Friday, 25 September 2015

United pro-life effort led to British Parliament's rejection of assisted suicide

Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary
Congratulations to SPUC's tens of thousands of supporters, to pro-life leaders and colleagues in other organisations, and to Catholic leaders in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland on the overwhelming defeat of assisted suicide legislative proposals brought forward by Rob Marris MP.

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, explains:
The Bill was defeated on 11 September by a very substantial margin. The vote was reported as 118 for the bill, 330 against. One MP, Dr Rupa Huq, voted in both lobbies – effectively an abstention. Given that two tellers are appointed on each side for the division, the most precise indication of voting on the bill therefore is 119 for, 331 against, 1 “abstention”.
As there are now 650 seats in the House of Commons, the 331 MPs opposing the bill represents an overall majority (51%) of MPs. The proportion of MPs voting (almost 70%) reflects the depth of interest in the debate, and the strength of the majority is of course very decisive.

Among many outstanding speeches against the bill, Dr Philippa Whitford MP, a breast cancer surgeon, said: "I have never considered as a doctor that death was a good treatment for anything".

Other notable speeches against the bill included those by Jonathan Reynolds (Labour, Stalybridge & Hyde) and Dr Philippa Whitford (SNP, Central Ayrshire). David Cameron's opposition to the bill may have been a significant factor for some conservative MPs who voted against the bill. The front bench speeches, which are made at the conclusion of any debate, were surprisingly partisan. The opposition spokesman (Andy Slaughter) supported the bill and the government minister (Mike Penning, the Justice minister), while saying that the government did not hold a position on the bill, expressed his opposition to it on a personal level. Usually, on a free-vote issue, front-bench spokesmen would not express such explicit personal views.

The effectiveness of the campaign may be attributed to the fact that it was a strongly united effort, in which we all supported each others' endeavours, involving:
SPUC sent a special mailing to our 20,000 most active members, as well as various other mailings to key groups. As a result of our mailings, electronic alerts and website campaigning, approximately 27,500 briefings on the Bill were ordered and hundreds of supporters informed us about the voting intentions of hundreds of MPs. Readers of SPUC's Pro-Life Times, which has a circulation of 110,000, also opposed the Bill. Many supporters will have received similar messages about contacting their MP from a number of groups. MPs were getting the same message from a variety of constituents: vote against the bill. Faith leaders spoke out against the bill (in particular Catholic leaders from both Britain and Northern Ireland) and events such as vigils to encourage prayer for protection against the bill were organised in some places.
On the day of the Bill's defeat SPUC's Paul Tully told the media:
"This was an important victory for true compassion. It is a vote of affirmation for all those healthcare staff looking after terminally ill people. It will be a great relief to those with disabilities, chronic conditions and degenerative illnesses. The threat to them has been averted for now.....

"It is important to recognise that the defeat of the bill does not mean that people in severe pain will suffer more – in fact the bill included no mention of pain. Palliative care specialists can nearly always provide effective pain relief, even for very severe pain, and this is rarely cited as a reason for contemplating suicide."
In other words, we must not rest on our laurels. Contact me to find out how you can help to continue the campaign against assisted suicide. And for SPUC's part, we remain absolutely committed to building a united effort between pro-life groups and church leaders with a view to achieving further victories in the future.

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