Wednesday, 16 April 2008

"Sad day for the unborn child in Europe, but the fight goes on"

A resolution calling for unlimited access to abortion throughout Europe (see my blogs of 18th March and 6th April) was today rushed through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Assembly passed the resolution with 102 votes in favour, 69 votes against and 14 abstentions. Amendments seeking to make the resolution less extreme in its promotion of abortion were rejected.

Pat Buckley of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), who was present at today's debate, commented: "Today is a tragic day for Europe, not least because this report in favour of even more killing of unborn children was rushed through the Assembly without proper scrutiny. Plenary session speeches were limited to three minutes, amendment speeches to 30 seconds and scrutiny by the Assembly's legal affairs committee denied. It was disappointing to see that only 185 members out of 318 thought the issue important enough to be present. The only consolation is that the resolution is not legally binding."

Mr Nigel Dodds, MP and MLA for Belfast North, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and a minister in the Northern Ireland executive, said: "It's a sad day for the unborn child in Europe, but the fight goes on."

Read SPUC's release on today's vote here. You can find out how Assembly members voted here.

Pat Buckley (left) also spoke to me about the debate: "Mrs Gisela Wurm, a socialist deputy from Austria who prepared the report, claimed that refusal of abortion was violence against women.

"Mr Christos Pourgourides of Cyprus, on behalf of the conservative (EPP/CD) group, asked for the report to be referred to the legal affairs committee. This committee customarily looks at all human-rights related material. However, this request was rejected by the chair and without a vote. If the report had gone to the legal committee, it would actually have fallen from the assembly's future agenda.

"Senator Terry Leyden of Ireland's Fianna Fáil party, and vice-chair of the assembly's liberal group, said the resolution was partisan, one-sided and based on flawed logic. Ireland, which did not have widespread abortion, had the lowest maternal mortality in Europe. Other speakers were allowed to exceed their allotted time, but Senator Leyden was promptly stopped from speaking.

"Mr Joe Costello TD of the Irish Labour party went against the socialist consensus by voting pro-life. Maltese delegates also spoke in favour of protecting unborn life. There were 69 amendments proposed.

"Tragically, this is the first time that any international document has asserted a right to abortion."

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

New pro-life video

Fr Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has presented a new video explaining, without sensationalism, a common procedure used for late-term abortions.

Fr Pavone is an outstanding pastor of the Church with a special ministry to those who have been damaged by their involvement in abortion or in other anti-life practices. His greatest gift as a defender of life is his ability to make the Catholic Church’s position seem both understandable and compassionate to Catholics and to non-Catholics alike. Fr Pavone argues that the Catholic Church’s authentic humanism is so often caricatured and distorted. His voice as the leader of Priests for Life unmistakably conveys the truth of Catholic teaching on life in all its human richness and compassion.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Tony Blair continues to avoid the questions

Tony Blair’s office has replied to me (see my 4th April blog Blair in the cathedral and the “universal right to abortion” ).

In my original letter to Mr Blair I asked him if, in the light of his reception into the Catholic church, he would tell us if he now repudiates:

  • voting for abortion up to birth three times
  • personally endorsing his government policy of supplying abortion and birth control drugs and devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parental knowledge or consent
  • his government’s commitment to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right
  • personally championing destructive experiments on human embryos
  • his government introducing legislation which has led to a law which allows, and in certain circumstances requires, doctors to starve and dehydrate to death vulnerable patients;

He has refused, point blank, to comment on, still less to repudiate, these positions.

Here is the reply in italics, interspersed with my comments on it:

9th April 2008

Dear Mr Smeaton

Thank you for writing about the important issue of pro-life.

Mr Blair recognises that this is a subject of great concern to many people around the world and on which a variety of deeply held convictions are held.

This kind of statement from a public figure all too often prefaces a letter which does not answer the questions raised.

However the Foundation inevitably has to focus on a limited number of issues, especially as it develops its thinking and builds up its resources.

I didn’t write to Mr Blair’s Foundation or to Mr Blair about his Foundation. I wrote to Mr Blair, at his office, to ask him whether he repudiates his anti-life record in parliament and government.

It plans to concentrate initially on the following four areas: how the different faiths might work more closely together to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals;

I did ask Mr Blair about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically how the Labour government under his premiership (and under his successor) interprets the MDGs to include a right to abortion. Why can’t Mr Blair comment on that aspect of the MDGs, if the MDGs is one of the focuses of his Foundation?

educational projects, especially producing good material for school children here and abroad; an annual course at Yale University on faith and globalisation, with links to other institutions;

Can Mr Blair tell us whether this educational material and his course will teach students that almost all world religions not only recognise the intrinsic value and sanctity of human life but condemn, in general, abortion and euthanasia?

and support for The Co-Exist Foundation's plans to establish Abraham House, a meeting place for the Abrahamic faiths in central London. This means that, at the moment, the Foundation will not be able to address the issue of pro-life, weighty though it is.

Again, I didn’t ask the Foundation to address pro-life issues – I asked Mr Blair to address them.

Nor, I am afraid, will Mr Blair be able to enter into correspondence on his personal beliefs on this or indeed other issues.

I did not ask Mr Blair to enter into correspondence on his personal beliefs. I asked him, a public figure, about his public record on matters of current public policy – under which hundreds of thousands of unborn British people, and unborn people in developing countries, are killed every year. As I have mentioned before, as a Catholic myself, I do not believe that public figures can be allowed to protect themselves from public scrutiny simply by being received into the Catholic church.

I am very sorry to have to send you what you will probably find a disappointing reply

Yes, no reply at all is pretty disappointing.

but I hope that the above explains the reasons for it.

The letter singularly fails to explain the reasons for such a non-reply.