Near hysteria erupted when it was announced that the charity LIFE should be invited to join the Government’s advisory committee on issues such as teenage pregnancy. This was despite the fact that LIFE does such outstanding work with vulnerable women, unborn babies and, through Zoe’s Place hospices, with terminally ill or seriously disabled babies. Who better, you might say, to be on such a committee.
By contrast with LIFE, the Government has appointed the following pro-abortion organisations to the same forum: The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV; the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; the Association of Directors of Public Health; the British HIV Association; the Terrence Higgins Trust; Brook; the Family Planning Association; the Sex Education Forum and National Children’s Bureau; and Marie Stopes International. The equally pro-abortion British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) were also offered a place but apparently declined to share membership with Marie Stopes International
LIFE is the solitary organisation to have been appointed which opposes abortion (7 million since legalisation in the UK; 180,000 annually, around 600 daily; one in every five British pregnancies ended by abortion; and abortion up to and even during birth on a disabled baby). You don’t have to agree with everything they say to know that LIFE is driven by hard wired and practical love and that their views are held by millions.
On cue the former Liberal Democrat MP, Evan Harris, immediately denounced LIFE’s presence on the Committee opining that it would impede “frank and open discussions” Nothing is scarier than the sight of otherwise intelligent liberals donning the unattractive clothes of intolerance, and in full flight.
For me all this was reminiscent of Baroness Warnock’s explanation for excluding a Catholic with whom she would have disagreed from the membership of the Warnock Committee – and whose recommendations have led to three million human embryos being destroyed or experimented upon.
“I was then given a kind of draft list and asked whether there were any other people I thought would be obvious choices, maybe people who were not yet among the great and the good, and I was with some difficulty allowed a power of veto. There was one particular person who
was supposed to be the Catholic, and I said I would not have him. I just knew that I couldn’t work with him. We went right up to the day before publication with the civil servants saying, ‘But there’s nobody else in the world’. So in the end, the night before publication, I said, ‘Well, will you please tell the Minister that it’s a very, very bad way to embark on working on a committee when you know that there’s somebody you’re not going to find easy to work with’. The following morning two names were suggested. So I did win on that, but it was very, very hard and it took a lot of persistence”
This new liberal principle for public discourse – on hugely controversial and contested ethical issues – is that debate can only take place with people with whom you are in agreement.
It’s a novel new Constitutional principle in Britain but familiar to those who have lived in one-party States. The same ideology led to Mr.Harris’ Party overturning its “conscience” position on abortion and replacing it with support for abortion as party policy.
In the aftermath of the row about LIFE, and writing in The Guardian, Deborah Orr – who is in favour of abortion – rightly saw to what such illiberal liberalism leads:
“It is perfectly legitimate to be anti-abortion. In fact, it’s quite understandable that people should be horrified by the idea of foetuses being terminated, when the conditions for growth and development into beautiful babies, adorable children, fine adults, may be in place. That’s an entirely respectable position.
“But you simply cannot call yourself “pro-choice” and then bar people who do not agree with you from expressing their opposing view. It’s an oxymoronic position. People who defend such regressive behaviour, simply mirror that of the dictatorial hardliners they supposedly stand against. Then they wonder why they get called “feminazis”.
Good for Deborah Orr.
As for Evan Harris I hope he goes to see a new movie, called Doonby, which has just had a well-received airing at the Cannes Film Festival and is due to be released in September. Mr. Harris should particularly look out for a middle aged woman who has a cameo role in a walk on part. At one point in the dialogue she poignantly utters the words, “you’ll be sorry.” More than most, she has experienced the sorrow induced by abortion
For the actress is Norma McCorvey – the real-life plaintiff known as Jane Roe in the 1973 United States Supreme Court landmark case Roe v. Wade. That judgement has led to more than 40 million abortions in America and Norma’s crusade to challenge the heartbreaking reality behind the chanting rhetoric and sloganeering has become deeply personal. As a Catholic today Norma has embraced the belief of Blessed John Paul II who said that “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.”
By a quirky coincidence, only after approaching Norma to play the part of Nancy Thurber, did the makers of Doonby realise, to their astonishment, that she was already living in the small Texas town of Smithville, where the movie was to be set. As Nancy Thurber, Norma helps unravel the truth of the life of Sam Doonby – a drifter whose past life and identity are at the centre of the story.
It’s now two years since Peter Mackenzie came to see me to tell me about the script he had written and of his intention to turn it into a movie whose message would focus on the value, promise and meaning of life. Not long after be contracted cancer and has successfully overcome it while making Doonby.
Without giving away the plot, anyone who is familiar with Samuel Butler’s nineteenth century novel, Erewhon, will try to unravel the anagram in Doonby’s name. And parallels have been drawn with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and JB Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls” with its riveting final twist.
The film has been made by a Brit., Peter Mackenzie and his two sons, Michael and Daniel, both former students at Stonyhurst College. Michael believes the film is “incredibly important” by “representing core Catholic values but one that will also strike a chord with mainstream audiences. Its message about the value of human life and everyone’s place in the world is explored.”
Perhaps the movie will leave audiences considering who and what we have lost: a question faced by so many who have ended the lives of an unborn child. As Blessed Mother Teresa once put it “for all we know we have already aborted the person who had the cure for AIDS”. It’s surely a debate which even Evan Harris should realise cannot and should not be suppressed.
. For more information on Doonby go to http://www.doonbythemovie.com
These are two brief reflections by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, following