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.
I was honoured to be given an award last week for 25 years of service in the Knights of St Columba (KSC). I am pictured here with John O'Brien, the Grand Knight of my local Council 295, Kenton and Harrow, at St Joseph's Church, Wealdstone and Harrow Weald, who presented the award. Others honoured for 25 years' service were Des Kellett, Austin Boylan, Manuel Rodrigues and Michael O'Connor.
The award ceremony took place in St. Joseph's Church, Wealdstone and Harrow Weald, after a Mass celebrated by Fr Michael Doherty SDS. Fr Michael spoke warmly about the Knights and the high regard in which this magnificent organization is held by priests up and down the country. The priesthood can be lonely and the Knights are known for their down-to-earth, practical support of their priests in countless ways. That support can also be personal - such as when Fr Michael's mother died and her funeral was attended by forty Knights in a parish 200 miles from his own. Fr Michael said he was overwhelmed by their personal love and support.
The pro-life movement, like priests, has good reason to be thankful to the Knights of St. Columba who are second to none in their backing - not only for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, but for all groups seeking to uphold the value and inviolability of every human life.
The KSC runs in my family, with my father, grandfather, and great grandfather all members of the same Council in Whitechapel, London, in the early 1930s.
During the ceremony in St. Joseph's Church, in which a number of men were admitted to the KSC for the first time, the membership officer addressed us in words which will strike a chord for many others who work in the pro-life movement which, of course, includes people of all faiths and none:
"I ask you to recall that day on Calvary, when our beloved Saviour, Jesus Christ, shed his precious blood on the Cross for our salvation. Since that day the Cross has been the symbol of our faith and has been carried to the four corners of the earth by fearless missionaries. The church in carrying out that duty has, like our crucified Lord, been subjected to many persecutions and , although we do not now face the barbarities of earlier times, we do face the great enemies of indifference or mockery or open hostility for those values which we as Christians hold as being essential ... "
I am proud to be part of an organization which works quietly and effectively to promote the Gospel of life, sometimes in the face of indifference, mockery or open hostility. No wonder it continues to attract the support when it holds so fast to timeless values.
Two Christian leaders have delivered commentaries recently which defend magnificently children with Down's syndrome against today's pro-abortion culture of death. Those leaders are Charles Chaput, Catholic archbishop of Denver, and Revd Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
"Currently about 5,000 children with Down syndrome are born in the United States each year. They join a national Down syndrome population of roughly 400,000 persons. But that population may soon dwindle. And the reason why it may decline illustrates, in a vivid way, a struggle within the American soul. That struggle will shape the character of our society in the decades to come."
"The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear," he said. That's the choice we face when it happens in our personal experience. And that's the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not."
"How we treat these persons - whether we revere them and welcome them, or throw them away in distaste - shows what we really believe about human dignity, both as individuals and as a nation."
"Catholic public officials who take God seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow Catholics. God will demand an accounting."
"Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the family. God will demand an accounting."
"And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our nation's life. God will demand an accounting."
"[Choice] is the single most over-used, and misused, get-out-of-jail-free card in contemporary moral jargon ... [W]hat most of us want to see is an end to our culture’s damaging obsession with physical perfection, something driven by our own fear of inadequacy. The false logic of choice which blocks any challenge to this cult of perfection is profoundly harmful to us all."
It is truly refreshing when Christian leaders are united in strong, eloquent and loving defence of the most vulnerable. I strongly recommend reading both men's commentaries in full and sharing them widely.
Dan Zeidler, an expert on life-issues in Latin America, reports that Honduras in central America has banned morning-after pills. Spanish-speaking readers can see a slightly blurred copy of the decree here.
Dan writes: "In early June of this year, many of you very generously responded to the request of pro-life leadership in Honduras to send a letter to then president of the Congress of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, urging Honduras to prohibit the morning-after pill. I am writing to let you know that as of a few days ago ... the morning-after pill is prohibited in Honduras. Congratulations especially to Martha Casco who has spearheaded this effort in Honduras!"
The Belfast high court has concluded the second and final day's hearing in the judicial review of government abortion guidance, brought by SPUC.
Mr James Dingemans QC, SPUC's barrister, reiterated that Northern Ireland law protected the unborn. He rejected claims by the health department that it was acceptable for physicians in the province to apply Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidance to cases in Northern Ireland.
He said that the right to non-participation in abortion was not addressed by the health department's document in the area of questionable cases where two doctors disagreed over the lawfulness of an abortion.
Mr Dingemans restated that the court of appeal had found that the health department had failed in its duty to issue guidance but, once that court had ruled, the guidance had to be proper guidance.
He added that abortion was always illegal; what was legal was an intervention to save a mother's life.
Mr Dingemans pointed out that the RCOG guidance on late term abortion said that the child must not be born alive, or the doctor risked prosecution if his actions after the delivery resulted in the child's death. It would be quite wrong to suggest that obstetricians and gynaecologists should read and apply this principle in Northern Ireland.
The hearing has concluded and judgement has been reserved.
A claimed breakthrough towards the creation of artificial sperm is unethical and spurious. According to results published in Nature magazine online today, researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine have turned embryonic stem cells, taken from surplus IVF embryos, into human germ cells, which are the precursors of sperm and ova.
Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communication manager, told the media this evening:
"This research is unethical, because human embryos - innocent, equal members of the human family - were killed to extract the embryonic stem cells used in the research. Even if the research hadn't involved embryo-killing, the creation of artificial gametes would enable even more human embryos to be created outside the human body, to be killed and abused. As with IVF, artificial insemination and the use of donor gametes, the use of artificial gametes in reproduction would distort and damage relations between family members.
"Just like cloning, the success rate for this research is very low; and just like cloning, this research is likely to result in a high rate of defective embryos and birth defects. The research provides yet another motivation for exploring the scientific dead-end which is embryonic stem cell research.
"The researchers are destroying life in a scientifically dubious quest to manufacture new lives. It is ironic that the institute which provided the funding for the research is named after Eunice Kennedy Shriver, as she was a vocal supporter of the pro-life movement. There are no instances of any major medical advance achieved by abandoning basic ethical principles such as safeguarding the right to life".
The Belfast high court has concluded the first day's hearing in the judicial review of government abortion guidance, brought by SPUC.
Mr James Dingemans, SPUC's barrister, outlined to Lord Justice Girvan why the government's guidance was inadequate and needs to be withdrawn and re-examined so that it deals more adequately with the issues. He drew attention to the issue of informed consent. He also highlighted the lack of information in the guidance which doctors could pass on to their patients about the risks and other potential consequences of abortion, in particular the mental health impact.
Mr Dingemans also said that, despite the health department's claims, unborn children in Northern Ireland had rights. Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act and the 1945 Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Act both safeguard those rights. Abortion actually has been an offence in common law going back much further than that.
Mr Dingemans said that women were entitled to treatment which protected their lives, but it was wholly misleading for the health department to portray the law as allowing so-called termination of pregnancy services. He also pointed out that media commentators had mistakenly concluded that the government's guidance suggested that abortion had been liberalized in Northern Ireland.
The hearing continues tomorrow (28 October) and is expected to conclude then.
Michael Hill, chairman of SPUC's national executive committee and vice-chairman of SPUC, was listening this afternoon to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, and he sent me the following report:
"The first topic for discussion on Jeremy Vine’s radio show today was the news that research suggests the number of Down's syndrome pregnancies has risen by more than 70% over the last 20 years. This is largely a result of many women choosing to delay pregnancy and childbirth until later life, plus the use of improved screening techniques.
"I found the callers’ comments about living with Down's Syndrome very positive and encouraging, with parents saying they were now glad they hadn’t known their unborn child had the condition because they would have aborted, and others that it would be better not to have the tests rather than face that difficult decision. Little was said about the injustice of killing a child because it may have Down's Syndrome, or any other undesirable condition.
"The second item on the show, however, was about how A.A. Gill (pictured) had shot and killed a baboon whilst visiting Africa, just to experience what it might be like to kill a human being. This, in contrast, caused outrage and condemnation from all quarters, with one caller suggesting the man should shoot himself rather than the baboon."
"In my piece for The Guardian which John Smeaton refers to, I never call Moore a “committed Catholic”. Those words were added by the editor in the standfirst. What I say in the piece is that Moore goes to Mass each Sunday. When I questioned whether this was true in a post for America magazine I received an emphatic message from his office which led me to apologise for questioning the fact. As for failing to mention that Leo XIII in the same year as Rerum Novarum spoke out against abortion, mea culpa– but I don’t see anything worth apologising for. I have a strong record of speaking out against abortion, and I deplore Moore’s failure to do so.”
I am grateful for Austen Ivereigh’s clarification. Whilst of course accepting the explanation for the description in The Guardian of Michael Moore, the film director, as “a committed Catholic”, I do think Austen painted an incomplete picture. His article in The Guardian, in my opinion, portrayed Michael Moore as a man fired up with a wholly admirable zeal for social justice, a zeal he gets from Catholic social teaching. As I pointed out in my blogpost, Michael Moore ardently supports abortion and it’s a matter of very serious concern whenever pro-abortion people in public life have their Catholicism put on a pedestal for others’ edification. Archbishop Burke put it rather more strongly than this, recently, when he wrote:
“To ignore the fact that Catholics in public life, for example, who persistently violate the moral law regarding the inviolability of innocent human life or the integrity of the marital union, lead many into confusion or even error regarding the most fundamental teachings of the moral law, in fact, contributes to the confusion and error, redounding to the gravest harm to our brothers and sisters, and, therefore, to the whole nation."
On 29 Septemberwe asked you to lobby the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which was due to debate a radical pro-abortion reportauthored by Christine McCafferty, the veteran anti-life British MP. The vote was postponed, thanks to your efforts. Further amendments to the report will now be considered by the assembly's Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Mrs McCafferty, at a meeting in Paris on 13 November. Many pro-life amendments have been tabled by Luca Volonte (pictured), an Italian parliamentarian. Please email the committee-membersto urge them to support Mr Volonte's amendments (specifically amendments 10 to 15, 17 & 18, and 20 to 29), and to vote against the report as a whole if the committee rejects the amendments. The title of the report is "Fifteen years since the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action".
Also, Christine McCafferty is now proposing a second report entitled "Women's access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection". This second report is being promoted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-abortion law firm, and Christian Fiala, Austria's most notorious abortion doctor. The report's aim is to attack doctors who refuse to provide or refer women for abortions. In your email to the committee-members about McCafferty's first report (mentioned above), please also urge them to reject Mrs McCafferty's second report too.
send one separate email per committee-member
head each message with Dear [insert Mr, Mrs, etc] [insert surname]
Points from the ECLJ's briefing on Mrs McCafferty's first report:
"The ECLJ is particularly concerned about the [report's] underlying promotion of abortion as a means of family planning and population control."
"The Council of Europe has no authority or competency to promote abortion."
"[T]he [report is] based upon unsupportable concerns regarding the need for greater population control in developing countries."
"Promoting abortion violates the core values upon which the Council of Europe was built by greatly offending the protection of human life and dignity, and respect for national sovereignty."
"International law does not provide a so called 'right' to abortion ... Only the right to life is recognized."
"The European Convention on Human Rights explicitly contains a provision guaranteeing the right to life. The Parliamentary Assembly cannot infer from the Convention that the right to life does not extend to the unborn, and cannot lower the degree of protection afforded by the State to human life."
"Attacking the legitimacy of any country's abortion laws is not within the competency of the Council of Europe."
"The Explanatory Memorandum's recommendations are premised in large part on unfounded assertions about the need for population control and advance the cause of the neomalthusianism philosophy."
"[I]improving agricultural technology has allowed food production to more than keep pace with population growth."
"Indeed, in 1995, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that by fully employing present agricultural technology, the world could feed 30 to 35 billion people."
"Malthus's theories eventually gave rise to the eugenics movement of the late 19th and 20th Centuries that divided human beings into 'superior' and 'inferior' races and called for the segregation or elimination of the 'inferior' races."
"[T]he population control movement has also been used as an instrument of imperialism against less-developed countries."
"The money to be spent on population control in less developed countries can be better spent on basic health care needs and economic development in those countries."
"[T]he availability of abortion as a component of population control programs coupled with the widespread availability of technology that allows parents to learn the sex of their unborn child has led to a disproportionate number of abortions of unborn girls."
The Daily Telegraphreports that three babies are aborted in this country every day because it is thought that they have Down's syndrome. We have, of course, long been aware of widespread abortion for suspected disability and, as Janet Thomas of No Less Human told me, every abortion of a Down's child is a tragedy. She says that statistics can sometimes get in the way of the human beings involved, and that parents tend to be told of the negative aspects of having a Down's child rather than the positive ones.
We at SPUC are responding to this news by proposing two pieces of research. We must find out whether pre-abortion counselling includes a warning that women are more likely to suffer psychologically if they abort a child because of his or her disability.
We'll also carry out research among politicians. We'll ask them whether they support abortion on the grounds of gender or race. I hope that few of them will. We'll then ask them if they support abortion because of disability. If they do, we'll ask how they can reconcile that with opposing abortion because of the baby's sex or skin colour.
The research among politicians will begin with questionnaires to UK MPs but will be extended to other elected representatives.
The increased likelihood of psychological problems among women who abort because of their babies' disability is described in The psychosocial sequelae of a second-trimester termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormality by M C A White-Van Mourik, J M Connor and M A Ferguson-Smith, published in Prenatal diagnosis in 1992.
"The idea of allowing assisted suicide was condemned tonight as discriminatory, highly dangerous and threatening. Lords were offended by Lord Alderdice's suggestion that coroners should decide who may live or die under his amendment. His amendment was described as 'dismal', a 'travesty' and surrounded by 'weasal words'. We congratulate those Lords who so firmly opposed the amendment, and the many members of the public who lobbied Lords prior to tonight's debate. The director of public prosecutions should read tonight's debate closely as he drafts his policy on prosecuting assisted suicide."
In a recent speech, Wellington Webb, appointed by Barack Obama as special adviser to the US mission to the United Nations, confirmed that the Obama administration will be promoting legalised abortion throughout the world, targeting adolescents in a worldwide abortion drive. The ambassador was speaking at the UN's 15th anniversary commemoration of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). His speech expressly committed the US government to promoting
"access to reproductive health commodities and services for adolescents"
and he stated
"President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice have all underscored the strong support of the United States for human rights, women’s rights and reproductive rights as well as universal access to reproductive health and family planning".
Hillary Clinton, Obama's appointee as US Secretary of State, has made it clear that when her government speaks of reproductive health, it's a term which includes access to abortion.
We must understand that it's the intention of the Obama administration not to allow health professionals' conscientious objection to abortion to get in the way. "Universal access" to "reproductive health", to which the Obama government declares itself to be committed, cannot be "universal" if troublesome pro-life health professionals object in conscience to participating in abortion cases or referring them to colleagues.
The attack on conscientious objection to abortion has become a top priority for the pro-abortion lobby elsewhere. At a Council of Europe meeting in Paris next month, one of the items on the agenda is "Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection". Forcing conscientiously objecting doctors to refer women to other doctors for abortion is another way in which pro-life ethics are being suppressed. And immediately on the horizon is the Brown government's anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent.
There are many people who support or are sympathetic to pro-life values, but who do little to express that support or sympathy. We need to inform people that failing to defend the right to life of unborn children results in the erosion of the right of conscientious objection. Defending the right to life defends all other rights. Let's encourage as many people as possible to join the pro-life resistance revolution today!
Placing "Newman and conscience in the company of Tony Blair amounts to a provocative juxtaposition", says the official website of the cause for the canonisation of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman in response to this weekend's Tablet editorial.
"However many times it is refuted as an interpretation of Newman, the idea that he is the patron of ‘conscientious’ dissent shows a stubborn tendency to resurface.
"It is in this context that The Tablet’s having placed Newman and conscience in the company of Tony Blair amounts to a provocative juxtaposition."
The Newman cause website continues:
"Since becoming a Catholic, Mr Blair has refused every invitation to disown and repent of these things. Although they are simply incompatible with the Catholic Faith and were pursued by him, before he was a Catholic, with every appearance of conviction, Mr Blair has refused since entering the Church to say whether in these respects he has undergone a change of mind and heart. In refusing to clarify his position, he implies that he still believes that they were the right things to do.
"If this implication is correct, some commentators, including Catholics, have sought to justify it by saying that Mr Blair’s silence is because his support for abortion, embryo experimentation, civil partnerships and gay adoption has always been for him, and remains now, a matter of conscience. Now this is the danger in The Tablet’s association of Newman and conscience with the case of Tony Blair. If as a Catholic Mr Blair thinks that his conscience directs him to support such positions, to invoke Newman in defence of his stance would be a travesty. For Newman, no Catholic can be in good conscience in supporting the positions Mr Blair espoused. The impossibility of conscience, enlightened by Faith, justifying adherence to evil is one of the most important of Newman’s lessons for our times."
What is The Tablet trying to achieve by exalting Tony Blair into Newman's company? Not only has Tony Blair refused to repudiate his anti-life and anti-family political record, since being received into the Catholic Church, he has extended it with open attacks on Catholic teaching on sexual ethics.
Remember: This is the man favoured by the British government to become president of the European Union (EU). An Obama-Blair alliance imposing its so-called pro-choice culture of death worldwide has been described thus by Monsignor Michel Schooyans, a leading Vatican scholar :
“What the analysis of Barack Obama's decisions and Tony Blair's project reveals is that an alliance is coming between two converging intentions, one aimed at subjugating law and the other at subjugating religion. This is the new version of the two-headed eagle. Law and religion are exploited to 'legitimize' anything at all.”
Is this what The Tablet wants? Surely rather than using their editorial to promote Tony Blair, who remains one of the world's leading anti-life/anti-family politicians, The Tablet should be briefing its readers to oppose the Brown government's anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent?
Earlier this month, I mentioned Cardinal Turkson's conspicuous failure to condemn the use of condoms. I said that this was "disturbing", not least in the light of Pope Benedict's ringing endorsement of the teaching of Humanae vitae earlier this year:
“The truth expressed in Humanae vitae does not change; rather, in light of the new scientific findings, its teaching becomes even more up to date and induces reflection upon its intrinsical value ... The concern for human life and the safeguard of the dignity of the person impose upon us not to leave anything untried so that it may be shared with all people the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love in full adherence to the law written in the heart of every person.”
I have been actively involved in the pro-life movement for 36 years. In my experience, the deafening silence of so many church leaders on the wrongfulness of the separation of the unitive significance and procreative significance of the conjugal act is the greatest obstacle we now face in the battle against abortion, IVF practices and euthanasia - for reasons I have explained elsewhere on this blog.
Pope Paul VI predicted that once contraception became “regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty” (HV, 17), brute power would be used by governments to impose birth control policies on their populations. Nowhere is this more true than in Britain where we face the prospect of the Brown government's final anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent.
According to Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the "supreme court" of the Catholic Church), Pope Benedict has emphasised in his latest encyclical Caritas in Veritate that the message of Humanae vitae is fundamental to achieving authentic human development:
"It is instructive to note that Pope Benedict XVI, in his most recent encyclical letter on the Church's social doctrine, makes special reference to Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, underscoring its importance "for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes" (Caritas in veritate, no. 15). Pope Benedict XVI makes clear that the teaching in Humanae vitae was not simply a matter of "individual morality," declaring: 'Humanae vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II's Encyclical Evangelium vitae' (Caritas in veritate, no. 15).
" ... The respect for the integrity of the conjugal act is essential to the context for the advancement of the culture of life", said Archbishop Burke.
In the light of his appointment as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, it's all the more vital that Cardinal Turkson, inspired by the example of Archbishop Burke, reiterates clearly papal teaching on condoms - "which is not simply a matter of 'individual morality'".
There is a vast, growing body of academic research which underpins the arguments of the campaign in support of pro-life legislation. The work of leading scholars helps to provide a firm foundation for the culture of life - a culture which persists throughout the world in spite of apparently unending attacks on human life by pro-abortion governments and organizations.
One such scholar is Professor John Keown (pictured). Professor Keown was a senior lecturer in the law and ethics of medicine at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, and he currently holds the Rose F. Kennedy Chair in Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, Washington. His academic output is vast and his research has been cited widely, in particular by the U.S. Supreme Court (in its decision on physician-assisted suicide), by the English Court of Appeal (in the conjoined twins case, 2000); and by the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics.
SPUC has listed over 100 of his publications on abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, the legal status of the in-vitro embryo, the morning-after pill - reviewing these issues in England, the US, the Netherlands and other legal jurisdictions around the world.
As we prepare for the Brown government's final anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent - it's important to spend time deepening our understanding of the ethical and legal issues in which we are engaged. Over the coming weeks and months, SPUC will be publishing a reference library of titles of seminal research which I hope will be useful to everyone engaged in our great campaign for life.
It lists factors that will count against the DPP bringing a prosecution - these include things like the victim being disabled, and that the victim spontaneously asked the suspect for help (this is quite ludicrous – as the victim will be dead by the time). This policy will be used to sanction help for suicides in England and Wales, as well as those who help people go abroad to kill themselves.
We are about to publish a briefing to guide people on how to make submissions to the DPP. SPUC's new leaflet "Assisted suicide, a terrible mistake" (pictured) is for handing out as widely as possible – door to door, via churches, family and neighbours – to let people know about the campaign and invite them to order a briefing.
Please order copies of the leaflet to distribute as widely as possible. The consultation exercise runs until December, so we have only about 6 weeks to get these leaflets out widely. You can order the leaflet (and the briefing) by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Following the defeat in the summer of Lord Falconer's attempt to widen the law on assisted suicide, Lord Alderdice has re-tabled his amendment to the Coroners and Justice bill. The amendment (see full text below) would allow assisted suicide. He had tabled the amendment for the bill's committee stage before the summer recess but withdrew it before it was debated. The amendment is likely to be debated this Monday (26 October) during the bill's report stage.
Please email members of the House of Lords to urge them to oppose the amendment. In the limited time available, I encourage you on this occasion to concentrate on sympathetic Lords, such as those Lords who voted against Lord Falconer's amendment - please use the email addresses on the voting list Simply select a Lord or Lords to write to who has the same initial as your surname. Please don't forget to forward any replies you receive to email@example.com
Many arguments against assisted suicide, which you are recommended to use in your message to Lords, can be found at the following archived SPUC web-links:
The amendment reads: "[N]o offence shall have been committed if assistance is given to a person to commit suicide who is suffering from a confirmed, incurable and disabling illness which prevents them from carrying through their own wish to bring their life to a close, if the person has received certification from a coroner who has investigated the circumstances, and satisfied himself that it is indeed the free and settled wish of the person that they bring their life to a close."
Our colleagues at CARE for Europe have sent us the information below, which we have adapted for your use. Please read it and follow the directions. Please remember to copy any replies you receive to firstname.lastname@example.org
Amendments to oppose coercive abortion and sex-selective abortion, to be voted on this Thursday (22 October)
As in previous years CARE For Europe, along with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is campaigning for specific wording to be included in the European Commission's annual budget for overseas development, to prevent any funds going to organisations or countries which are complicit in promoting family planning programmes which include an element of compulsion (eg. coercive abortion and involuntary sterilisation). This amendment was actually passed in 2007 and included in the 2008 budget. The pro-abortion lobby are, however, now saying this amendment should be opposed, because they say it is an attack on the so-called right to abortion. This is not the case. All that is being called for is that there should be no element of compulsion in these matters. Such compulsion is an abuse of human rights and makes women have something done to them that they have not freely chosen. (Please see the end of this message for the full text of the amendment.)
Another amendment supported by CARE for Europe and similar NGOs is against sex-selective abortion (Again, please see the end of this message for the amendment's full text.)
These amendments will be voted this Thursday 22 October during the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg. Please write to your MEPs to ask them to support these worthy amendments. To find out who your MEPs are and how to contact them, please visit http://is.gd/4r6e4 and pick your region. For an easy way to email all your MEPs, please visit http://is.gd/4r6fL To find out more about the issues, please read Care for Europe's briefing on the SPUC website http://is.gd/4r6Pv
Full text of the amendment against coercive abortion: "Stresses that Community assistance should not be given to any authority, organization or programme which supports or participates in the management of an action which involves such human rights abuses as coercive abortion, involuntary sterilization or infanticide, especially where such actions apply their priorities though psychological, social, economic or legal pressure, thus finally implementing the specific Cairo ICPD prohibition on coercion or compulsion in sexual and reproductive health matters; calls on the Commission to present a report on the implementation of the EU's external assistance covering this programme."
Full text of the amendment against sex-selective abortion: "Projects funded by this budget title must not pursue gender-based eugenic discrimination, which is increasingly common in certain countries, or any other form of discrimination against girls (at any point after conception) and such projects must commit adequate resources to overcome the subsequent asymmetries for children conceived as a result of mass rape, including appropriate provision for their mothers [cf Opinion on "A Special Place for Children in EU External Action", § 9 and 13, EP committee for women's rights and gender equality, amendment tabled by Ana Maria Gomes (S-D, Portugal)]"
Statistically an unborn baby in Northern Ireland is safer than anywhere else in the UK. The success of the pro-life movement in preventing the extension of the Abortion Act has meant that the law in Northern Ireland still safeguards the lives of unborn children as well as protecting women from the terrible damage which abortion can cause.
However, recently issued guidance from the Northern Ireland health department now threatens to make abortion in the Province more easily available. This guidance gives so much prominence to possible defences to a criminal charge that they appear to represent the law on abortion. In turn, abortion is presented as a “service” to which patients must have access rather than a tightly controlled exception to a criminal prohibition.
Health department guidance is very important since it is the basis on which clinical decisions are made. SPUC believes the current guidance undermines the law, creates a serious threat to unborn children, to the safety of women and to the rights of medical professionals.
The lives of unborn children in Northern Ireland are at stake— we must act before it’s too late
The health committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly has expressed concern that the guidance makes no mention “of the rights of the unborn baby” and has argued that “it must be made clear that all those involved, including health care professionals and counsellors need to take the rights of the child into consideration.”
The guidance presents abortion as a legitimate treatment for protecting mental health—over 98 percent of induced abortions in Britain are undertaken supposedly because of a risk to the mental or physical health of women— ignoring a mountain of evidence that abortion is a cause of mental ill-health. Research shows that women who abort have a suicide rate six to seven times higher than those who give birth to their children, while teenagers are five times more likely to seek subsequent help for psychological and emotional problems compared to those who carry ‘unwanted’ pregnancies to term.
The guidance also states that medical personnel have “no legal right to refuse to take part in the termination of pregnancy” and obliges general practitioners who declare a conscientious objection to abortion to “have in place arrangements with [another healthcare professional]... to whom the woman can be referred.”
Abortion lobby determined to strip away rights of the unborn
In the past the pro-abortion lobby has focused on liberalising the law in Northern Ireland. It was robust opposition from the Northern Ireland Assembly to Diane Abbot’s attempt to extend the Abortion Act which helped to persuade Gordon Brown to cut short the debate on abortion during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act last October.
During the passage of the first HFE Act in 1990 an amendment to extend the Abortion Act was comfortably defeated due to the strength of public opposition in Northern Ireland.
Recommendations from human rights committees to introduce a new law have also been rejected by successive governments for the same reason. Having failed in numerous attempts to have the Abortion Act introduced the Family Planning Association brought a court action seeking guidance on when abortion was legally available in Northern Ireland in the same way Debbie Purdy brought her case asking for guidelines on assisted suicide.
The courts have proved to be influential in liberalising abortion in many countries, the US and France for example. In December 2009, the European Court of Human Rights will consider a case, brought with the help of the Irish FPA, which is intended to have Ireland’s protection for children before birth overturned on the grounds that it breaches the human rights of women seeking abortion. SPUC has intervened in the case since the implications are so grave.
Pro-life concerns ignored
In Northern Ireland abortion is still a criminal offence not a medical service. The health department has largely ignored the concerns of the pro-life movement by refusing to fundamentally amend the guidance.
Despite a public petition with 21,000 names rejecting the original draft of the guidance, a motion against it in the Assembly in 2007, and a recommendation from the health committee to incorporate explicit protection for the child, the health department has refused to introduce the fundamental changes needed to do this.
So far lobbying by the public, politicians (from across the divide) and the united efforts of the pro-life movement have achieved only modest changes.
All we can do now to ensure that existing legal protection for women and children is accurately reflected by the guidance is pursue the legal option. It’s our last resort.
Legal action could be the last hope for our babies; we need your help to fight this critical battle
The hearing of our application for a Judicial Review of the abortion guidance is scheduled to be held in the High Court in Belfast on 27th-28th October. Our lawyers have estimated that the challenge is likely to incur legal costs running into many thousands of pounds.
On 26th October 2009, Aaron Doherty from Portstewart in Northern Ireland will take part in the Dublin Marathon in a bid to raise funds to fight our case.
Aaron is a member of SPUC’s national executive committee and has been giving pro-life talks in schools for almost 20 years. Like many of you, his tireless efforts represent an indispensable part of SPUC’s campaign—delivering copies of the Pro-life Times, distributing the Society’s literature and being a voice for the unborn in everyday life. These activities are every bit as vital in saving lives as the legal battles we engage in.
And, just as we rely upon an army of dedicated individuals to help get the our message across, so we are also dependant on everyone who gathers sponsorships and collects donations when we need to defend the rights of the vulnerable in the law courts.
Please consider what you can to help SPUC’s Judicial Review fund today and help protect our babies before it’s too late. You can do this by:
phoning through your donation using a credit/debit card on (020) 7091 7091
The liberalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland would seriously damage the prospects of protecting unborn children in the Republic of Ireland too, so please pray for the success of our case. May God bless you for all the good you do to help unborn babies.
Sir Ludovic Kennedy, the famous broadcaster and campaigner for euthanasia, has died of natural causes, aged 89. May he rest in peace. SPUC extends its sympathies to his loved ones. Sir Ludovic was president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (which has now repackaged itseld as "Dignity in Dying”).
"The patient must be beyond the help of treatment, and find his suffering, physical or mental, unbearable ... Nor is it only pain...which causes people to long for death, but the miserable side-effects which often accompany it – incontinence, vomiting, bedsores, breathlessness, oedema, insomnia – leading to a gradual disintegration of the personality and death without dignity."
"I experience all the symptoms he cites apart from bedsores, and have done for many years, so presumably my personality must be well disintegrated by now. Perhaps my friends are too polite to tell me!"
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are calling for compulsory school-lessons to combat opposition to the Lisbon treaty, including claims that the treaty could result in abortion bans being over-turned. The calls are being led by the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) bloc and by Mario David, a Portuguese MEP. Mr David said:
"All the debates about the constitution and then the Lisbon Treaty showed a great deal of lying, cheating and mistrust about the EU. In Ireland people were told there was going to be abortion across the EU, that young men would be conscripted into a European Army. This was a bunch of lies."
First, let me be clear: SPUC neither supports nor opposes what is called "the European project" i.e. further integration of European countries in various ways via the EU. SPUC cannot take a position one way or another on that because it is outside our remit. Our concerns, criticisms or opposition to any aspect of the EU system relate only to their impact in the field of medicalised killing (abortion, embryo research, euthanasia) and related issues (sexual ethics).
Secondly, tightly-argued and expertly-researched legal arguments were put by pro-lifers as to the possible impact of the Lisbon treaty upon abortion laws in Ireland and other EU member-states. To dismiss those arguments as lying and cheating is absurd. It is also untenable, as organs of both the EU (such as the European parliament and European Commission) and the Council of Europe (such as its parliamentary assembly) have many times voted against pro-life and pro-family values, acting outside their own remits. It is no wonder that many pro-lifers mistrust the European institutions.
Lastly, as Anthony Ozimic, SPUC communications manager, has commented this morning: "It would be a totalitarian abuse of power to use the school system to brain-wash pupils into rejecting the well-founded concerns by pro-life groups regarding the Lisbon treaty."
A new report into worldwide abortion rates is false. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which has released the report, is an offshoot of the world's largest abortion promoter, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, told the media this morning:
"The Guttmacher report is not independent academic research but propaganda from the pro-abortion lobby. The Guttmacher Institute was set up to promote abortion and contraception. The report's acknowledgments are a roll-call of the pro-abortion lobby. Guttmacher's figures are based on highly spurious guesstimates, which even the report itself is forced to admit. The pro-abortion lobby has a proven track record of exaggerating illegal abortions numbers. Abortion numbers in Britain today are many times higher than before the 1967 Abortion Act, despite ever-increasing access to birth control drugs and devices. We will be issuing a detailed response to the report."
Dr Ivereigh also claims that Mr Moore's latest critique of capitalism is based on the principles of Pope Leo XIII's (pictured) encyclical Rerum Novarum. Neither Mr Moore nor Dr Ivereigh make any mention of Mr Moore's ardent support for abortion. To quote but one example of Mr Moore's pro-abortion writings: in July 2000 Mr Moore wrote that:
"About the only reason I voted for [Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton] was because of [their support for abortion]".
Neither do Mr Moore nor Dr Ivereigh mention the Catholic Church's historic upholding of the right to life. In the same year as Rerum Novarum (1891), Leo XIII wrote:
"Clearly, divine law, both that which is known by the light of reason and that which is revealed in Sacred Scripture, strictly forbids anyone, outside of public cause [JS: e.g. war], to kill or wound a man unless compelled to do so in self-defence."
In the encyclical Centesimus Annus marking the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Pope John Paul II condemned
"the scandal of abortion".
It is not for nothing that automatic excommunication is the penalty for procuring an abortion, and that Holy Communion is (sometimes) denied to politicians who vote for legal abortion. As Mr Moore rightly says, "we'll be judged according to how we treat the least among us". Are not the unborn "the least among us"?
Dr Ivereigh's description of Mr Moore as "a committed Catholic" reminds me of the constant descriptions in the media of Cherie Blair as a "devout Catholic", despite Mrs Blair's opposition to Catholic teaching on sexual ethics and her endorsement of pro-abortion organisations. It also reminds me of the constant descriptions of Tony Blair's "conversion to Catholicism", even though he refuses to repudiate his anti-life political record, and attacks papal teaching on homosexuality, telling the Church it must change its "entrenched attitudes" to homosexuality.
This past week in Geneva, the Holy See joined with pro-life groups to assert that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child protects unborn children.
Tune in, below, to Pat Buckley speaking from Geneva about the rights of unborn children in international law. Pat was in Geneva, on behalf of SPUC, participating in the United Nations’ launch of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Pat reports:
“This was the first direct possibility we have had of challenging the fact that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is being improperly interpreted as commencing at birth, whereas it sets out in the preamble that the child needs special safeguards and care including legal protection before as well as after birth.
“I attended a working group on discrimination against children at which Bruce Abramson, a Geneva-based human rights lawyer, spoke about his paper, prepared for the 20th anniversary CRC celebrations, Whose Human Dignity? Whose Human Rights? Discrimination against children in the pre-natal period of life. ‘The rights of children in the pre-natal period of life are the single biggest challenge to the children’s rights movement’ Bruce Abramson’s paper says.
“I intervened too, reminding the meeting that discrimination against the unborn child represented the gravest level of discrimination against children and that, according to WHO statistics, there are 42 million abortions annually. I said that the preamble to the convention states that ‘the child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity needs special safeguards and care before as well as after birth’ and that this recognition of the existence of the child before birth was continued in Article 1 where the word child is defined as being every human being under the age of 18.
“I pointed out that one of the panellists had listed the areas of non discrimination in article 2 but had excluded the fact that birth is part of that list and that there should be no discrimination by virtue of birth or other status. I continued that article 6 says that every child has the inherent right to life.
“I also said that politically correct ideologies have been adopted by many governments and are hostile to unborn life and had to be confronted. The convention had to be interpreted in the manner it was intended and this is supportive of unborn life.
“Fr Victor Ghio then addressed the meeting on behalf of the Holy See. He reinforced the points made by Bruce Abramson and myself. He also made the point that Article 24, the right to health, which calls for prenatal care, refers to the child and not tothe mother as the Convention on the Rights of the Child is focused on the child.”
Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone (pictured), the Vatican secretary of state, recently told the Czech president, with reference to the Lisbon treaty:
“Each European state has its own identity. The European Union will stipulate its rights and points of view that may not fit in with their own traditions and history. Some states naturally defend themselves against it – i.e. Ireland. If, for example, Europe acknowledges the union of homosexual couples as equal to marriage, it would go against its own history. And it would be appropriate to object to it. The Church wants to support states in this.“ (English translation courtesy of SPUC)
I note the contrast between Cardinal Bertone's words and those of Bishop Noel Treanor, representative of the Irish Bishops' Conference, to the Irish parliament:
"I state unequivocally that a Catholic can, without reserve and in good conscience, vote “Yes” for the Lisbon treaty. There are no grounds to justify a “No” vote on the Lisbon treaty on the basis of specifically religious or ethical concerns ... [N]o organisation actively lobbying in the current campaign, using either print or other media, speaks for or on behalf of the Catholic Church."
I am puzzled by Bishop Treanor's comment that none of the groups which campaigned against the Lisbon treaty "speaks for or on behalf of the Catholic Church". Canon 224-2 of the Code of Canon Law says:
"Lay members of Christ's faithful [have] the special obligation to permeate and perfect the temporal order of things with the spirit of the Gospel."
I know for a fact that many of those lay people who campaigned against the Lisbon treaty were intentionally seeking to fulfil that special obligation. Whilst it is understandable that the Irish bishops' conference seeks to speak for and on behalf of the Catholic Church, it may be illuminating to read what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said whilst Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
"We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated ... No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission: its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops."