Thursday, 13 March 2008

The moral maze created by IVF

The increasing ethical confusion which has arisen from the invention of IVF was highlighted last night's edition of The Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4. The subject was whether or not the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill should allow deaf parents specifically to select for implantation those embryos which have been diagnosed as likely to be deaf. One of the panel, Melanie Phillips, the social commentator, asked one of the witnesses, Julian Savulescu, an Oxford professor:

"You said earlier that we all have disabilities; so in your perfect universe or pursuit of perfection, where is this going to end?"

Prof. Savulescu's answer proves - if proof were needed - that eugenics and a eugenic society is the goal of embryo research:

"Well, it will actually end by transferring power from nature to families and couples to make decisions about the kinds of children they wish to bring into the world."

The programme's presenter, Michael Buerk - who had introduced the programme by blithely informing the audience that IVF is "a wonderful medical technique that has given hope to thousands of otherwise childless couples" - asked Ms Phillips:

“[I]f there are to be guidelines and it is not to be just a matter for parental choice or leaving it on a random level, where would the line be drawn? Would the line be drawn on treatable things or be drawn on things that are life threatening or drawn on some notion of pain and hardship?”

Ms Phillips got to the core of the issue in her answer:

“Well, I think we are up a gum tree. I mean, personally, I would not have started from here, I would not have gone down the IVF road.”

I have blogged previously on the intrinsic wrongnesss of IVF.

On the specific question of deaf parents selecting deaf embryos, Alison Davis, national co-ordinator of No Less Human. a group within SPUC, provided the correct ethical position as long ago as 2000:

"The idea of deliberately producing disabled babies is simply an extension of the current belief that there is a 'right to choose' the kind of baby whom an individual will accept or reject. Of course, in most cases this means that disabled children are thrown away or killed by abortion, but the principle is equally unjust and unethical in the case of rejecting non-disabled babies.

"The truth is that every human being, disabled or not, has infinite value and should be welcomed into the world whatever his or her abilities. 'Manufacturing' human beings, and then rejecting those who do not measure up to our ideas of what is desirable, is a form of eugenics which should be rejected by all who recognise and respect the value of human beings.

"Designing children and throwing away those we choose to reject for whatever reason is a form of fatal discrimination, which should not be tolerated in any civilised society."

The only ethical action, therefore, that MPs can take regarding the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is to vote against it when it comes before the House of Commons, which could be soon after Easter. Please contact to your MP today – visit http://www.spuc.org.uk/lobbying/ for guidance.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Bishop stands up under fire

Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster came under fire at a meeting of the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Select Committee.

Fiona McTaggart MP challenged the bishop on the fact that his recent guidance to Catholic schools (Fit for Mission? – Schools) indicated that they should not support fund-raising appeals with an anti-life ethos. He pointed out that it was not feasible to expect Catholics to support organisations – despite the good work they might do – if their leadership adopted policies contrary to basic Christian principles. The bishop emphasised that the values upheld by Catholic schools in his diocese were values shared by those of other faiths, such as Moslems, at Catholic schools.

The Bishop was also criticised for saying in the document that schools in his diocese should see it as their prime duty to teach the Catholic faith and to evangelise. Committee members said they thought this meant non-Catholic pupils were to be proselytised. The Bishop denied this – pointing to the distinction between genuine evangelisation – proclaiming the truth to others – and proselytisation, which was characterised as coercive.

Barry Sheerman MP, the Committee Chairman, asked if Church leaders were not worried that it seemed that church schools had become adept at keeping out poor and needy children.

The Bishop said that Catholic schools [within the state ‘comprehensive school’ system] should not be selective, and said he would intervene if schools were found to have been selecting children on the basis of their social class. He maintained, however that admission quotas for different class or religious groups should not be imposed on schools.

On the question of interfaith schools, the committee chairman asked whether there had been a change in policy under Pope Benedict XVI (or, as Barry Sheerman impolitely put it: under the “present occupant of the Vatican”!) Bishop O’Donoghue said the policy had not changed as far as he was aware – not in his diocese.

If you want to write to congratulate Bishop O’Donoghue for his brave defence of values, particularly pro-life values, during his questioning in Parliament today, write to him at: Bishop’s Apartment, Cathedral House, Balmoral Road, Lancaster, LA1 3BT.

pray for bishop's witness to life

Spare a thought this morning for Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, the bishop of Lancaster. At 10.45 a.m. he will be giving evidence in Parliament during a formal oral evidence session of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee.

Remember some of the things Bishop O’Donoghue has been teaching in his diocese in his document “Fit for Mission? Schools”:

“…Schools and colleges have to cope with increasing government ‘social engineering’ legislation, seeking to impose secular values on our curriculum and ethos…

“…Parents, schools and collegesmust reject secularized and anti-life sex education, which puts God at the margin of life and regards the birth of a child as a threat (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 137)

“Sterilization, contraception, abortion, and IVF should only be discussed during adolescence and only in conformity with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Therefore, the moral, spiritual, and health values of methods for the natural regulation of fertility, such as Natural Family Planning, must be emphasized (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 137).

“Parents must insist on continence outside marriage and fidelity in marriage as the only true and secure education for the prevention of AIDS. Parents, schools, and colleges must also reject the promotion of so-called “safe sex” or “safer sex”, a dangerous and immoral policy based on the deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against AIDS. (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 139)…”

Of course, this is exactly what very many citizens, Catholic or not, are crying out to hear from their religious leaders – and thank God Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue has been saying it. We live in a country in which the Government’s policy, enacted in schools, including Catholic schools, is to provide abortion and abortifacient birth control to children without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

Bishop O’Donoghue is calling for resistance to this policy in accordance with the teaching of Pope John Paul II who wrote: “Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection”. (Emphasis as in “Evangelium Vitae”, 73)

However, Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield and chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, dismisses citizens’ rights to oppose anti-life sex education as fundamentalism.

Simon Caldwell writes in today’s Daily Mail:

“The bishop has been criticised by Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the schools select committee. ‘A lot of taxpayers' money is going into church schools and I think we should tease out what is happening here," said Mr Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield. A group of bishops appear to be taking a much firmer line and I think it would be to call representatives in front of the committee to find out what is going on. It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers' money after all.’”

As I make this post, all we can do is pray for the bishop. Pray that Barry Sheerman and his committee fail to convict him in the court of public opinion for standing up for the natural, inalienable, rights of citizens to defend the sanctity of life and the right to protect and promote the dignity of married love.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

UN report could be used to make abortion a right

A United Nations official is today presenting a report in Geneva which, if adopted, will be used by international pro-abortion bodies, including UN bodies, to seek to establish a global right to abortion.

Mr Paul Hunt's document says that states have a legal obligation to provide health services, and it's hard to take exception to that. However, he includes in this provision: "sexual and reproductive health services including information, family planning, prenatal and post-natal services, and emergency obstetric care."

"Sexual and reproductive health services" is a term used by UN bodies such as the UNFPA and CEDAW to promote legal access to abortion on demand – and to put pressure on developing countries worldwide to legalise abortion.

What's needed is a firm declaration by the international community that none of this report is to be taken to imply a right to abortion. Better still, nations should re-assert what the Convention on the Rights of the Child says about how children need special protection "before as well as after birth".

Please contact your country's foreign ministry to ask them to ensure that your nation opposes any interpretation of the Hunt report as supporting abortion. In the UK, one can contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at King Charles St, London, SW1A 2AH. Their website has a feedback form here.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Worldwide prayer alert to protect Northern Ireland

I am in Belfast today at a meeting of the SPUC Northern Ireland executive committee.

The number one item on our agenda is the British Government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

There is a terrible danger of Parliament imposing the British Abortion Act on Northern Ireland - which is so overwhelmingly opposed by the politicians and public alike here.

In addition to their political campaign, SPUC Northern Ireland wants to build on any existing prayer campaigns against the government bill and, in particular, against the pro-abortion lobby's agenda for this Bill.

If any readers know of existing prayer campaigns against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, either locally or on a national level, and either in Britain or in Ireland or in any other part of the world, please contact me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Please would other bloggers, reading this post, pass on the message.

By the way, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is a danger to the world. Just as the British Abortion Act has been copied throughout the world and, therefore, British politicians responsible for the killing of unborn children worldwide; just as the Human Fertilisation and Embrology Act 1990 and the permission it gave for IVF and human embryo experimentation has been copied around the world; so will the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and the permission it gives for the creation of human-animal hybrids be copied around the world - if it is enacted by the British Parliament in the coming months.

So this is a worldwide prayer alert.

Giving counselling or taking lives?

Marie Stopes, the abortion provider, has launched a so-called telephone counselling service for women considering an abortion. SPUC's Anthony Ozimic has commented: "Marie Stopes has a financial interest in abortion - they run abortion clinics. What incentive is there for abortion providers like Marie Stopes to give women the necessary information about abortion, such as the full facts about the development of their baby and the physical and psychological risks of abortion to themselves? Women should be extremely wary of speaking to counsellors who are employed by an agency that exists to kill unborn children. Marie Stopes, the birth control pioneer, was driven by the desire to ensure that women she saw as 'unfit' should have fewer children. Her ideas live on in the agency that names itself after her and they are certainly not fit to give advice to today's expectant mothers."