush's ban on federal funding for research on new human embryo lines.

James L. Sherley, M.D., Ph.D.(pictured), a leading stem cell scientist, senior scientist at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, who has travelled the world pointing out the inefficacy of embryonic stem cell research to his scientific colleagues, has written to me with the following comment:
“Executives of the Geron Corporation in the U.S. must be quite pleased with the news media tizzy inspired by their Obama-timed announcement of a first clinical trial with human embryonic stem cells. Such clamour excites, builds anticipation, and favors optimism over realism, even when the caveats are well known to the approving U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and reporters.

“In fact, the price of Geron's stock has been climing consistently during the month of December, had a sudden pick up in rate during this week, and surged today on the heels of news reports of the approval of their clinical trial. The problem with some Americans is that they will often abandon even our most fundamental principles, if they see an opportunity for personal gain.

“In the case of Geron's approval, reporters are clumsily obscuring the important principle that is being dismissed by Geron and the FDA. Reporters are mechanically penning reassurances from Geron that they are working appropriately with the FDA to evaluate whether Geron's cells will injure patients. Geron's approved phase I trial will evaluate whether spinal injury patients, who volunteer for the trial, experience undue harm after injection of human embryonic stem cells.

“Of course, the whole trial is a complete ruse, since a greater harm already occurred with the deaths caused by making the embryonic stem cells. President Obama's delay in keeping his promise that he would immediately order federally-funded execution of nascent human beings for research could mean that he now experiences a crisis of conscience. I certainly pray that he will.

“After all, how can one lead on a promise of unity and respect for the American principle of the inalienable right to life, but at the same time promote the death of people just because they are younger? Geron's trial may be legal because of a current exception in U.S. law that permits elective killing of persons who are younger than the stage of birth, but it is certainly not right in any sense of the word.”
You may like to join Dr Sherley in prayer by joining the daily prayer campaign for Barack Obama, and Tony and Cherie Blair, that they will have a change of heart - and that they will use their influence in the world to save lives and become powerful ambassadors in the world for the unborn and for the value and inviolability of human life.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Second Vatican Council tells couples to obey Catholic teaching on birth control says Bishop O’Donoghue

After President Obama’s attack on human life worldwide yesterday, it’s wonderful to wake up to the powerful leadership and prophetic voice of Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, writing in the Catholic Herald this weekend.

Describing the body of documents produced by the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church as “a Magna Carta of the Holy Spirit for the modern Church” Bishop O’Donoghue says:

“ … there is the danger that those involved in the historical search for the Council will create a picture of the ‘Council’ that reflects their own likes and dislikes. If Catholics really knew the documents of the Council there would not be so much confusion about what they actually say:

“1) Catholics could not continue to live lives focused on their own prosperity if they truly knew that Gaudium et Spes 69 teaches, among other things, that we must “feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him”.

“2) Catholics could not say that Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, went against Vatican II if they knew that Gaudium et Spes 51 teaches that couples “may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law ... ”

Recently, the Vatican has strongly endorsed Bishop O’Donoghue’s outspoken defence of Humanae Vitae. In his “Fit For Mission? Church, Being Catholic Today”, he spoke about the mistaken reasoning of those who say the Catholic Church should drop its opposition to contraception.

When I wrote about this document last August I explained why, to my mind, it’s quite clear* that countless human lives have been destroyed as a result of the rejection of Humanae Vitae and its teaching on the wrongfulness of the separation of the unitive significance and procreative significance of the conjugal act, not least through birth control and IVF practices, including amongst Catholics (*albeit on the question of the separation of the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marital act SPUC itself has no policy. The Society is made up of people of all faiths and none and SPUC’s remit is solely concerned with defending the right to life from conception till natural death.)

Friday 23 January 2009

The party's over: Obama signs order to abort the world's poor

President Obama, America's abortion President, has wasted little time in using his powers to kill the unborn and, in my view, pro-life people worldwide are facing an historic challenge which can be summed up in two words: peaceful resistance.

This afternoon he signed an order "that will put hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of organizations that aggressively promote abortion as a population-control tool in the developing world" according to the US National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

NRLC explains: "Obama's order overturns the 'Mexico City Policy', under which funds in the US 'population assistance' programme go only to overseas organizations that pledge not to 'perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning'.

My picture, above, shows children in Kenya where Dr Stephen Karanja, the head of the Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association, said about the result of the US election: “They have no business electing a person who is going to destroy our countries. And that is what they have done. This is something that a lot of people don’t realise, that what these Americans do affects innocent people thousands and thousands of miles away.”

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the NRLC, explains, "One effect of Obama's order will be to divert many millions of dollars away from groups that do not promote abortion, and into the hands of those organizations that are the most aggressive in promoting abortion in developing countries. President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control.”

NRLC goes on to explain that contrary to some misunderstandings, enforcement of the Mexico City Policy did not reduce the amount of money spent on the programme, nor will Obama's order increase the amount (which is $461 million in the current fiscal year). Rather, the policy affects what type of groups qualify for grants under the programme. Obama's order will result in a redirection of funds to groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which are ideologically committed to the doctrine that abortion on demand must be universally available as a birth control method."

Douglas Johnson of NRLC warns: "This is the first in an anticipated series of attacks on longstanding pro-life policies, as the new administration pushes Obama's sweeping abortion agenda. That agenda includes repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which would result in tax-funded abortion as a birth control method in the U.S., and imposition of sweeping pro-abortion mandates on private employers through health-care reform legislation."

The Obama phenomenon will affect political decision-making worldwide. All our lives will be affected. Pro-life people must organize and encourage powerful, peaceful resistance at every level in society. The right to life must be made the top priority issue at general elections in every country by all right-minded citizens. The great US election party is over. The first killings have been ordered by America's new abortion President - and we've all got a lot of work to get on with.

Irish bill to protect human embryos fails to achieve its objective

The Stem-Cell Research (Protection of Human Embryos) Bill 2008, debated in the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) last November, may now have run its course and may progress no further.

Nevertheless, this well-intentioned bill, introduced by Senator Rónán Mullen, deserves the careful analysis (provided by Southern Cross Bioethics Institute) to which Pat Buckley draws attention today. It's important that legislative measures, seeking to uphold the sanctity of human life, can withstand ethical scrutiny and don't, on reflection, make the situation they seek to resolve worse.

In the words of the analysis which deserves to be read in full, published on Pat Buckley's blog:

" ... How is it possible that a Bill containing in its title the “Protection of Human Embryos” fails to do so?

"The Bill achieves this by bracketing out artificial reproductive technology (ART) from the definition of “embryo-destructive research”. That is, the Bill excludes from the definition of “embryo-destructive research”: (i) in vitro fertilisation and accompanying embryo transfer to a woman’s body, or (ii) any diagnostic procedure carried out for the benefit of the human embryo which is subject to such test.

"Therefore, this Bill provides explicit approval for ART.In every context in which ART takes place, and specifically in vitro fertilisation (IVF), embryo transfer (ET) and related diagnostic testing, human embryos are placed at extreme risk with by far the majority being either discarded, subjected to procedures and processes involving their destruction, or allowed to succumb when unwanted ... "

Thursday 22 January 2009

BBC licence fees used to fund anti-life propaganda again

Alison Davis, who heads SPUC's disability division, contacted me to tell me about what looks like another very one-sided BBC drama focusing on assisted suicide.

I have frequently commented on BBC bias on life issues. Licence-fees are effectively being used to fund anti-life propaganda, worldwide.

Even before the showing of the feature length drama "A short stay in Switzerland" (BBC1 9pm Sunday 25 January), its leading actress Julie Walters, is quoted as being "set to win awards" for it.

In the drama Ms. Walters plays Anne Turner, a doctor and mother of three adult children who developed Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), just shortly after her husband died of a similar condition. While he died naturally, Dr. Turner, with the "support" of her children, decided to go to the well-known "Dignitas" centre in Zurich, founded by Dr. Ludwig Minelli in order to die by "assisted suicide." She reportedly wanted to go to the clinic while she was still well enough to travel, because "assisted suicide" is illegal in Britain. She particularly wanted to make a stand in favour of the Mental Capacity bill which would legalise death by dehydration and starvation for some vulnerable patients (now the Mental Capacity Act 2005).

PSP involves degeneration of nerve endings, affecting balance, mobility, vision and inability to swallow. Some people with the condition often become unable to walk, feed themselves or communicate easily with others. However, while these symptoms may well be very distressing, not all those with PSP suffer them all, and hospice treatment whether as an in- or out-patient can help both those with the condition and their familes to live well until they die naturally. Average life expectancy from diagnosis is about seven years.

While Ms Walters maintains that she simply wanted the issues aired, her bias is made clear by her comments. She says "Anne was an intelligent, informed and articulate woman. It was a courageous act."

While every individual's response to a disabling condition will be different, Ms. Walters' dubbing of Dr. Turner's response as "courageous" ignores the wonderfully positive response of the actor, comedian and classical pianist Dudley Moore (pictured) who lived with PSP for eight years, during which he raised $100,000 for research into PSP. He was diagnosed in 1999, and died naturally of pneumonia, a common complication of PSP on 27th March 2002. His truly courageous stance receives no mention in the trailers for this film. It looks set to be the viewer's loss to be given only a one-sided look at what possible responses are available for those who experience disabling conditions and their families.

You may like to watch the programme. If you conclude that it's another example of BBC anti-life propaganda, write to your MP and ask him or her to take up your concerns with Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Is the BBC demonising the pro-life movement?

A British television police drama shows pro-life people kidnapping children. SPUC supporters have expressed concern about BBC1's Hunter (starring Hugh Bonneville, right) currently still showing on the internet. Betty Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland who watched the programme tells me she was horrified: "These supposed pro-lifers were shown inscribing 'sacred' on one of their captives and also killing a hostage. The BBC wouldn't dare portray other groups in this way."

It's all very puzzling, to say the least. Might it be an attempt to demonise the pro-life movement? Could BBC producers have been emboldened by the inauguration of Mr Barack Obama as a pro-abortion president? Of course, this is just a fictional situation, but pro-life people are the last to threaten children. Indeed, we defend them.

The pro-life movement lobbies for change to the law, it provides research and information on bioethical issues, and it gives practical and emotional help to women facing difficulties in pregnancy. Some of the nicest, kindest people I've met have been pro-life activists.

Then there is the grim irony that one of the extremists in the programme has spina bifida and seems to want revenge for the deaths of people with a similar disability through abortion. (The overwheming majority of unborn babies discovered to have spina bifida in Britain are aborted).

I guess playwrights and producers can do all sorts of things in the name of good drama, but is there another agenda here? We mustn't be distracted by a TV show from our defence of vulnerable human beings, but maybe it's worth remarking on such an eccentric portrayal of pro-life people just when the most pro-abortion president in US history has been inaugurated.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Obama's inauguration offers no hope for women at home or abroad

Here are my comments on some extracts from President Obama's inauguration speech:

"I stand here today ... mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors." [JS: Like the sacrifices of your mother, Mr Obama, who did not seek to have you aborted.]

"America has carried on ... because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents." [JS: Such as the Declaration of Independence : "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life..." under which killing children before birth should be unthinkable.]

"The time has come ... to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. [JS: except for the millions that will be aborted under President Obama's laws and policies.]

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost." [JS: not by abusing and killing embryonic children!]

"America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity" [JS: except for millions of unborn children in America and elsewhere, who will be denied any sort of future by President Obama's pro-abortion policies.]

" ... those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents [JS: What else is abortion than slaughtering innocents?]

"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish..." [JS: But in China, farms are destroyed for violations of the one-child policy, a policy in which President Obama has pledged to be complicit, through re-funding UNFPA and IPPF.]

"It is ... a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate. [JS: How does promoting abortion encourage this willingness? What about the majority of Chinese women who are willing to have another child, but will be denied one by an Obama-funded population control programme?]

It is chilling to note that the following information appeared on the White House website within minutes of Mr Obama's inauguration:
"Reproductive Choice

  • Supports a Woman's Right to Choose: President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Adminstration. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.
  • Preventing Unintended Pregnancy: President Obama was an original co-sponsor of legislation to expand access to contraception, health information, and preventive services to help reduce unintended pregnancies. Introduced in January 2007, the Prevention First Act will increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe sex methods. The Act will also end insurance discrimination against contraception, improve awareness about emergency contraception, and provide compassionate assistance to rape victims.

  • "Health Care

  • Supporting Stem Cell Research: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe that we owe it to the American public to explore the potential of stem cells to treat the millions of people suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases. Obama is a co-sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which will allow research of human embryonic stem cells derived from embryos donated (with consent) from in vitro fertilization clinics. These embryos must be deemed in excess and created based solely for the purpose of fertility treatment."
  • On the right-hand side of my blog I will be recording the life- and family-related actions of Mr Obama as US president. Please use this to keep up-to-date with the challenges that the pro-life movement will face in the coming years.

    Monday 19 January 2009

    Joined up thinking about the unborn is needed at University College Dublin

    Pat Buckley has spotted an important article on the unborn in the Irish Times.

    "Emotional well-being begins before birth ... " writes Marie Murray, a director of psychology and the director of the Student Counselling Services in University College Dublin (UCD).

    "Life begins not at birth but before it" she continues. "One piece of evidence for this is the way babies respond to voices, patterns of sounds, melodies and stories that they have heard prenatally when they are provided with those same sound sequences and experiences after birth".

    In a good article in the Irish Times, she concludes: "Inevitably, some of the research on womb life has been exploited in educational programmes by those who promote prenatal education for intellectual advancement and advantage over others.

    "But that is not the primary purpose of research on interuterine conditions. Rather than exploiting knowledge about life in the womb for competitive gain, this is information to be used to provide the most conducive environment for the development of human potential, happiness, security and love in order to lay down the psychological foundation that will support the child through all the developmental stages that lie ahead ... "

    In the light of her obvious concern for the unborn (whose "life begins not at birth but before it ... " as she puts it) I do hope that Marie Murray does something about the deeply misleading information posted on the UCD Student Counselling Services about so-called "contraception".

    In the UCD Student Counselling Service webpage on "Contraception Choices" the action of the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) the coil is described as follows: "A small plastic and copper device is put into the womb. It works in several different ways – by stopping sperm from meeting the egg, by delaying the egg getting to the womb or by preventing the egg from settling in the womb." This description uses the word "egg" three times - in the first place to denote the unfertilised ovum and, in the second and third places, to denote a newly-conceived human being.

    Children have no chance of developing their "human potential, happiness, security and love" if their very existence is obscured, so that students at UCD, perhaps unwittingly, experience an early, unrecognised abortion by using the IUCD.

    A fuller description of the way IUCD works would be that it can: interfere with the ability of sperm to pass through the uterine cavity; or, interfere with fertilisation in the fallopian tube; or cause local inflammation in the uterine lining, inhibiting implantation if conception has occurred and thus can induce an early abortion.

    Similarly, with other kinds of "contraceptive" drugs and devices, their abortifacient nature is not mentioned at all - for example, the implant, combined oral contraception, and injectable contraception. Fuller details of how such products work can be found here.

    Joined up thinking about the unborn is needed at University College Dublin - and, undoubtedly, elsewhere in the academic world. Students are entitled to the full truth about the unborn, about when human life begins, and about the abortifacient nature of so-called contraceptive drugs and devices.

    Saturday 17 January 2009

    Signs of growth in youth support for pro-life movement in Britain

    Almost every day I hear about young people initiating significant pro-life events and activities around the UK. There are signs of a growth in youth support for the pro-life movement. Watch this space for further developments - but here are two forthcoming events on which you may wish to spread the word.

    Lucy McCully (pictured above to the right of Cathy McBean, manager of British Victims of Abortion) has written to me to say:

    "Due to the phenomenal success of our first international conference, SPUC Scotland will be hosting the 2nd International Student Pro-Life Conference in 2009. This conference is an excellent opportunity for those aged between 17 and 35 years to network and socialise with fellow pro-lifers from around the world. This year our theme is ‘I Am Here’ and we will be putting a face to the common pro-abortion arguments by hearing from those behind the ‘hard cases’. Our keynote speaker will be international pro-life speaker, Rebecca Kiessling (below, right), who was conceived after her mother was raped. Rebecca will share her personal story and explain to us why she believes, 'Your value is not based on the circumstances of your conception.'

    "Delegates will be given the opportunity to network with established pro-life organisations such as SPUC, Youth Defence (Ireland), Stand True (USA) amongst others. In addition we will also hear from professionals in the fields of International Law, Bioethics and Post Abortion Counselling.

    "This weekend will be a unique, inspiring experience filled with educational opportunities, activities, socialising and most importantly lots of fun! If young people would like to attend this conference, please book in advance to avoid disappointment. You can register by contacting me at SPUC Scotland, 75 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 6TS Telephone: 0141 221 2094 or email me:"

    Next month the Oxford University ProLife Society, the Oxford University Newman Society, and the Catholic Society at the University of Oxford, are joining forces for a Fertility and Faith Conference on Saturday 21st February at 10.00am. The Oxford University Newman Society website states:

    "Hosted by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics in association with the Newman Society, the Catholic Society and the Pro-Life Society at the University Catholic Chaplaincy, Fr Tim Finigan, Anthony McCarthy and Ira Winter will give presentations, and there will be a panel discussion and Q&A session after lunch. If you are interested in finding out about the Church's teaching on fertility, infertility, marriage and love, please do come along. To book your free place, or for further information, please contact Stephen Barrie, Education Officer for the Linacre Centre on 01865 610 212, 020 72667410 or at"

    Friday 16 January 2009

    Voting list on European Parliament pro-abortion resolution: Spread the word

    Further to my previous blog, check here for how MEPs voted, listed by country, on the pro-abortion resolution (the Catania report) passed on Wednesday by the European Parliament.

    If you have pro-life contacts in any EU country, make them aware of this appalling resolution which calls for the recognition of a so-called right to abortion (despite the fact that not one international treaty or human rights court recognises any such right). Tell them to check and to spread the word on how their country's MEPs voted.

    Please email immediately the MEPs for your region, either to congratulate them or to express your disappointment, on how they voted on the Catania pro-abortion resolution on Wednesday. You can find who the MEPs are for your region and their email addresses by following the links here , specifically by clicking on your region on the coloured map on the left of the page.

    The Alliance Defence Fund, an organisation of pro-life lawyers, has published a most useful commentary on the resolution which you can find in full here.

    Thursday 15 January 2009

    Population explosion myth blamed for conflict in Gaza

    Fiorella Nash's Monstrous Regiment of Women highlights an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that suggests (as Fiorella describes it) "the current conflict is the fault of western aid agencies for allowing Palestinians to breed".

    I worry that this kind of thinking in the brave new world of Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion president in US history, will be translated into more of the kind of major international policy developments which took place in the US in 1970.

    Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, writes:
    "As the populations of developing countries began to grow after World War II, alarm bells sounded in the heads of many in the national security establishment ... Demographic projections, showing population spiking in the developing world, combined with falling birthrates in Europe, were viewed with foreboding. Hushed discussions in the corridors of power followed.

    "When the US birthrate, robust until the early 1960s, headed south [down] a few years later, these discussions quickly took on an increasing urgency. One of the first official expressions of concern was a classified National Security Council Memorandum [NSSM 200] dated 10 August 1970. This memorandum, signed by President Richard Nixon's national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, stated that 'The US should recommend that the UN Fund for Population Activities undertake a study of world population problems and measures required to deal with them, as a top priority item in the Second Development Decade' ... The preoccupation of the US security establishment with population growth - seen as US security and economic interests - stands here revealed. At the same time, NSSM 200 is a blueprint for preserving the global economic, political, and military dominance of the United States. Believing that people mean power, and worried about the demographic decline of the West, these practitioners of realpolitik unapologetically sought to engineer a fertility decline among more prolific peoples. And they were fully prepared to deceive other countries into doing so with spurious arguments".
    I recommend that you obtain a copy of Steven Mosher's seminal book Population Control - Real Costs, Illusory Benefits

    A favourite Cherie Blair charity promotes abortion in Poland and Mexico

    It seems that the letter I wrote last week to Cherie Blair (pictured) was timely. One of her favourite charities, Human Rights Watch, which has a radical pro-abortion agenda, has been busy promoting legal access to abortion in Poland and in Mexico. My letter asks Cherie Blair to drop her support of Human Rights Watch – and all the other leading pro-abortion organizations she backs.

    The folly of the Angelicum, a leading Catholic university in Rome, in inviting Cherie Blair to speak on women and human rights, is becoming more obvious as the weeks pass. I do hope and pray that Mrs Blair has a change of heart. Once again, I invite those interested to join me in the prayer campaign for Cherie Blair and her husband, Tony Blair, and for Barack Obama, who is set to become the most pro-abortion president in US history.

    Wednesday 14 January 2009

    Churches and pro-lifers must act following pro-abortion European Parliament vote

    It's time for church leaders and pro-life groups throughout Europe to make the right to life the top political priority in their countries. MEPs voted today to approve a resolution calling on the European Union (EU) to promote abortion and same-sex unions throughout the EU. The resolution, authored by Giusto Catania of Italy's Communist Refoundation Party (logo pictured), is built on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, part of the Lisbon treaty, despite the fact that neither the charter nor the Lisbon treaty have been passed into law.

    Anthony Ozimic, our political secretary at SPUC, says: "The resolution passed today is soft-law pressure for abortion to be made a right in every EU member-state. The resolution violates national laws on conscientious objection to abortion and on public funding for abortion. The resolution calls for the recognition of a so-called right to abortion - yet not one international treaty or human rights court has recognises any such right. Abortion is the most contentious issue at United Nations conferences and any attempt even to imply a right to abortion creates heated controversy between national delegations.

    "Religious leaders and pro-life groups throughout Europe must shake off their complacency about the EU and mobilise religious believers for pro-life action. The message everyone must hear is that the right to life is the most important political issue, because the right to life is the indispensable foundation of all other rights. Failure to act will mean that countless millions of unborn children will die because of the EU's promotion of abortion both inside and outside Europe."

    It is interesting to note Giusto Catania, the resolution's author, is a communist. Communism was one of the first modern movements to promote abortion. Soon after taking power in Russia, Lenin legalised abortion on demand in 1920.

    If you're interested in helping SPUC's new political drive to make the right to life a top political priority, please contact me at

    Tuesday 13 January 2009

    The hypocrisy of anti-life politicians who present themselves as Catholic

    The leader of the majority Democrat party in the US House of Representatives has spoken of her continued support for government funding for human embryo research, and says she would support a law to enforce it. Ms Nancy Pelosi (right) claims she is an ardent practising Catholic.

    Pope Benedict told the General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life on 27th February 2006: "God’s love does not differentiate between the newly conceived infant still in his or her mother’s womb and the child or young person, or the adult and the elderly person. God does not distinguish between them because he sees an impression of his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26) in each one… Therefore, the Magisterium of the Church has constantly proclaimed the sacred and inviolable character of every human life from its conception until its natural end."

    How, then, does Ms Pelosi, justify her actions? The same question must be put to certain Catholic politicians listed in the Catholic Directory of England & Wales. The following MPs supported the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act at both second and third reading:
    • Andy Burnham
    • David Cairns
    • Rosie Cooper
    • Jim Cunningham
    • Hugh Irranca-Davies
    • Tommy McAvoy
    • Paul Murphy.
    This act allows the licensing of yet more procedures that will harm or kill embryos created in the laboratory. It extends the ways in which embryos can be artificially created and manipulated, and it makes it easier to change the law to extend objectionable procedures like cloning.

    Some British Catholic politicians, and Ms Nancy Pelosi, seem to think they know more about the love of God than Pope Benedict. MPs who hypocritically call themselves Catholic have voted contrary to church teaching. After all, Pope John Paul began his 1995 encyclical on human life with: "The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message."

    Monday 12 January 2009

    Act today to stop anti-life, anti-family EU resolution this Wednesday

    This Wednesday the European Parliament will vote on a resolution which seeks to promote abortion and same-sex unions throughout the European Union. The resolution, authored by Giusto Catania, an Italian Communist MEP, calls upon EU member-states to guarantee access to "sexual and reproductive health and rights", a term which is often interpreted to include abortion on demand. The resolution also calls on EU member-states to recognise same-sex unions equally with (heterosexual) marriage. The full report can be read here.

    The resolution should be rejected, because it threatens unborn children. The resolution repeats the usual calls by the pro-abortion lobby for more contraception, more sex education and more confidential advisory services. Providing these things, however, does nothing to decrease the numbers of abortions, sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancies, and may in fact serve to increase them. (For more information about this, see my blog citing the work of Professor David Paton.)

    The resolution should also be rejected because it promotes an unauthentic model of the family, by seeking to impose upon EU member-states the recognition of same-sex unions. Although SPUC is not a religious organisation, we feel that both religious and non-religious pro-lifers can understand and appreciate the following words of the late Pope John Paul II:
    "It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection ... Only a true love is able to protect life." (Evangelium Vitae, 97)
    Please email immediately the MEPs for your region, urging them to vote against the Catania resolution on Wednesday. You can find who the MEPS are for your region and their email addresses by following the links here , specifically by clicking on your region on the coloured map on the left of the page.

    Time for a change of mind at Mencap

    Mencap, which describes itself as the voice of learning disability, says that Britain's state health service is failing people with mental impairments. They write: "People with a learning disability get unequal healthcare. This is leading to people dying when their lives could have been saved." Now we learn that a hospital in southern England has apologised after Mr Martin Ryan (aged 43, pictured) who had Down's syndrome was left to starve to death.

    Mencap is right to be concerned and I hope that the tragic occurrences which its report describes will cause it to reconsider its support for the Mental Capacity Act. This law enshrines lethal discrimination against the disabled and vulnerable. Things can only get better once we have that act repealed or significantly amended. Mencap needs to understand that the Mental Capacity Act is the problem under which food and fluids can be withdrawn with the intention of ending the patient’s life.

    Sunday 11 January 2009

    Catholic parents call Catholic Education Service "arrogant" and "undemocratic"

    The National Association of Catholic Families (NACF) has sent an open letter, signed by a number of Catholic parents, to Ms Oonagh Stannard, the chief executive of the Catholic Education Service (CES) which accuses the CES of "arrogantly and undemocratically [attempting] to usurp our rights and challenge our moral authority as primary educators and protectors of our children".

    The carefully annotated letter challenges the authority of the CES, calls on the CES to "unambiguously" follow the teaching of the Catholic Church worldwide and to reject "its own local hybridization with this State's ill concealed and discredited birth control policies".

    Oonagh Stannard is pictured above with Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the CES chairman, (to the right) and Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

    Concerned Catholic parents everywhere should have the above letter drawn to their attention and take the action it recommends.

    I am a Catholic parent who's appalled at the ambiguous policy of the Catholic Education Service regarding the presence in Catholic schools of Connexions which is committed to giving schoolchildren, under the age of 16, access to abortion and abortifacient birth control drugs and devices without parental knowledge or permission. I am delighted that NACF (in association with a number of Catholic parents) has taken this action.

    Britain is facing a crisis in which an ideology of evil, including the promotion of abortion and other anti-life practices, and false concepts of human sexuality, directly threatens the common good. In light of this crisis, the CES policy, on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, is, to put it politely, inexplicable.

    The Telegraph reported in November that the National Children bureau and Sex Education Forum have called for every 11 to 18-year-old in England to be able to receive advice on contraception, pregnancy tests and screening for sexually transmitted diseases between lessons. Such advice can include confidential access to abortion.

    The thinking behind the conclusions of the NCB/SEF reports is clearly set out in the Sex and Relationships Education Framework, the “core document” of the Sex Education Forum. It is a document to which all Forum members agree in order to meet membership criteria as it makes clear on page 4. The Catholic Education Service is a member of the Sex Education Forum.

    The NACF letter begins:

    "Last week's Government statistics and BBC Panorama programme, Kids behaving Badly (5th January 2009) demonstrated the crisis of premature sexualisation of little children in our schools.

    "In your capacity as Chief Executive of the Catholic Education Service (CES) you have given an interview in which you are reported to have said that the CES has welcomed Government plans to make Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. This policy, we know, will corrupt innocent children and at the beginning of this new school term we publicly express our opposition to it based on the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.

    "The NACF: We as Catholic parents who accept Catholic teaching on the natural inalienable rights and duties of parents, categorically reject, without reservation, your current position and that of your Board. With respect, neither you nor it has any credible standing on this matter. Parents do so as primary educators of their own children.

    "The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. 'The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.' ' The right and the duty of parents to educate their children is primordial and inalienable.' (our emphasis) The Catechism of the Catholic Church 2221

    "You speak about how you think compulsory sex education would work in Catholic primary schools and are reported to have said: 'You would expect that young children would need to learn about body parts, that simple sort of biology'.

    "The NACF: The CES arrogantly and undemocratically attempts to usurp our rights and challenge our moral authority as primary educators and protectors of our children.

    "[S]ince parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.' (our emphasis)

    The Documents of the Second Vatican Council "The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; ... and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.' (our emphasis) Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II N 36. Familiaris Consortio ... " Read on.

    Saturday 10 January 2009

    Birthday wish for Sir Stepen Wall, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's former principal adviser

    Sir Stephen Wall, former principal adviser to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, 2004 - 2005, is 62 today, according to The Times. Happy birthday, Sir Stephen.

    I have a birthday wish for Sir Stephen Wall, on behalf of those fighting to protect the lives of unborn children and the lives of vulnerable patients, particularly the elderly and disabled.

    It's that next December,in the month before his birthday, he does not write in the Catholic media, or in any other publication, attacking the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life. In doing so, he further undermines the right to life of the most vulnerable human beings, and betrays the Gospel message of the Church which entrusted him with such high office.

    As Pope John Paul II put it in the first sentence of his encyclical Evangelium Vitae: "The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus's message."

    In December, 2007, he published a badly-informed article attacking the Church on IVF, contraception and on other matters; and last month, he attacked the Church's position on euthanasia in a letter to The Tablet. On 1st December, 2007, The Tablet published his article "Rendering Unto Caesar", in which he wrote:

    "Last week, the Church in our own country was arguing that giving same-sex couples access to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) was wrong, because of the harm to be done by bringing fatherless children into the world. Yet this is the same Church which, by proclaiming the iniquity of artificial contraception, wills into the world millions of children who will never know true parental love of any kind ... The Church makes another mistake by giving pre-eminence to its concept of law and disregarding its duty of love. In the case of IVF, we are talking about couples who would not go through the heartache of the process unless they wanted, out of their love for each other, to bring a much-loved child into the world ... "
    One of the many problems with Sir Stephen's thinking (only to be fully appreciated by reading his article to which I link above) is its implicit rejection of children who are not "much-loved"; the countless children killed by abortifacient "artificial contraception" - birth control drugs and devices which, according to the manufacturers, can prevent a newly-conceived embryo from implanting in the lining of the womb; and IVF – which gave birth to the first IVF child over thirty years ago – has led to over two million embryos discarded, or frozen, or selectively aborted, or miscarried or used in destructive experiments. (2,137,924 human embryos were created by specialists while assisting couples in the UK to have babies between 1991 and 2005, according to BioNews.)

    The recently published Dignitas Personae spells out beautifully the fundamental ethical criterion used in the Catholic Church's teaching (in Donum Vitae) which is to be used to evaluate all moral questions arising from any procedures which involve the human embryo: the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say, from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. (Donum vitae, 1,1: 45 80 (1988), 79, cited in DP, n 4)

    Dignitas Personae reiterates the ethical unacceptability of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) since “all techniques of in vitro fertilisation proceed as if the human embryo were simply a mass of cells to be used, selected, and discarded"(Dignitas Personae n 14); and it comments on the very high wastage of human embryos associated with IVF and related procedures. “In many cases the abandonment, destruction and loss of embryos are foreseen and willed" (Dignitas Personae, n 15)

    I strongly recommend that Sir Stephen Wall studies this document in order to appreciate that love truly is at the heart of Church's proclamation of the Gospel of life; and that he looks at the compassionate, realistic alternative to IVF to be found in Naprotechnology which has grown to become a comprehensive branch of women’s health medicine, which respects both the natural fertility cycle and the teaching of the Catholic Church.

    Fortunately, Sir Stephen's letter to The Tablet last month was answered well by Dr Julian Hughes, as you can see below.

    The Tablet, Letters, 20/27 December 2008

    Palliative care has limits

    My sister, Mary, died from cancer in early December. The day after her death there was a renewed surge of public interest in the question of assisted dying because of the first such death to be shown on British television.In February 2006, at the age of 67, my sister was found to have fluid in the lining of her lung and the fluid contained malignant cells. For the next two and a half years she underwent successive courses of chemotherapy, with little respite. She suffered hair loss, loss of feeling in her feet (makingwalking difficult), nausea and insomnia. But she did not lose her will to live and, when she was feeling well enough, she pursued her life as normally as anyone can who has a death sentence hanging over them and whose life is geared to the rhythms of a nasty disease.

    At the end of November, my sister was found to have a perforated bowel. She was not strong enough to undergo a repair operation and, on the advice of her doctors and with her consent, treatment was stopped because it would have been pointless and painful and she was admitted to hospital for palliative care. She said that she hoped she could go out "on a pink cloud"and the palliative care team said they would do their best to achieve just that. In the event, she died exactly two weeks later.

    Ever-increasing doses of morphine and other sedatives kept my sister's pain under control. But she was not at all times pain-free and she was certainly not free from distress. Some days before her death, when she was still able to whisper, she asked me, "When is this going to end? I cannot bear it much longer". At that point, had her carers had the power to give her an amount of morphine, or other drug, that would have peacefully ended her life she - and we - would have accepted with gratitude. Yet all of us were powerless under the existing law.

    There is something hypocritical about the present law. It allows ever-increasing doses of morphine, which are undoubtedly a contributorycause of death, however precisely and clinically they are measured. Yet it does not allow the combined consent of the patient, family and medical advisers to foreshorten the period of pain and anguish. Is that the will of a loving God? I cannot bring myself to think so.

    (Sir) Stephen Wall, London SW18

    The Tablet, Letters, 3 January 2009

    Yes to care, no to killing

    Even those of us who are very inclined to agree with Clifford Longley’s arguments (20/27 December) about the dangers of autonomy as far as physician-assisted suicide is concerned cannot but be moved by Stephen Wall’s story about the sad death of his sister (Letters, 20/27 December). Nonetheless, Sir Stephen’s suggestions must be challenged.

    Sir Stephen accepts that medication kept his sister’s pain under control, but goes on to say that she was not always pain-free and "certainly not free from distress". He says he cannot bring himself to think that this is the will of a loving God. He is right that we are confronted by a difficulty here, but it’s not one confined to palliative care. It’s the problem of evil generally: how does the loving God will any of the enormous suffering that occurs in the world? If we cannot answer this question, and understand to some degree the role of suffering in our lives, there are difficulties for our belief in the idea of a loving God.

    Secondly, Sir Stephen suggests that ever increasing doses of morphine are "undoubtedly a contributory cause of death". Palliative physicians would rightly respond that morphine, when used for pain, even in high doses, does not cause death. And there is still the doctrine of double effect, that it is licit to do things, foreseeing their bad consequences, but intending good. This is a cause of much philosophical dispute, but the doctrine underpins quotidian medical decisions: I foresee side effects from all drugs, but I aim at some sort of good when I prescribe them.

    Sir Stephen asserts that there is "something hypocritical about the present law". But the prohibition on ending innocent human lives remains a cornerstone of civil society, which would be removed by Sir Stephen’s call for euthanasia. My suggestion would be that we need better palliative care, not intentional killing.

    In saying this, however, I suspect that the line between the two is often thin and indistinct in practice. Clinical judgements have to be finely made with a good deal of practical wisdom, courage and compassion. One fear about a change to the present law is that it would undermine the basis of such virtues.

    (Dr) Julian Hughes, Newcastle upon Tyne

    Support Helpers of God's Precious Infants to give witness to the evil of abortion

    I mentioned last week a pro-life vigil on Wednesday, 21st January, in Maidstone, organized by the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, which will be of particular interest to Catholic supporters.

    The same group is holding a vigil later that week, Saturday, 24th January at Buckhurst Hill in Essex and you can find details of Fr Finigan's blog here.

    Abortion is a crime against humanity. Here's a group of people who, through their prayer and witness, are working to save mothers and babies from abortion; who refuse to allow the killing of babies in the cities and suburbs of Britain to be seen as normal and acceptable.

    Tragically, through the unknown numbers of silent killings through abortifacient birth control drugs and devices - misrepresented by the manufacturers as contraception - acceptance of the killing of babies has spread right into the heart of the community, even of the church communities upon whom the pro-life movement depends for its support. With virtual total silence on the prophetic teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae on the part of so many church leaders, though not all, no wonder there is such opposition on the part of church leaders to making abortion an issue in the general election. And yet nothing could be more important than the killing of 500 - 600 innocent children daily. Why are people, with the power to influence opinion in the country, failing to point out the most terrible abuse of human rights to have occurred in British history and to urge voters to judge parliamentary candidates accordingly? Imagine if the killing of born children were allowed by law and hundreds of politicians supported it! Wouldn't all other issues pale beside the importance of such a terrible enormity? Will someone please explain to me: what's the difference between unborn children and born children that we're prepared to treat them differently in this way?

    I hope that the vital witness and prayers of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants - as they seek to give witness, save lives, and implore for God's help - is well supported. We must turn this country round, and pray for key groups and the spiritual leaders in this country of various faith groups, so that appropriate action is taken - politically, educationally, spiritually - to seek to stop the evil of abortion.

    Friday 9 January 2009

    Anti-life Tony Blair's enduring political ambition is dangerous

    Today’s Guardian (Tony Blair for President of Europe? Interview suggests he wants the job) explains why pro-lifers must keep pressing Tony Blair, the UK’s former Prime Minister and one of the world’s leading architects of the culture of death, on his refusal to repudiate the anti-life laws and policies he has steadfastly pursued throughout his political career.

    He should not be allowed to shield himself from political scrutiny simply by being received into the Catholic Church and/or by virtue of his invitation to speak in Westminster Cathedral.

    Since leaving office he has compounded his anti-life political record by reinforcing his pro-abortion links and I have recently challenged Cherie Blair, his wife, on her long track record in supporting anti-life and anti-family causes.

    Tony Blair’s political ambition is dangerous and reception into the Catholic Church is proving no guarantee of a Pauline conversion. In fact thus far, the contrary seems to be case.

    Thursday 8 January 2009

    Open letter on abortion to Cherie Blair

    I've sent the open letter below to Cherie Blair, about whose scandalous invitation to speak at a conference in the Angelicum (a leading Catholic university in Rome) I have blogged in recent weeks. I will let you know her reply.

    8th January 2009

    Open letter

    Dear Mrs Blair,

    I am writing to you further to your participation in the Angelicum university's conference on women and human rights.

    Our supporters remain deeply concerned about the support you give to some of the world's leading pro-abortion organisations, including those to which I refer below.

    Will you now state publicly your opposition to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the Family Planning Association (FPA) UK, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW committee), considering that these organisations are among the world's most prominent promoters of legal access to abortion?

    Will you state publicly that no country should interpret the reference to "reproductive rights" in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW convention) to include abortion?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Smeaton, SPUC national director

    Wednesday 7 January 2009

    Autistic babies should not be killed. Period.

    Under the headline “Autism test ‘could hit maths skills’” the BBC reports today that pre-natal testing for autism and the abortion of babies thought to be affected may not be far off.
    In an interesting article, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen (pictured), the director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, says that mathematical excellence and autism may be linked. He writes:

    “ … assuming such a test is developed, we would be wise to think ahead as to how such a test would be used. If it was used to 'prevent' autism, with doctors advising mothers to consider termination of the pregnancy if their baby tested 'positive', what else would be lost in reducing the number of children born with autism? Would we also reduce the number of future great mathematicians, for example? … Caution is needed before scientists embrace prenatal testing so that we do not inadvertently repeat the history of eugenics or inadvertently 'cure' not just autism but the associated talents that are not in need of treatment.”

    It’s not clear what Professor Simon Baron-Cohen means in his final sentence above. Is he sounding a warning against the eugenic killing of the disabled? Or is he concerned principally, or solely, as the BBC’s introductory paragraphs put it, that “caution is needed to ensure associated talents, like numerical abilities, are not lost if the test or a "cure" become available”? Or is Professor Baron-Cohen unaware that we already have repeated the history of eugenics – both in Britain and elsewhere in the world – in our determined pursuit of the extermination of the disabled (as Alison Davis who has spina bifida and who is the leader of No Less Human, makes abundantly clear in her paper “A disabled person’s perspective on eugenic abortion”)?

    The killing of disabled babies is infinitely more significant than any loss of human skills and talents. Whilst the Professor’s article is interesting and thought-provoking, the BBC’s headline provides a chilling reminder of modern Britain – in which countless human beings are killed as though they’re rubbish, simply because they’re disabled, and people in the media worry about the possible loss of maths skills. Autistic babies should not be killed. Period.

    Tuesday 6 January 2009

    Reasonable-minded citizens should be genuinely frightened of Mary Warnock

    In Belfast last night, Dame Mary Warnock said that doctors who refuse to help terminally ill patients to kill themselves are “genuinely wicked”.

    Last September, I noted Dame Mary Warnock’s view that people with disabling conditions have a duty to die prematurely.

    And in November, she told the Irish that there is an “absolute moral obligation” to conduct embryonic stem cell research, and that a scientist who chose not to conduct it would be "failing in their moral duty".

    I am genuinely frightened when I hear Dame Mary Warnock say these things. Her distorted reasoning has heralded changes in British law which have led to the killing of countless vulnerable human beings in Britain and overseas.

    Go back nearly thirty years to July 1982: Her Majesty’s Government invited Mary Warnock to chair a Committee of Inquiry into the ‘social, ethical and legal implications of recent, and potential developments in the field of human assisted reproduction’. The report of that committee is called the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, Cmnd. 9314, London, 1984.

    Follow carefully in the next paragraph the argument which her Committee used to justify lethal experiments on human embryos, up to the 14th day after conception, paving the way for the Government’s legislation in 1990 (which has been copied in many parts of the world):

    "While, as we have seen, the timing of the different stages of development is critical, once the process has begun there is no particular part of the developmental process that is more important than another; all are part of a continuous process, and unless each stage takes place normally, at the correct time, and in the correct sequence, further development will cease. Thus biologically there is no one single identifiable stage in the development of the embryo beyond which the in vitro embryo should not be kept alive. However we agreed that this was an area in which some precise decision must be taken, in order to allay public anxiety.” (My emphasis)

    In other words (my comments in red):

    “ … once the process has begun … ”: Since this paragraph is all about allowing experiments up to the 14th day after conception, this phrase clearly refers to the moment of conception.

    “ … there is no particular part of the developmental process that is more important than another … ”: the Warnock Committee admits there’s no special significance whatsoever (biological or philosophical) about the 14th day after conception, or any other day after conception. The significant thing is that a human life has begun.

    “ … Thus biologically there is no one single identifiable stage in the development of the embryo beyond which the in vitro embryo should not be kept alive … ”: Put plainly, whatever the age of the embryo or unborn child he or she should not really be killed.

    “ … However we agreed that this was an area in which some precise decision must be taken, in order to allay public anxiety … ” The Committee has decided to make a completely arbitrary decision in order to fool Parliament and the public into thinking that we have reached a profound conclusion based on weighty scientific evidence, and so we've plumped for 14 days. As Clarke and Linsey noted " … this is a clear case of extrinsic criteria being used to solve a problem which requires the determination of firm and unequivocal intrinsic criteria ... "(Clarke, P.A.B. and A. Linzey Research on Embryos: Politics, Theology and Law. Lester Crook, London, 1988, p. 26.)

    On the basis of Dame Mary Warnock’s report, Parliament went on in 1990 to legalise destructive research on human embryos for the following purposes: promoting advances in the treatment of infertility; increasing knowledge about the causes of miscarriage; increasing knowledge about the causes of congenital disease; developing more effective techniques of contraception; developing methods for detecting the presence of gene or chromosome abnormalities in embryos before implantation; or for such other purposes as may be specified in regulations; and last year Parliament approved the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, amending the 1990 law, which approved the licensing of more procedures that will harm or kill embryos created in the laboratory and which extends the ways in which embryos can be artificially created and manipulated - including hybrid (animal-human) embryos.

    So when Dame Mary Warnock says that doctors who won't kill their patients are "genuinely wicked", reasonable-minded citizens would be wise to genuinely frightened.