Friday, 16 May 2008

Disabled leader: human embryo research unethical and unpromising

There’s been vast amounts of media coverage featuring disabled people saying how essential the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is, to seek cures for disability, and its proposals regarding the creation of, and destructive research on human embryos and human-animal hybrids.

Alison Davis, the leader of No Less Human, a group within SPUC, has spina bifida and several other disabling conditions. She has a letter in yesterday’s Telegraph opposing such views from both an ethical and pragmatic perspective.

New video on stem cell science

The Scottish Catholic Media Office has posted a new video on YouTube about the science of stem cells, presented by Professor Colin McGuckin, professor of regenerative medicine, University of Newcastle.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Comprehensive stats on life and family in Europe

The Institute for Family Policies has produced a very helpful, though worrying, report on the current state of the family within and across the 27 member-states of the European Union (EU). The president of the institute's European network is a young Spanish woman, Lola Velarde, who with SPUC and other groups, was part of the pro-life opposition to the pro-abortion 'Women Deliver' conference in London last year. The report, "The evolution of the family in Europe 2008" uses a great number of statistics and finds that abortion is the largest single cause of death within the European Union (EU), with an unborn child being aborted almost every 30 seconds. Almost one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion, and that only includes recorded abortions, not the countless newly-conceived embryonic children who may be killed in the first hours of their lives by abortion-causing birth control drugs and devices as well as through IVF procedures. Almost one million fewer babies were born inside the EU last year than in 1980. Do read the report and use it to spread the message that Europe must embrace human life and the family if it is to survive.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Shame on Andrew Lansley, Tory shadow health secretary

I take issue with Andrew Lansley, the Tory shadow health secretary (pictured), who told MPs on Monday: “If a woman needs an abortion…then it must be better for that to be an early and medical abortion, rather than later and surgical.” He seemed to be following Professor Stuart Campbell’s line (Telegraph, 1st May 2008) who said: "no one seriously disputes that the earlier a termination is carried out the better and safer it is." Mr Lansley, like Professor Campbell, himself, is calling for the abolition of the current requirement for a second doctor to authorise an abortion.

Earlier terminations are better for whom?

Are they better for young women for whom, at the end of a 'long line of non-choices', abortion becomes the only “choice”.

How many young women have been deceived by their school sex ed classes, telling them that by using contraception and being empowered by information, they would be 'safe'. There's not much recognition, in sex education, that many girls experience a power imbalance in their relationships with older, stronger, more persuasive men.

Girls are often told that sex is a normal part of teenage relationships, thereby applying the pressure of the 'norm' to give in to men. Apparently, only freaks don't have sex with their boyfriends. The fact is, girls fall in love and are eager to please and to be seen as normal.

And when teenage pregnancy is so frequently condemned by political leaders and in the media and elsewhere, who can blame a teenager for feeling shocked and unreal when she gets pregnant? Who can blame her for being completely unable to visualise herself as a mother and a happy, successful woman at the same time?

So because she can't see any path other than abortion, she may have that to grieve for her child for the rest of her life. Feeling powerless, avoiding thinking about the moral aspects of abortion, and being young will all contribute to an increased risk of psychological problems after abortion, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. And yes, this includes women who have early abortions.

And is early abortion better for the foetus? Obviously no abortion is good for any foetus.

We also doubt that rushing women through the abortion process can be an all-round good thing. A study in Sweden found that one in ten women changed her mind after seeking abortion. Lucky these women had time to back out. Ambivalence and doubt about the decision are normal - and research shows very clearly that ambivalence is a predictor of negative psychological responses to abortion. Often women are waiting for someone to show some real support (not "it's your choice" which is essentially abandoning them to their own circumstances) and to say "yes, I believe you can do this". Women need space to step back from the panic and listen to their own inner voice, not the clamour of what everyone else thinks or what our culture is telling them.

But earlier abortion might be good for some other people.

Of course, quick and early abortion might be in the interests of abortion clinics.

Maybe quick, early abortion is better for the doctors who dislike the thought of killing a foetus that can suck its thumb and do somersaults and who deny to themselves that the baby is a living, growing human being from conception/fertilisation. Perhaps removing the requirement for two signatures will allow abortion doctors to sleep a little easier at night.

Maybe quick, early abortion is easier for men who would prefer women for short-term sex rather than for long-term love and having families.

But it certainly doesn't do anything to address our culture that has made quick, early abortion the easiest option for most young women. So shame on Andrew Lansley, the Tory shadow health secretary.

Professor Campbell's emotional manipulation

Andrew Lansley, the Tory shadow health secretary (see my post above), seems to have read the recent article by Professor Stuart Campbell about abortion law. It is a clever work that uses emotional manipulation combined with obfuscation to argue for changes to abortion law that provide even easier access to abortion. Easier access, contrary to Campbell’s claims, will not serve women well and is likely to increase the numbers of abortions. It will also neatly serve the purposes of those who want to establish abortion as a human right.

Campbell first creates an image that is emotionally powerful. Using the 3D imaging technique he developed, we immediately identify with the unborn child behaving in very human ways, like smiling, yawning, crying and sucking its thumb. We even hear of doctors who do not want to abort this child, and that to do so would be “almost barbaric”. This part of the article is clear and easy to follow, even though its most obvious failing is to apply this only to the child of 20 weeks or more. The arbitrariness in choosing this time leaps from the print.

But the reader has been primed. Primed for the real intent of the article, which is to make abortions easier prior to 12 weeks, and in doing so creep closer to accepting that abortion is just like any other medical procedure. When that is accepted it is a simple step to claim that, like the right to health care, abortion is likewise a right.

This is where the obfuscation begins.

Campbell wants the existing rule that two doctors must sign for an abortion to be abolished. It is true, as Campbell notes, that the ‘two-doctor rule’ was “introduced to avoid frivolous…abortion”, but why use the fact that “99 percent of abortions are carried out for social reasons” to support abolishing the two-doctor rule? Does Campbell think that thousands of abortions for social reasons are frivolous abortions? And does he think that abortions for frivolous reasons are okay? It is unclear.

Campbell also says the two-doctor rule has become “something of a farce”, and that “it is almost routine”. Yet this routine farce apparently involves “the laborious formalities of seeking independent signatures”, causing delays of 2 to 3 weeks. Which is it? We must presume the latter, because what immediately follows is emotional blackmail; the message being that women must have an abortion quickly, because the longer the decision is left the more chance they will be guilty of aborting a ‘real’ child. Given that there is sound evidence that a significant proportion of women remain ambivalent about their decision to abort, pressure to abort earlier rather than later on the grounds that their child is ever more human as time goes by, is cruelly manipulative.

The reader of Campbell’s article is being asked to support a legislative trade-off. Change the law on late-term abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, but remove the two-doctor rule for earlier abortions. The outcome will be unfair pressure on the decision-making process in favour of abortion and an increase in the overall number of abortions. It may also support the clamour by some for ‘reproductive rights’. That some 21-24 week old unborn children will be aborted a few weeks earlier is cold comfort.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Urge MPs to vote against pro-abortion amendments

At the first debate ("Second Reading") on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill in the House of Commons on Monday 12th May, MPs voted 340 to 78 for the bill. (Please note that certain media e.g. the Telegraph reported the vote numbers incorrectly). We had not expected to win - but this is nonetheless a very heavy blow to us all. It now goes to its committee stage.

There are more battles we must fight over the bill in coming weeks and months.

Next week there will be debates on Monday and Tuesday. Please urge your MP to attend and vote against anti-life measures on Monday and Tuesday, and ask others to do the same. We must ask sympathetic MPs particularly to attend the abortion debate on Tuesday the 20th. MPs should be asked to VOTE AGAINST PRO-ABORTION AMENDMENTS - whatever else they do on any other amendment. The most important thing is to vote against the pro-abortion amendments. Visit for how you can contact your MP. (Please also visit SPUC's HFE bill campaign page )

During the debate on 12th May, the Conservative health spokesman (Andrew Lansley) indicated that he would vote to abolish the need for two doctors to authorise an abortion, and to allow nurses to provide drug-induced abortions. These amendments would lead to more abortions than ever. Although the Conservatives are not whipping MPs to support these pro-abortion amendments, the personal backing of their health spokesman is a major factor. Labour are not imposing a whip next Tuesday either, but it was already known where the Labour health secretary Alan Johnson stands. It is equally important to urge MPs of all parties to oppose the pro-abortion amendments.

After next Tuesday, letter writing and leafleting against the bill should continue.

The chances of defeating the bill are clearly slim. Please urge all people of faith to pray that it will fall. Politics is an uncertain business, and if anything happens in the next few weeks to destabilise the government any more (e.g. poor opinion poll ratings, etc), the government could become nervous of the bill, especially if people like Cardinal O'Brien and Bishop O'Donoghue keep speaking out.

Please keep fighting with us in these dark days.

Monday, 12 May 2008

HFE bill: the next steps

MPs tonight voted for the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill during its second reading. There were 340 votes for and just 78 against. Although this is by no means the end of the matter, the outcome is disturbing.

In tonight's debate we heard yet more promises of therapies that could come from such research. In 1990 we were told that breakthroughs were imminent and yet nothing has been achieved save the destruction of countless human embryos.

There were also threats tonight from some MPs that they are prepared to use the bill to widen access to abortion. Although the government has stated that it would prefer not to have abortion amendments in the bill, it has not taken steps to stop this from happening. If pro-abortion MPs succeed in making access to abortion more widely available and imposing it on Northern Ireland, the government will share in the responsibility.

SPUC strongly urges everyone to ask their MP to oppose pro-abortion amendments. We do not recommend asking MPs to support time limit amendments in the bill. Why not?

Some MPs are already talking in terms of a “trade off”; that is, supporting some “pro-life” amendments and other pro-abortion ones. This would be disastrous. The time limit amendment would become a bargaining chip for our opponents to use to gain support for the pro-abortion amendments.

SPUC recognises the good intentions of many who support time limit amendments, but we have consistently opposed calls for time-limit amendments in the current Parliament.

SPUC’s briefings on the bill (available from SPUC HQ or on our website) explain the objections to time-limit amendments in more detail.

Pope Benedict's ringing endorsement of Humanae Vitae – a call for action for the pro-life movement worldwide

Over the weekend, Pope Benedict made a statement on the forthcoming 40th anniversary (25th July) of the papal encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. Pope Benedict’s statement is of huge significance for the world and for the pro-life movement.

His endorsement of the truth of the teaching of Humanae Vitae could not be more emphatic. He writes: “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 pope's sense of urgency about spreading the truth of Humanae Vitae is palpable and must provide a call for action for the pro-life movement, in particular, worldwide. He says: “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.”

See my post on 14th February to understand why I think Pope Benedict’s statement is of such supreme significance for the pro-life movement.

Ray of hope for the pro-life movement

From Northern Ireland comes a real ray of hope for the pro-life movement as the four main political parties unite to oppose the extension of British abortion law to the province. Leaders of the Democratic Unionists, Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Ulster Unionists are co-signatories to a letter to MPs opposing the the extension of the British abortion law to Northern Ireland.

Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland writes: "On 22 October 2007 Assembly members from the four major political parties gave overwhelming support to a motion rejecting 'any attempt to make abortion more widely available in Northern Ireland.' The letter from party leaders reflects that overwhelming view of the Assembly.

“The people of Northern Ireland recognise the right to life of the unborn child – a right affirmed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They are also increasingly concerned by the evidence of the harm abortion does to women. It is vitally important that people write to the Prime Minister asking him not to allow the House of Commons to impose the Abortion Act on the Province but let this matter be decided by our elected representatives in the Assembly."

Mr Brown is, of course, at 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA, and you can contact him online here.

SPUC petition against embryology bill

Today I was at the Houses of Parliament in London to deliver SPUC's petition against the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. We gave the sheets bearing more than 45,400 signatures to Mr David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, who will later present the petition to the House of Commons.

As he received the petition as Big Ben struck noon, Mr Burrowes movingly recited a prayer that is inscribed on a plaque in parliament's clock tower. The words are: "All through this hour, Lord be my guide, and by thy power no foot shall slide."

The petition says: " … that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (2007) proposes to endorse the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos in the laboratory; the widening of the scope for experiments on human embryos, and the creation of human embryos for other purposes without regard for the welfare and status of such embryos.

"The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons vote against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, and urge the Government to change its policy towards endorsing the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos in the laboratory; the widening of the scope for experiments on human embryos, and the creation of human embryos for other purposes without regard for the welfare and status of such embryos."

The bill's Commons second reading begins today. It has already been passed by the House of Lords.

Pictured outside parliament today are (from left) myself, Linda Davidson, SPUC's enquiries officer, Mr David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, and Mrs Kay O'Brien, an SPUC supporter who lives in Mr Burrowes' constituency.