Saturday, 26 January 2008

my quotations of the week


Last Sunday, Bishop Philip Tartaglia described the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, on which I blogged yesterday, as "a state sponsored attack on human life". Here are a few snippets from his excellent homily, delivered last Sunday in St. Mirin's Cathedral, Paisley.

"...It seems that hardly a year passes that the bishops need to bring before you yet another state-sponsored attack on unborn human life. It almost seems that the powers of evil are never done fomenting the culture of death among hapless human beings by attacking the innocent unborn or the weak terminally ill with the great lie that these lives have no value at all or only have the value that powerful men and women are prepared to concede them.

"The latest twisted enterprise is legislation soon to be presented by the Government at Westminster which would allow the creation of human-animal embryos. You should know that such procedures are banned in other countries. They have rightly been described by the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life as a "monstrous act against human dignity, and I am sure that that is the instinctive reaction of our moral reason..."

On Wednesday, Cardinal Pell's profound and beautiful speech on the challenges facing those defending the culture of life, given the week before in Seoul, South Korea, was published in Zenit.

Cardinal Pell quotes Dr Shinya Yamanaka, the Japanese scientist who has had ethical qualms about destructive human embryo research:

"'When I saw the embryo', he said, 'I suddenly realised there was such a small difference between it and my daughters. . . I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way'.

"There were of course, many differences between this several day old human embryo and Yamanaka's daughters in terms of its maturity, size, appearance and capacities. Yet his knowledge and awe of the embryo's intrinsic potential for human growth and development allowed him to recognise the essential similarity between them -- their common humanity and shared dignity. Yamanaka's breakthrough is, amongst other things, the fruit of the virtue of reverence."
On Thursday, in his weekly newspaper column, The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, called on Mexicans to reject pressures from the United Nations to legalise abortion in every state throughout the country - as I blogged earlier in the week. In memorably blunt language he wrote: “Let us remain, then, with the fundamental idea: abortion is killing, killing is a crime condemned by God’s, by man’s law and by the Constitution of Mexico."

On Saturday, the moving story of Lorraine Allard, 33, hit the headlines. At four months pregnant, she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and was offered a termination. She refused and she gave birth to Liam 15 weeks prematurely. She told her husband: "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live." Everything else this week pales into insignficance.

Friday, 25 January 2008

last chance for Lords to stop Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill

The last chance for the House of Lords to stop the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill is currently scheduled for Monday 4 February. Peers will be debating the use of human embryos in experiments. The Bill seeks, among other things, to:
  • extend the creation of embryonic children in the laboratory ('test-tube babies')
  • allow embryonic children to be abused and killed for a wider range of research purposes
  • permit the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos.
Over recent weeks, the Government and supporters of embryo research have blocked all substantial efforts to lessen the evils of the Bill during its passage through the Lords. Although it is unlikely that pro-life Lords will defeat the Bill, a strong vote against it now will help and encourage MPs to oppose the Bill when it goes to the House of Commons - probably in mid-February. Many people wrote to the Lords in November asking them to oppose the bill at second reading - this had great impact and helped encourage pro-life peers in their opposition to the bill.

Please write to one or more Lords as soon as possible, urging them to move for a vote against the Bill. You can contact peers from our page of parliamentarians' email addresses. You are free to write to any Lord(s) you wish. Please write to one or more - as many as you can. The most important thing is to contact them soon, and to urge them to vote against the bill at third reading.

SPUC activist honoured

On Wednesday I blogged on how Mrs Frances Levett was due to receive a civic award for her work for the society. The picture shows her at yesterday's ceremony with Fr James O'Hanlon, parish priest of St John the Baptist and St Peter, Welby Lane, Melton Mowbray, who proposed Mrs Levett for the award.

International Student Pro-Life Conference, Scotland: 28th – 30th March

Kaye Smith, the student conference organiser in our SPUC Scotland office, says: "This conference is a unique pro-life event which promises to be a special weekend of fun, education, training and a great opportunity to network with fellow students making a difference in their schools and university campuses around the world."

Celeste Beal, great niece of famous civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, will be the keynote speaker. As the theme for the conference is Human and Civil Rights, Celeste will explain why she believes abortion is today’s most pressing civil rights issue. As a young student herself, Celeste is passionate about her youth and pro-life work and has a strong desire to help, motivate, uplift and positively impact the world and the people she meets.

Other areas of pro-life work will be explored.

The arts will also form a part of the conference with a special screening of the movie, Bella, winner of the Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award 2006, which has been welcomed by the international pro-life community.

Registration

All those wishing to attend the conference must register beforehand. Information relating to the conference, including registration, venue and accommodation is available on our special conference website. For further information, or to book places, phone SPUC Scotland on (0141) 221 2094 or email kaye@spucscotland.org or info@spucscotland.org.

plain speaking on abortion

In his Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II wrote of a "dangerous crisis of the moral sense" about abortion. He said: "Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name [JP II's emphasis], without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception".

Readers of this blog, whatever their religious faith, will like the idea of church leaders doing what the late pope recommended. Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara, Mexico, has knocked a United Nations official off her pedestal for proposing the legalisation of abortion throughout Mexico. The cardinal writes: “Let us remain, then, with the fundamental idea: abortion is killing, killing is a crime condemned by God’s, by man’s law and by the Constitution of Mexico."

I think I've got that your eminence. Thank you. I do recommend that everyone reads what you've said.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

the aftermath of abortion

I met on Tuesday with Margaret Cuthill and Cathy McBean, our British Victims of Abortion team in Glasgow. We were making plans for SPUC's Silent No More events throughout Britain in the coming year which I wrote about recently. At these events, Margaret and others - women and men - will be sharing with the public their personal painful experiences of abortion. In this way the Society reaches out to others who may be affected by an abortion and are struggling in silence. There is an online list of the forthcoming Silent No More events. For further information about the work of British Victims of Abortion, which is funded by the SPUC education and research trust, contact Cathy or Margaret on (0141) 226 5407.

Cathy McBean (left) and Margaret Cuthill at BVA HQ, Glasgow.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

SPUC activist to be honoured by MP and mayor

A pro-life activist is to receive an award for her work for SPUC in Leicestershire. Mrs Frances Levett, treasurer of SPUC's Rutland and Melton branch, will receive a Community and Charity Champion award from Mr Alan Duncan, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, and Councillor Pam Posnett, mayor of Melton, tomorrow.

Mrs Levett's citation for the award mentions that she has been a member of SPUC since 1972. As well as helping run the Melton branch, she has helped found other local branches. Mrs Levett ran a study-day on post-abortion syndrome for more than 80 people at Glenfield Hospital, and was among the organisers of an SPUC float at the Melton Show parade. The award is supported by the Melton Times newspaper.

Defending life by conscientious objection

The Portuguese Medical Association has re-elected its president who defied pro-abortion pressure from the government there. [LifeSite, 22 January] Dr Pedro Nunes has promised not to change the association's pro-life code of practice, according to a message I received from Professor Jerónima Teixeira (pictured), a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist from Portugal. We should be encouraged by the courageous pro-life witness of doctors in Portugal.

The battle to defend human life increasingly centres on conscientious objection. In recent months, the Pope made a powerful plea to pharmacists to resist pressures to collaborate in supplying “products which have clearly immoral aims”. [Pharmalot, 29 October] Benedict XVI made apparent references to:

  • so-called contraceptive drugs
  • devices which may work, in part, by preventing the embryo from implanting in the lining of the womb
  • drugs to enable persons, perhaps with a terminal illness, to commit suicide.

He said: “In this area, it is not possible to anesthetize consciences, for example, about the effects of [a drug’s] molecules to prevent the implantation of an embryo or to shorten a person’s life.”

SPUC is also playing a role in developing the practice of conscientious objection in order to protect human life. For example, we are fighting against euthanasia and the impact of the Mental Capacity Act through Patients First Network. This group helps you tell doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers how you expect to be treated in hospital if you are mentally incapacitated.

The pro-life movement worldwide should be working on ways to build a powerful, peaceful resistance movement against abortion, in-vitro fertilization, human embryo research and euthanasia, to complement the vital political, educational and caring work already being carried out.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Lords must reject bill before the government makes it even worse

The importance of radical opposition to the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill continues to impress itself as the plot unfolds. Last night the House of Lords again considered amendments to the bill, the second day of the bill's Report stage. Peers from across the House tabled amendments seeking, in the most modest way, certain ethical constraints upon the bill. One of those amendments tried to retain within the Bill a modicum of respect for the role of fathers. The government rejected even such a timid amendment and the House followed suit by voting against it.

A disturbing amendment from the pro-embryo research lobby however, seeking to loosen ethical constraints, was ostensibly resisted by the government but with sympathetic noises and comforting reservations. Lord Patel, a leading pro-cloning peer, promoted an amendment to permit the creation of cloned embryos from cells donated in the past, where the donors have not been informed of any possibility of their being cloned. Baroness Royall, the Government spokeswoman, started off by opposing the amendment but then promised to go away, reflect on the matter to find a way to accommodate it if possible and return with any possible solution.

Those moving more ethically-conscious amendments don't have the force of numbers to get the government to accept any major ethical constraints on the bill. What is there left to do? Only to maintain a radical, principled opposition that sends the message to the government and parliamentarians that the bill is evil. The mock battle between the government and the embryo-research lobby must be seen for what it is - just an exercise in passing the buck.

At the bill's forthcoming Third Reading its critics should join together to try to stop it before it reaches the House of Commons. Some of them will baulk at this, pleading that the unelected House of Lords must hand the bill over to the elected House of Commons, or that the House of Lords is just a revising chamber and so it shouldn't block government bills. Yet Parliamentary convention won't stop the government continuing to sanction the killing of the innocent. That will only stop when enough parliamentarians are pro-life enough to stand and oppose it.

Monday, 21 January 2008

let's support Portugal

Whilst I’m on the subject of abortion being forced on people, let’s turn to Portugal, a country somewhat closer to the UK. I got a message today from Thereza Ameal, one of the pro-life leaders there, begging for our spiritual support.

You may recall that last November, the Portuguese government piled pressure on doctors to change their ethical code on abortion. Reuters reported on 15th November:

“Portuguese doctors have rejected a government ultimatum to remove an ethical ban on performing abortions after this deeply Catholic country approved the practice in July.

"Pedro Nunes, the head of Portugal's Medical Association, said doctors had every right to object morally to an abortion, which is stated to be wrong in the association's ethical code, despite government threats to take him to court.

"Having an opinion and ethical principles is what separates rational beings from a flock of sheep," Nunes said.

"The ethical code states doctors must respect human life from its beginning and the practice of abortion constitutes a grave ethical failure.

"This has nothing to do with abortion. It has to do with doctors having the right to have their own opinion," Pedro Nunes, who represents around 35,000 doctors, told reporters.

"The health minister threatened to take us to court if we did not change our code ... but the code can only be changed by doctors and not by a health minister."

Thereza writes today:

"We are preparing some events of praying here in Portugal for the sad anniversary of the referendum of 11th February 2007.

"We have [continuous] prayer in different churches, in front of the Holy Sacrament, … from the 1st to the 15th February, 24h a day and we hope to have it also until the rest of the month.

"We asked … hundreds of parishes to pray the Rosary before or after the Sunday Mass (10th February) and during the Mass to make a short prayer for Life.

"In the 29th January a group of people will also start to pray in front of the abortion clinics. They are looking for people to pray for them and for this work

"Please, pray for Portugal and for all who are working for Life here. It is very difficult with this Government."

I’m sure that many will be joining Thereza in spirit and in prayer, especially on 29th January and on 11th February, the anniversary of the abortion referendum.

The resistance to abortion in Portugal is alive and well. Anything the pro-life movement in other countries can do to help – through practical support, sharing experience and expertise, and prayer – is vital. International Planned Parenthood Federation and its powerful allies must not be allowed free rein to quash pro-life resistance in this beautiful, civilized, corner of Europe.

Business as usual with China which forcibly abort its citizens

In the midst of the intense attacks on human life in the UK today - not least in the form of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently before Parliament – we must not forget families living in China, which are being persecuted with the financial and moral support of our Government and the European Union.

Perhaps, like me, you feel a bit helpless about the position in China. With Presidents and Prime Ministers trooping off to Beijing to win multi-billion pound business deals for their countries, the human rights of those oppressed by China’s one-child policy appear to nowhere on the international political horizon.

I was delighted to see the Sunday Mirror, yesterday, drew attention to “China’s one child scandal” – as they headlined it – in a story by Nick Owens and Dick Jones. They say:

“Gordon Brown is in China this week, conducting his most high-profile overseas trip since becoming Prime Minister. He is touring the country's booming business districts as he strengthens trade links between Britain and the world's fastest-growing economy. And, as the eyes of the world turn to Beijing for this year's Olympics, visits to China's new sports stadiums will be high on the Brown itinerary. But away from the red carpets, handshakes and photo-calls lies a sinister programme that won't be on the PM's agenda - China's one child policy. It's a system that's been enforced ruthlessly - sometimes barbarically - across the country.”

SPUC’s youth and student division organized a protest outside the China embassy last term and similar events have been held in Sydney, Australia, by students at Campion College. But we must do more. Write to me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk if you would like to discuss ideas for action.

Cardinal argues for national bioethics commission

His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor argues today for a bioethics commission to be established by the Westminster Parliament. He writes:

"I hope that the House of Lords seizes this opportunity not just to frame laws for today but to plan for the future by establishing this new framework for ethical consideration. A national bio-ethics commission is long overdue. We need one for the sake of the common good."

But would a bioethics commission lead to a deeper concern for proposals relating to the sanctity of human life? Or would it lead to politicians hiding behind the learned discussions of the great and the good when challenged by constituents to vote against an anti-life bill? I can imagine MPs’ responses when challenged by pro-life constituents: “I will study the draft bill carefully – and the findings of the Bioethics Commission, which as you know includes representatives from the Catholic Church etc etc…”

However, leaving aside the merits or demerits of such a Commission, I will be worried if it gets into the Bill this evening. It could become an excuse for pro-life peers not to oppose the bill with the vigour and determination that its appalling proposals deserve. The setting up a Bioethics Commission will not outweigh the evil of a Bill which permits many new abuses of human beings. We must do everything in our power to urge Peers to oppose the Bill at third reading. Check out SPUC’s website for further information on the Bill. Write to me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk if you want more information on what you can do about the Bill.