Universe Column, October 21st 2007
Next Saturday, October 27th, will be the fortieth anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act.
To commemorate the nearly 7 million unborn babies aborted in the intervening forty years, on Friday the 26th at 10.00 am Phyllis Bowman, and Right To Life, will begin a day of fasting and prayer at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Kensington. On Saturday, at 2.00pm, they will join with LIFE, and others, outside the Houses of Parliament and walk to Westminster Cathedral. At 4.00pm there will be an ecumenical service led by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor.
Elsewhere in the country, there will be a united Christian service at Salford Cathedral on Saturday October 27th, at 10.00am, and many other local events. On Sunday the 28th I will be addressing an evening meeting in Oxford organised by the Anglican church of St.Andrew in Linton Road. All are welcome.
With 600 abortions taking place daily – and abortion allowed up to and even during birth on a disabled baby – who can doubt that this is an anniversary that must be commemorated and marked?
Forty years ago as a sixth former at school – like many others, I organised a petition against David Steel’s Bill. Virtually the only opposition to the Bill came from Catholic parishes and Catholic families.
But having heard accounts of back street abortions, and after being told that abortion would only ever be used in extremely serious circumstances, just 29 MPs initially voted against the Bill. It sailed through with the support of the medical profession, the media, and the established church. Very few of those who supported it had any real idea of the flood gates they were opening.
Now, with nearly 200,000 abortions every year – 60,000 of which are undertaken by Marie Stopes International – and with the creation of a multi-million pound business generating huge sums of money – no one can plausibly hide behind the pretence that abortion in Britain only takes place in serious circumstances.
Each year we reflect on the enormity of the loss of life caused by war. 947,000 British people died in World War One and 450,000 in World War Two. Yet, without demur, nearly five times as many young nascent British lives have been claimed by the abortionists. Surely those lost lives are worth commemorating and mourning.
Far from limiting abortion to serious cases, 98% of all of these British abortions have been done under the social clause – nothing to do with the hard cases with which we are regularly regaled.
The Sunday Times recently highlighted how the abortion industry has expanded its scope in countries like India to specifically target unwanted baby girls. Female genocide they called it.
The abortion of little girls, merely because their gender is wrong, or the abortion of babies with a cleft palate – or some other unacceptable “design fault” – has gradually shocked and changed British public opinion. Assiduous, intelligent and systematic parliamentary campaigns, on issues like the upper time limit have also been altering parliamentary opinion.
Some of the new crop of pro-life MPs, like Clare Curtis-Thomas, Geraldine Smith, and David Burrowes, – ably by Jim Dobbin and Ann Widdecombe – have ensured that Parliament knows that the unborn will not be forgotten and that this issue will never be allowed to fade or go away.
They counter the banal rhetoric about “the right to choose” by asserting that society has a right to know. Don’t women have the right to know about the 28 out of 37 studies that show a link between abortion and breast cancer?; the right to know about the more than 30 studies that show a link between aborted women and subsequent prematurely born babies?; the right to know about post abortion syndrome, trauma, regret and depression?
You can scrape a child out of the womb but not out of the heart or the mind.
Last month a new poll – conducted for LIFE – showed huge public unease with the present laws.
85% said abortion should be a last resort and 68% said our upper time limits should be brought into lines with our European neighbours (13 weeks compared with the 24 weeks we currently permit).
Significantly, women and young people were the most in favour of a reduction to 13 weeks (72% of women and 65% of men).
A majority also supported a compulsory cooling off period before abortions are agreed.
And the bad news for MPs like Oxford’s Evan Harris – the Liberal Democrat who wants to get rid of the two doctors requirement and to allow nurses to undertake abortions – is that the public disagrees.
59% of women said that the two doctor requirement should remain and 75% of women said nurses should not be authorised to undertake abortions.
Far from wanting the law extended to Northern Ireland, or made even more easily available, six out of ten said the law should be urgently reviewed to reduce the number of abortions. 85% of people – including 89% of women – said that “abortion has very serious consequences both for the health of women and the unborn and should be regarded as a last resort if indeed it is used at all.
Also, 80% of women interviewed said that we should “prevent abortion by offering attractive alternatives; 93% of women want a legal “right to know” about the physical and psychological consequences of abortion; and 7 out of 10 agreed that “making abortion too easily available cheapens the value of young life.”
This survey shows that 40 years after Parliament authorised this legislation, public opinion has moved dramatically in our direction. Every candidate and every sitting MP now needs to be asked directly whether they have moved too.
Don’t let the fortieth anniversary pass without taking some action on behalf of the unborn.
Questionnaires and briefing papers are available from Right To Life (phyllis@righttolife or telephone 0208 992 7657)
NO COSY CONSENSUS
Gordon Brown recently told Parliament that he believed that the Joint Parliamentary Committee considering the draft Tissues and Embryos Bill was reaching “a consensus.”
Two weeks later, on August 1st, when the Committee – chaired by the Harrogate Liberal Democrat MP, Phil Willis – published its findings, it revealed a committee deeply divided. Two Members, David Burrowes and Geraldine Smith – one Conservative and the other Labour – publicly declared that on the key issues of creating animal-human hybrid embryos and fatherless children “our committee had no consensus.” Geraldine Smith – the gutsy MP for Morecambe – went further and said that some of those demanding the right to experiment on human embryos were simply dabbling in the grotesque.
In many respects, the Willis Committee’s failure to reach a cosy consensus comes as a relief.
The enormity of the ethical and moral issues with which the Committee was faced cannot be reduced to a quick political fix. Having failed to reach agreement, the Committee has rightly recommended “free votes” when, in the autumn, MPs and Peers come to vote on the key issues in the Bill. The Government would be wise to make the whole Bill subject to free votes – with no Party line.
In their report, the Willis Committee reject the Department of Health’s central proposal: the creation of a Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos – RATE – and said, instead, that we should stick with the existing regulators. They are right about this, but fail to grapple with the thorny issue of who does the policing.
Whether the regulators are called RATE or the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) it is only so much window dressing if no-one is every appointed to challenge the current orthodoxy: an orthodoxy that has already allowed the creation and destruction of nearly 2 million human embryos.
The Committee received strong representations from the distinguished human rights lawyer, Lord (Dan) Brennan QC that a parallel “balanced” National Bio-Ethics Committee should be created to both shadow the regulators and to comment authoritatively on the bio-ethical dilemmas which occur on an almost daily basis.
Instead of accepting this idea they propose instead that an exclusively parliamentary bio-ethics committee be created.
Yet, the Willis Committee was not itself a good advertisement for such a body.
Its lamentable failure to consider the moral status of the human embryo was matched by its failure to examine the associated issue of abortion. The Committee accepted that advocates of extending the abortion laws can use this Bill to change the law but then fail to consider the ramifications. It illustrates how inadequate a parliamentary caucus can be.
We need something far weightier and less tied to political, scientific or vested interests.
In reading the Committee’s report I was particularly struck by cursory the way in which eleven organisations opposed to the Bill were shunted off into one short evening session.
By contrast, four journalists were given more time than the opposing organisations to air their views.
Politicians and journalists dance around each other feeding off one another. Why should we give greater time, and appear to ascribe more credibility to the views of a journalist rather than to those of an ethicist or a dissenting scientist? Does this pass for serious deliberation?
Despite evidence given by Professor Neil Scolding, a neuroscientist from Bristol, that “the whole perspective on embryo experimentation has changed” the Willis Committee signally failed to examine the huge scientific advances which now make experiments on human embryos redundant. As Professor Scolding told the Committee: “the research is based on curiosity”.
It is now possible to create embryonic stem cells from adult stem cells, so why do we need to licence the further use of human embryos at all?
Elsewhere, the Committee rightly say that a child should have the right to know that they were conceived from donor sperm. They say that Government must not “collude in a deception.” Agreed. But isn’t it a deception to pretend that where, for instance, two women bring up a child that one of them can be registered as “the father?” Who’s kidding who?
Isn’t it also a deception to pretend that it is necessary to replace the concept of father hood with “parenting”, and to imply that cures are only possible if we create animal human hybrids or “sibling saviours”?
If there was a large enough cord blood bank in the UK – something I have been calling for – it should not be necessary to have “saviour siblings” as it should be possible to find suitable cord blood match for needy children without creating designer embryos.
Even if the Committee could not accept the arguments for upholding the sanctity of human life, their first question should have been “do alternatives exist” and, if they do, is it licit to use a human embryo?
Parliament will now consider an amended Bill. MPs should be challenged and asked where they stand. Are they with MPs like Geraldine Smith and David Burrowes or on the other side?
A briefing pack and tool kit to enable you to find out where your own MP stands is available from Julia Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0207 219 0968.
THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH
The climax of C.S.Lewis’s brilliant novel “That Hideous Strength” takes place at a banquet held in Belbury.
For readers unfamiliar with the story, Belbury is the centre of operations for the not-so-nice National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments.
A group of pseudo-scientists – Wither, Frost, Filostrato and others – believe that their self-appointed mission is to make the world “a better place”. To ensure that the outcome is not in doubt, they subvert an ancient university and join forces with a peer of the realm, Lord Feverstone.
Early in the story, Feverstone seduces a young academic with promises of advancement. The naïve Mark Studdock throws in his lot with Feverstone and his compatriots: the self styled “Progressive Element”. Anyone rash enough to question the methods and ethics of the Progressives is dubbed a “Diehard”, ridiculed and, in extremis, disposed of.
Lord Feverstone clinically describes the mission of NICE as “Quite simple and obvious things at first – sterilisation of the unfit, liquidation of backward races, selective breeding.” Ultimately, he declares, they will create “a new type of man: and, he tells the impressionable Studdock, “It’s people like you who’ve got to begin to make him.”
Lewis weaves together a rich and masterly account: Studdocks’s loveless marriage to Jane; their decision not to let children get in the way of their lives; the emaciation of their relationship as he is increasingly sucked in to Belbury’s evil. As the tale unfolds we follow Jane’s brave decision to confront it.
It all seems so reasonable to begin with – wanting to eliminate aliments and raise levels of intelligence – but it ends up with coercion and the imposition of martial law; the suppression of ancient liberties; the collaboration of newspapers in concealing the truth; the appearance of quisling theologians to give it divine approval; and the supine acquiescence of Parliament.
At Belbury the scientists begin with gross experiments on animals and end by worshipping the “new man” they have created – a gross hybrid made from a decapitated head. They begin by insisting that their motives are the highest and end with actions that are the basest.
The Diehards are a motley crew led by Dr.Ransom, Dr.and Mother Dimble, MacPhee, and Ivy Maggs. They are joined by Jane Studdock (and Mr.Bultitude, a bear that has escaped from Belbury). They triumph through their weakness; and, ultimately, by power that lies beyond themselves.
It is that power that manifests itself at the Belbury banquet.
The assembled multitude have gathered to celebrate their achievements, but the dinner’s denouement ends in a chaotic blood bath. Things start to go wrong as the pseudo-scientists and the conniving politicians find that their own words have become mangled and garbled. Try as they may, their carefully honed vocabularies and cleverly crafted words – used so often to deceive – become a jumble of disconsonant ravings. It ends in a tragic orgy of violence as they turn on one another.
“That Hideous Strength” was the third book in Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy – following “Out of The Silent Planet” and “Perelandra”. It was written more than half a century ago, in 1945. It’s title was take from a poem about the Tower of Babel.
That year, George Orwell wrote a review of the book in the Manchester Evening News. He said that the purpose of the Belbury scientists was to wipe out life deemed to be “superfluous” to turn “common people into slaves” and to turn the “ruling caste of scientists ” into our rulers “who even see their way to conferring immortal life upon themselves. Man, in short, is to storm the heavens and overthrow the gods, or even to become a god himself.”
In every generation we see the temptation to become a god ourselves.
Orwell said that Lewis’s “description of the N.I.C.E. (National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments), with its world-wide ramifications, its private army, its secret torture chambers, and its inner ring of adepts ruled over by a mysterious personage known as The Head, is as exciting as any detective story.”
But he also saw that this wasn’t just a good yarn.
Writing just after the atomic bomb had been dropped in Japan, Orwell wrote that: “There is nothing outrageously improbable in such a conspiracy. Indeed, at a moment when a single atomic bomb – of a type already pronounced “obsolete” – has just blown probably three hundred thousand people to fragments, it sounds all too topical. Plenty of people in our age do entertain the monstrous dreams of power that Mr. Lewis attributes to his characters, and we are within sight of the time when such dreams will be realisable.”
Orwell was, indeed, right to see That Hideous Strength as a prophetic book foretelling a time when man would once again seek to become a god.
This summer, as scientists and politicians tell us they want to create animal-human hybrid embryos – and to add to the 2 million human embryos that they have already destroyed or experimented upon – and before returning to their own Towers of Babel, they should quietly sit down and read “That Hideous Strength”
WHO WILL VOTE FOR THE HUMAN EMBRYO?
The new Human Tissue and Embryo Bill will permit Parliament to undertake the most wide-ranging review carried out for many
years of the law on abortion and the status of the human embryo.
The Bill would:
• Allow scientists to create a variety of animal-human hybrid and chimera embryos for experimental purposes (clause 17);
• Propose that the Reproductive Cloning Act 2001, which banned reproductive cloning, be
repealed and replaced by something far less clear cut (clause 16, para 15.5); and that in
addition to the 2 million human embryos destroyed or experimented upon since 1990,
further experimentation be permitted with no requirement to use alternatives (eg adult stem cells) where they exist.
• Create “State sponsored fatherlessness” by allowing children to be born who will be denied a father or knowledge of their father throughout their entire childhood; Clause 51(1): “…no man is to be treated as the father of the child.”
• Create a new authority, the Regulatory Authority for Tissues and Embryos (RATE) with no corresponding initiative to create a body such as a National Bio-Ethics Council to consider the ethics of what is permitted.
• Permit, because of its wide scope, amendments on almost any aspect of our abortion legislation, including extending abortion to Northern Ireland and allowing abortions to be performed by nurses and midwives without any input from a doctor.
Many of the votes on these issues are likely to be “free votes” and so it is crucially important over the next few weeks to establish where your own MP stands.
The All Party Parliamentary Pro Life Group – chaired by Jim Dobbin MP – and backed by
pro life groups, LIFE, CARE, and Right To Life – has asked that MPs voting intentions be established on the following questions:
1. How will you vote on the proposals in
the Bill to allow the creation of interspecies
embryos such as animal-human
hybrid embryos? For/Against
2. How will you vote if an amendment is
moved to ban experiments on human
embryos where alternative research
approaches exist? For/Against
3. How will you vote if an amendment is
moved to sustain the absolute ban on
human reproductive cloning? For/Against
4. How will you vote on the proposal
in the Bill to allow bringing children
into the world who will be denied by
law any legal father (biological or social)
from birth throughout their childhood? For/Against
5 How will you vote on an amendment to
maintain the specific obligation in the 1990
Human Fertility and Embryology Act – which
this Bill proposes removing – on IVF clinics to have regard for the need of any child conceived through IVF for a father? For/Against
6 How will you vote if an amendment
is moved to end abortion for all
disabilities on the grounds of
7. How will you vote if an amendment
is moved to end abortion for rectifiable
disabilities such as cleft palate? For/Against
8. How will you vote if an amendment
is moved to ban abortion on the
grounds of the gender of the unborn
9. How will you vote if an amendment
is moved to ban abortion on the
grounds of the race or colour of the
unborn child? For/Against
10. How will you vote if an amendment
is moved to ban abortion on the sexual
orientation of the unborn child? For/Against
11. How will you vote if an amendment
is moved to lower the upper limit for
abortions to 13 weeks in line with the
European average? For/Against
12. If you would not support a reduction
to 12 weeks, what limit would you vote
for, please specify the number of weeks? For/Against
13. How will you vote if an amendment is moved giving women the right to independent counselling/information
which would inform them of possible physical and psychological risks associated with abortion? For/Against
14. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to introduce a cooling-off period between diagnosis of pregnancy and access to abortion to allow for the provision of counselling/information? For/Against
15. How will you vote if an amendment required all psychiatric hospitals and units to record the maternity histories of women patients – covering childbirth,
prematurity, miscarriage, and induced abortion? For/Against
16. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to the Bill to give women who have had abortions the right to seek rapid legal redress when their health has
suffered as a result? For/Against
17. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to ensure that the parents of under-aged girls (fifteen and under) are notified prior to them undergoing abortion? For/Against
18. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to ensure that the parents of under-aged children (fifteen and under) are notified prior to them being provided with contraception? For/Against
19. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to reduce the requirement for one doctor to approve abortion instead of two as at present? For/Against
20. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to allow abortion to be carried out by a nurse or midwife under the jurisdiction of a doctor? For/Against
21. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland despite the opposition of Northern Ireland’s people and politicians? For/Against
22. How will you vote if an amendment is moved to make it an offence to cause pain to the unborn child during an abortion? For/Against
Once you have established the voting intentions of the Member of Parliament, the name of the MP and their constituency, replies should be sent to Jim Dobbin MP at the House of Commons, London SW1A OAA – or via e-mail to Julia Capps at email@example.com.
MPs will soon be wanting your vote. How they intend to vote on these 22 questions will literally be a matter of life and death.
BIGGEST BATTLE IN A GENERATION
June 9th 2007
In the autumn, both Houses of Parliament will be invited to consider the Human Tissues and Embryos Bill. This Bill will signal the biggest battle on pro-life issues since 1990, and arguably since 1967.
The Bill is likely to include provisions that deal with all aspects of embryology, including animal-human hybrid embryos; surrogacy; designer babies; therapeutic and reproductive cloning; embryonic and adults stem cells; the removal of biological fathers (through anonymous sperm donation); organ donation; tissue retention; and the re-opening of the abortion debate.
The Bill has emerged following a review of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act which the Government announced in 2004. The Bill establishes a new regulatory body, the Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos (RATE) which takes the place of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority(HTA).
The Government will claim that they have had a widespread public consultation and that various members of “the great and the good” have carefully considered the ethical and scientific issues involved.
In reality, it’s been the usual cynical sham. The time they have set aside for public consultation illustrates that this is simply an exercise in window dressing. The Draft Bill – which runs to 229 pages and consists of four parts and eight schedules – was published on May 23rd. And the Government have called for written responses by June 15th, – just 24 days later. This derisory period for consultation on this vast array of issues shows that they aren’t interested in considered opinions.
Their arrogance was further illustrated by the response to a member of the parliamentary committee.
For suggesting that religious and ethical objections should be considered, he was accused of introducing “witchcraft” in to the argument.
These dismissive arguments, loaded committees with biased memberships, the dominance of vested interests, and the cynical manipulation of so-called consultation, show how shallow the debate has become.
The UK is unusual in not having a National Bioethics Committee to weigh the ethics alongside the science. Bodies such as the Nuffield Council on Bioethics may try to fill this gap, but by and large, the input from scientific bodies outweighs that from recognised philosophers, theologians and ethicists or scholars.
This will mean that Parliament will come to this Bill without an expert committee advising them on the ethical issues. Even the scientific facts may be difficult for members of both Houses to assess without dispassionate and unbiased advice.
Scientific bodies and patient groups have an obvious role to play in assessing these issues but who speaks for society and the wider interests of human dignity which touch us all?
Needless-to-say, the Government wants no debate about the status of the human embryo – or any discussion about whether the one million human embryos destroyed since 1990 has been justified.
This new Bill builds upon earlier controversial legislation which in turn was agnostic about the status of the human embryo. Since then, embryo experimentation, however scientifically interesting, has not actually resulted in any treatments for any of the conditions so often cited in parliamentary debates and the media. Therapeutically, it has been a non event though it is understandable that scientists involved with this consultation, are not likely to admit it. Parliament should perhaps ask them for a realistic assessment of the likely outcomes of their proposed research.
On the other hand, the use of adult stem cells has been highly successful in treatments for over a decade and many promising programs are taking place using them world wide for a range of conditions. The public are not being informed of the distinction between adult and embryonic stem cells. That suits the industry but deceives the public.
Or, take the example of State sponsored fatherlessness: also proposed in this Bill. Do we really think it is right for the State to deliberately bring children into the world without making any provision for their having a father? But that is what they are proposing.
By omitting the “need for a father” in IVF treatments the Bill does not show proper regard for the interests of the child. There is more than treatment for infertility at stake here and the interests of the child are no less important than those of the parents.
Being fatherless is a sad reality which may come about through death or family breakdown – but it’s an altogether different thing for a Government to propose bringing children into the world – for which a biological father’s sperm will manifestly be needed – only for the child to be deliberately denied the chance of experiencing the love of a father.
This is bound to give rise to future difficulties for the child concerning his or her identity. Reducing parenting to the provision of “sperm kits” – which will be legalised – will give rise to identity problems and would possibly carry risks from inherited diseases and other diseases. And how would the child ever be able to discover his or her genetic identity? Probably the most important question any of us ever ask is “Who am I?” How does the Government intend to answer that?
Last February UNICEF said that child well-being in Britain is very low compared with that of other developed nations. How will this new Bill remedy that? Government should be working to strengthen access of children to their fathers; this Bill does the very opposite.
This awful Bill deserves to be taken apart line by line, clause by clause.
If, before June 15th, you want to object, you can write to the Health Minister, Caroline Flint MP – who is proposing the Bill – at the House of Commons, London SW1 A OPW (e mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) but, more importantly, be ready in the autumn to take part in a nationwide campaign urging MPs and Peers to throw out many of these proposals
FORTY YEARS: IT’S ENOUGH
July 8th 2007.
In October we will commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Abortion Act: forty years since David Steel introduced the Abortion Bill, 20 years since my attempt in Parliament to challenge it. And in October 2007 a new Government Bill (the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill) will signal the most profound and far reaching debate on pro-life issues in many years.
That such a national debate is long overdue is borne out by the grim statistics.
Nearly 7 million abortions have taken place since 1967; one every three or four minutes; around 600 every day; about 190,000 annually. Abortion is permitted up to and even during birth on a disabled baby.
The 1967 law paved the way for the destruction and cloning of more than a million human embryos.
At the other end of the spectrum it has led to repeated attempts to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide of sick and disabled people.
These can never be fringe concerns.
As the late Cardinal Winning memorably put it: “The pro-life cause is not an issue. It is the issue.” Bravely, his successor, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, recently told us that by condoning these laws we put ourselves outside the Church.
Although some pro-life organisations do not support the parliamentary campaign for legislative change, many do. The coalition of LIFE, Right To Life, CARE, and CORE (Comment on Reproductive Ethics), supported by the Church, is a formidable one. The parliamentary committee, ably led by MPs Jim Dobbin, Ann Widdecombe, Claire Curtis-Thomas, and others, doggedly persists in putting unpopular arguments and in presenting alternatives.
Archbishop Peter Smith has worked closely and effectively with the parliamentary committee and has been supported by the Anglican Primate, Archbishop Rowan Williams.
Most recently, the parliamentary committee hosted a presentation by Byron C.Calhoun, an American Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He presented devastating evidence linking abortion to preterm births. The cost to the public purse of intensive health care, running into billions of dollars – let alone the cost to the women and families involved – has been colossal. He cited dozens of epidemiological studies linking the annual 1.3 million abortions in the US to the 6% rate of preterm births and in one study to an increase in cerebral palsy by a factor of 38. Professor Calhoun said that 41 studies had shown a greater risk of pre term birth, 8 were neutral and not one showed a decreased risk where an abortion had occurred.
He said that the same evidence would produce the same results in the UK – if anyone took the trouble to look.
Just like post abortion trauma and “the ABC link” – linking abortion to soaring rates of breast cancer around the world – sooner or later the truth will out.
As women come to recognise the great deception it will fundamentally change minds about abortion. It will also lead to individual litigation and class actions in our courts as women seek redress.
It is always tempting to eschew the patient approach of legislative challenge, the organising of public meetings and education programmes, and the creation of pro-life hospices, safe houses and counselling. But those who abandon the parliamentary work or who simply condemn the women who have been driven into abortions are wrong to do so. False polarisation damages pro life work. We must always be for the mother and the child; and never cease in putting forward intelligent arguments and evidence.
Through the parliamentary work we can also reach out intelligently to the next generation.
I recently met two new young MPs who both told me they became committed pro-lifers through the campaign for my Bill twenty years ago.
Since the passage of the 1967 Act few people have done more for the pro life movement than the founder of LIFE, Professor Jack Scarisbrick. His recent memoir, “Let There Be Life” reflects, with his usual acuity, on the past 40 years. He gets to the heart of the matter:
“The law of England stubbornly refuses to recognise the unborn child as a legal person. This was perhaps forgivable 50 or 100 years ago when so much less was known about life before birth. But now that we can look through the “window on the womb” and watch children grow, suck thumbs, stretch limbs, now that we know about genetics and the continuity of human life from fertilisation onwards, it is forgivable no longer. It is now so evident that birth is simply an incident in a developing human life – a change of environment, not of moral status – that it can only be a matter of time before the law, if it not to continue to be an ass, has to confer legal personhood on the unborn human being.”
Forty years has passed since the original legislation.
Gradually we have been winning the argument. Ever since Dr.Bernard Nathanson made the film The Silent Scream and stopped performing abortions more and more doctors and nurses have refused to take part. One third of British doctors are now reported to be refusing to refer women for abortions. Like Professor Calhoun they see the effects on women as well as the unborn. And women, like Jane Roe, whose famous legal case, Roe V Wade led to the legalisation of abortion in America, have changed their mind.
The Government’s new Bill offers us a new chance to take our counter arguments to the country; and I hope that Universe readers will back the leadership of the parliamentary committee and our bishops.
Whether the country listens to us, or not, we have a duty to declare to another generation that 40 years is enough.
To support the parliamentary campaign contact the clerk, Julia Capps: email@example.com; for details of LIFE and Professor Scarisbrick’s book, contact Martin Foley: firstname.lastname@example.org ; to view the film The Silent Scream and click on: http://video.google.co.uk/videosearch?q=silent+scream
ROUTINE VIOLENCE AGAINST THE UNBORN
July 15th 2007
When he said that each day you could fill a Scottish classroom with the number of Scottish babies being aborted, Cardinal Keith O’Brien was attacked by a Liberal Democrat politician for using “inflammatory” and violent language. In Britain the daily toll of aborted babies is around 600 – enough to populate an entire school.
Routine violence against the unborn has become commonplace – although within our collective memory abortion was regarded as a crime against humanity. The Cardinal was simply restating an age-old Catholic truth.
The row which erupted about his remarks illustrates the chasm between elements of secular society and Catholic teaching – and how difficult it often is to find common ground.
Little unites those who think that abortion and euthanasia are just a matter of choice; and those who see the violence used to end the lives of the unborn, followed by their incineration, as incompatible with civilised values.
The Cardinal is by no means alone in refusing to accept that abortion should be a routine, trivial, or casual event.
Think of the 31 year old scientist from Manchester, Stephen Clark, who was sacked when he refused to monitor emissions from the hospital incinerator at Hope Hospital Salford, used to burn the remains of the unborn: “I would no more monitor the stack at a hospital incinerator than I would at the crematoria at Auschwitz…I would have been taking part in a process which diminished humanity,” he said.
Or the medical secretary, Barbara Janaway, who was sacked for refusing to process a form authorising an abortion: “I refused: my conscientious objection was that I was setting the ball in motion. I would have been responsible.”
Men and women like Clark and Janaway are representative of the views of increasing numbers of people – consider the one third of British doctors reported as refusing to be complicit in arranging abortions.
They know both the scale and the nature of what we permit and they want it to end.
Perhaps it was especially apposite that the attack on the Cardinal should come from the lips of a politician whose party voted to make abortion a party policy instead of a conscience question. On the same day they also passed a resolution protecting gold-fish from being sold in amusement arcades and fun-fairs. Odd priorities.
But there are countless other examples of where there is no shared perspective and no shared language.
Gently remind the Liberal Democrats which regime was the first to legalise euthanasia and eugenics, for instance, and they would doubtless say that parallel is inflammatory too – but it would be true none the less.
We live in an Alice In Wonderland upside-down world where the killing of an unborn child or a few sick, disabled or dying people is justified as “patient autonomy” or “choice” while killing a fox becomes a an act of depraved cruelty.
In Parliament, seventy seven MPs voted for a euthanasia Bill but voted against fox hunting. Perhaps when a fox arrives at the Scottish or Westminster Parliaments brandishing a placard demanding that we “save the human race” the world might end up standing on its feet again instead of on its head.
In the inner recesses of our hearts I doubt that we are really so confused.
Most of us have a pretty shrewd idea what happens in an abortion; and however much we try to disguise that reality by altering the language – it’s a termination, not an abortion; it’s a foetus not an unborn child; it’s selective reduction, planned pregnancy, or just another choice – in our hearts we know the truth.
A wise old Scouser once said to me “David, did you ever hear of a pregnant mother who said she was going into hospital to have a foetus?”
Think about it.
If abortion really is such a trivial issue why does it generate so much passion?
For the same reason, when they make their movies, why does Hollywood (as do the soaps) regularly depict young women who decide to go ahead and have an unexpected baby as the heroines? Why not the ones who end their baby’s life? Why doesn’t “the happy ending” show us young women having an abortion, rather than embracing the child? If abortion is such a good thing and if it isn’t violent, if it’s so acceptable, if it’s such a civilised thing to do, why don’t film and programme makers and novelists present it as such? They know that no-one would believe them.
But, as the Cardinal recognised, people need to be challenged more directly to turn this instinct into an attitude. In a country where there have been 7 million abortions there’s a long way to go.
Malcolm Muggeridge once lamented the short time it had taken for what was always traditionally regarded as a crime against the innocent to become a routine medical act. But surely this also suggests that in an equally short space of time – prompted by medics sickened by the role of destroyer rather than defender of life – it will once again be possible to protect the unborn.
I once stood outside a Medical School and read the inscription on a stone pillar that stood there. In Greek and English , the pillar bore the words of the Hippocratic Oath. In many countries student doctors used to swear the Hippocratic Oath at their graduation. They no longer do so – because the oath contains an inconvenient explicit condemnation of abortion. Perhaps those time-worn words were too inflammatory, too violent.
Some politicians may find it uncomfortable but millions of us still believe in the principles of that ancient Oath and appreciate the value of every life: and we are grateful to Cardinal O’Brien for not letting us forget.
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Business of the House: Debates Today
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Lord Patel set down for today shall be limited to three hours and the debate on the two Motions in the name of Lord Broers to two hours.-(Baroness Amos.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Stem Cell Research
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, although I disagree with my noble friend Lord Patel about the use of human embryos for these research purposes, I congratulate him on initiating today’s debate and on the way in which he introduced it.
Two seminars recently held in the Moses Room explored stem cell policy, the policy that led to our refusal to sign the 1997 European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine and aligned us in the General Assembly of the United Nations with countries such as China and Korea. In our overenthusiastic desire to become a sort of biotech
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El Dorado, we have become far too unquestioning about the ethical implications of what we have permitted. In other jurisdictions, such as Canada, France or Germany, scientists face prison sentences of up to seven years for what we have made legal. We cannot reduce these issues to opinion polls. Since the 1990 Act, with little regard for the special status of the human embryo, more than 1 million human embryos have been routinely manufactured, frozen, destroyed or experimented upon with only 4 per cent seeing the light of day.
Only last week, in a leader on 26 April, the Times reminded us that:
“Unfashionable as it may be to say so, destroying an embryo extinguishes the possibility of a life”.
That should surely be unconscionable when alternatives are available. It is probable that we all have experience in our families of degenerative diseases and want to see medical advances. But, as Thomas Okarma, the CEO of Geron, has revealingly admitted, embryonic stem cells have value for the biotech industry for research, not for cures.
During this debate, mention has been made of the lucrative research grants. According to a Written Answer that the Minister gave me on Monday, they amount to about £100 million of public funds from the Government between now and 2008. Those grants and the money involved often skew judgments and, through conflict of interest, can compromise debate. The Minister needs to tell us clearly the division of the £100 million between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Why have they not been treated in the even- handed way that we promised during our debates in 2002? In his Written Answer on Monday, the Minister admitted that no statistics are kept centrally on the allocation of private funds. Why? What assessment has been made of the analysis in Forbes investments journal which says that only “dumb public money” is going into embryonic stem cells? By contrast, I hope that the Minister will list some of the more than 1,200 trials and 70 diseases and conditions that have been successfully treated with adult stem cells, and tell us what therapies exist using embryonic stem cells.
At the Moses Room seminar, Dr Peter Hollands, a leading scientist involved in cord blood stem cell research, pointed to the Cinderella status of and lack of funding for treatments using adult stem cells. Cord blood is used to treat leukaemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia and immune system disorders. He said that it is scandalous that 98 to99 per cent of all UK cord blood is currently incinerated or discarded and less than 1 per cent goes into the NHS public bank at Edgware. The mother of Eva Winston Hart, a seriously ill three year-old suffering from leukaemia, was at the seminar. She said that, after months of uncertainty, she has found a suitable donor in the US and is taking Eva there for treatment. Why can she not be treated here? Why are there only four NHS hospitals in the whole of the UK that are collecting cord blood, and what we are doing to create public cord banks?
Dr Carlos Lima told the same seminar how his team in Portugal has used olfactory cells taken from
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the nose to repair spinal damage. We saw clips of people who had previously been unable to move learning to walk again. They included British patients who had to travel to Portugal because the same treatments are not available here. Dr Lima succinctly reminded us that, “Embryonic stem cells were made to proliferate and adult stem cells were made to repair. We shouldn’t use one to do the job of the other”.
Professor Neil Scolding, Burden Professor and director of the Institute of Clinical Neurosciences at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, specialises in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. He contrasted adult stem cells with embryonic stem cells and quoted the Lancet, which said that it is “ethically unacceptable” to create human embryos with no purpose other than to use them for stem cells. He said, “We know adult bone marrow stem cells are safe, it’s not a guess”.
Throughout our debates, advocates of using embryonic stem cells have constantly cited pluripotency as those cells’ greatest asset, but what use is it if a cell is dazzlingly pluripotent if it is going to be rejected by a patient’s body or, worse, if its very pluripotency creates stem cell-derived tumours?Dr Lima said that he believed that the UK had entered a blind alley, become obsessed with embryonic stem cells and had been diverted away from the much greater untapped potential of adult stem cells, which could deliver so much more for patients and which carry no moral hazards.
As we now consider whether to create cloned animal-human embryos and animal hybrids, we are entitled to have an intelligent debate in which views contrary to those driving the research are properly heard. I would like to register the strongest possible opposition to the proposals to create cloned animal-human embryos and animal hybrids, and to the hotchpotch of other proposals-to remove reference to fathers, new arrangements for surrogacy, to make human embryos available for training purposes, and to alter the genetic structure of embryos. When he comes to reply, I hope that the Minister will specifically tell us whether these new animal-human entities are to be treated as embryos under the 1990 Act, as animals under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 or as something in between. Will they have no moral status or special moral status? Is a so-called cytoplasmic hybrid human or not, or does he agree with the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, who in February told the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology that,
“no sane person could give a yes/no answer”?
In the debate in your Lordships House in 2001, the Minister said that,
“the 1990 Act already provides the answer to the question of what happens if and when research into adult cells overtakes research using embryos: embryonic research would have to stop because the use of embryos would no longer be necessary for that research”.-[Official Report, 22/1/01; col. 120.]
Many people would argue that that time has now come.
September 23rd 2007
Some months ago I wrote to Amnesty International protesting at the proposal to make support for abortion one of their worldwide objectives. I said that Amnesty’s founder, Peter Benenson, a Catholic, would have regarded this as a betrayal of Amnesty’s founding principles and ideals. In 1961 his mandate for founding Amnesty was fourfold: to work for the freedom of prisoners of conscience, to end torture, to oppose the death penalty and to work for fair trials for all.
Those responsible for extending the mandate to cover the promotion of abortion knew that it would place many of its supporters in an impossible position. Highly influential churchmen, such as Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Bishop Michael Evans, of East Anglia (a member of Amnesty for 31 years) have been left with no choice but to resign. An organisation committed to upholding rights of conscience should understand that better than most.
In addition to the resignations of Church leaders, there are reports that rock stars, such as Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne – who contributed to an Amnesty CD to raise money for Darfur – are also withdrawing their support in protest.
Bishop Evans succinctly put the reasons for opposing Amnesty’s decision when he said: “The Catholic Church shares Amnesty’s strong commitment to oppose violence against women, for example rape, sexual assault and incest, but such appalling violence must not be answered by violence against the most vulnerable and defenceless form of human life in a woman’s womb.”
Paradoxically, the practical effect of weakening and dividing Amnesty’s support base will be to undermine its effectiveness as a champion of those very concerns which led Peter Benenson to establish it in the first place. He once astutely observed that “It’s the publicity function of Amnesty that I think has made its name so widely known, not only to readers in the world, but to governments – and that’s what matters.”
The activists who have driven through this crass decision have forgotten what matters.
The publicity that has been generated has done the opposite of Benenson’s dictum: it has undermined Amnesty’s public reputation; and by dividing its supporters, and giving political leaders a reason for dismissing its work as motivated by political correctness, it has betrayed its mandate and those for whom Amnesty was created.
That Amnesty itself has qualms about what it is doing was egregiously revealed by a remark on their members-only section of their web site: “This policy will not be made public at this time. There is to be no proactive external publication of the policy position or of the fact of its adoption issued.” What would they make of a regime that tried to conceal its real intentions in this way?
Or, for that matter, a regime that offered the intellectual confusion and sophistry that it is alright to abort an unborn child, while dishonesty saying that they take “no position as to when life begins.” About as consistent as saying you’re privately against the death penalty, torture or racism but remaining neutral when Governments are complicit in these things.
Scientists and doctors – let alone parents who have seen their child on an ultrasound – know precisely what is present in the womb from fertilisation onwards: new life. No amount of fudging can change that.
On the day that Amnesty’s decision was reported in The Sunday Times an eight page report appeared in their colour supplement on what they termed “gender genocide”. They reported that in India nearly a million baby girls are aborted each year and that “sex determination and selective abortion has been turned into a multi-million-pound business” with “female foeticide, son preference, and sex selection now being used to cover up what amounts to illegal contract killings on a massive scale, with the contracts being between parents and doctors somehow justified as a form of consumer choice.”
Gender genocide, the distorted population imbalance, resultant trafficking of women, and the threat to social stability as the “bare branch” generation swell the population of rootless and marginalised males, should all give Amnesty some pause for thought.
So should the situation in China.
Where was Amnesty’s voice when Mrs.Yuan Weijing was recently detained at Beijing Airport? She is the wife of the self-taught blind human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who has been jailed for four years after exposing China’s one-child policy of forced abortion and sterilisation. Chen has regularly been beaten in prison.
Mrs.Yuan was due to travel to the Philippines to receive an award honouring her husband’s human rights work. Instead, she was seized at the airport, taken to the basement, where 16-17 strong men surrounded her. She was forcibly taken back to her town of Linyi where she said the men pulled her hair, twisted her arms, dragged her out of the car and confiscated her belongings.
Mrs.Yuan said “I tell you, the darkness of the society is way beyond your imagination.”
It was to illuminate such darkness and to shine a light on people like Yuan Weijing, and her extraordinarily brave husband, that Peter Benenson famously first lit the Amnesty candle.
Not only is Amnesty ignoring the plight of opponents of reproductive rights policies, and victims of female foeticide, they might also look at laws a little closer to home.
Can we now expect an Amnesty campaign to reverse discriminatory British laws which allow the eugenic abortion of babies up to birth on grounds such as cleft palate, hair lip, or other disabilities? Don’t hold your breath.
The paramount human right listed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right to life. Tragically, Amnesty has forgotten that.
Simply adding to the more than 40 million babies aborted worldwide each year was not why Peter Benenson founded Amnesty. That’s why so many of its supporters feel so betrayed.
In February and March we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the House of Lords and Commons votes abolishing slavery. Enactment followed on May 1st 1807.
There will be another anniversary this year.
2007 will be the fortieth anniversary of the passage of the Abortion Act.
Wilberforce won his argument because men like Captain John Newton – a leading slave trader – changed his mind as he came to appreciate the enormity of the horrors which had occurred because of the claimed “right to choose” to enslave others.
Like Newton, one of the world’s leading abortionists, Dr.Bernard Nathanson, changed his mind about the “right to choose” to end the life of an unborn child. Google have made available Nathanson’s story. As we consider the nearly 6 million unborn babies aborted in the UK in the past 40 years, the 2 million human embryos destroyed or experimented upon, and laws which permit abortion up to birth on babies with disabilities, perhaps you would agree that it is time that more people learnt why Dr.Nathanson changed his mind – and invite others to do likewise.