Saturday, 26 July 2008

Humanity under attack in the Philippines

No wonder 15 Philippino bishops led their people in a prayer rally in Manila yesterday opposing a population bill currently being considered by the House of Representatives in the Philippines. Reading it through one can only conclude that the Bill has been framed by the enemies of humanity - or the friends and supporters of International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Read below Sections 21 and 22 of the bill, entitled "Prohibited Acts" and "Penalties":

"SEC. 21. Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are prohibited: a.) Any health care service provider, whether public or private who shall :
1. Knowingly withhold information or impede the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe and effective family planning methods;
2. Refuse to perform voluntary ligation and vasectomy and other legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of spousal consent or authorization.
3. Refuse to provide reproductive health care services to an abused minor, whose abused condition is certified by the proper official or personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or to duly DSWD-certified abused pregnant minor on whose case no parental consent is necessary
4. Fail to provide, either deliberately or through gross or inexcusable negligence, reproductive health care services as mandated under this Act, the Local Government Code of 1991, the Labor Code, and Presidential Decree 79, as amended; and
5. Refuse to extend reproductive health care services and information on account of the patient’s civil status, gender or sexual orientation, age, religion, personal circumstances, and nature of work: Provided, That all conscientious objections of health care service providers based on religious grounds shall be respected: Provided, further, That the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible: Provided, finally, That the patient is not in an emergency or serious case as defined in RA 8344 penalizing the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency and serious cases. b) Any public official who prohibits or restricts personally or through a subordinate the delivery of legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services, including family planning c.) Any employer who shall fail to comply with his obligation under Section 17 of this Act or an employer who requires a female applicant or employee, as a condition for employment or continued employment, to involuntarily undergo sterilization , tubal ligation or any other form of contraceptive method; d) Any person who shall falsify a certificate of compliance as required in Section 14 of this Act; and e) [sic] f) Any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act.

"SEC. 22. Penalties. – The proper city or municipal court shall exercise jurisdiction over violations of this Act and the accused who is found guilty shall be sentenced to an imprisonment ranging from one (1) month to six (6) months or a fine ranging from Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) to Fifty Thousand Pesos(P50,000.00) or both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court. If the offender is a juridical person, the penalty shall be imposed upon the president, treasurer, secretary or any responsible officer. An offender who is an alien shall, after service of sentence, be deported immediately without further proceedings by the Bureau of Immigration. An offender who is a public officer or employee shall suffer the accessory penalty of dismissal from the government service. Violators of this Act shall be civilly liable to the offended party in such amount at the discretion of the proper court."

Pat Buckley of European Life Network, one of SPUC's lobbyists at the UN and the Human Rights Council in Geneva, says of the Philippines population bill: "The act not only sets the scene for the introduction of abortion it is also aimed at substantially reducing the population by various means including abortifacient birth control and sterilisation. While some of the language is about choice there is also coercion. Medical personnel will be forced either to comply or to refer people to someone who will. This is a direct attack on conscientious objection. There are also a range of penalties if various people do not comply, from dismissal to fines and imprisonment. There is also a provision that says Any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act shall be subject to penalties. This is a grave attack on freedom of speech and is aimed at the pro-life community and the Church. Many of the definitions are straight from the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD, Cairo) document but the sections used have been cherry-picked to exclude the balancing areas. The ICPD is "soft law" only and is not enforceable. The other thing about ICPD is that it states clearly in the text that it does not create any new human rights."

A world day of fasting and prayer for the unborn has been proposed for 14th August. Humanity is under attack in the Philippines - and 40 years after Britain legalized abortion, there's a danger of a huge extension of the Abortion Act at report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in October, including its imposition on Northern Ireland. Let me know if you would like to organize a day of fasting and prayer in your area and I will send you some simple guidelines. Write to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Friday, 25 July 2008

UN body criticises Ireland on abortion

The United Nations' human rights committee says it is concerned about the restrictive nature of Ireland's abortion law and wants more of what it calls progress in this area. [Irish Times] Progress, for many UN agencies, involves eroding the rights of the unborn even though the Convention on the Rights of the Child defends them. Pat Buckley (pictured) of European Life Network in Dublin says the committee is exceeding its brief and following its own agenda. He blogs on the matter today.

The Tablet: the anti-Humanae Vitae megaphone drowing out the voice of reason

Catherine Pepinster uses The Tablet, of which she’s the editor, like a megaphone to bellow her opposition to Humanae Vitae and to drown out the voice of reason. Like the bigot at a public meeting who has no intention of listening to those on the public platform, she declares in The Times today:

“The Church has much to teach society about the needs of the developing world and the nature of justice. Yet dialogue between secular society and the Catholic Church over climate change has been painfully limited and stymied until very recently. With the impact of a rapidly escalating world population playing its part in climate change, birth control has been the elephant in the room in discussions.”

Maybe she didn’t hear or read Pope Benedict’s address on 10th May, when he said:

“What was true yesterday is true also today. The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change; on the contrary, precisely in the light of the new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more timely and elicits reflection on the intrinsic value it possesses.”

Pope Benedict was addressing the participants of the international congress organized by the Pontifical Lateran University on the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. I wonder if Catherine Pepinster sent any of her editorial staff to hear what the speakers had to say at that conference.

And I wonder if The Tablet sent anyone to the conference in Rome the following month when over 200 FertilityCare Practitioners and NaProTechnology physicians and gynaecologists gathered for the annual meeting of the American Academy of FertilityCare Practitioners, inspired by the teaching of Humanae Vitae. I can send Catherine Pepinster a full report if she likes!

Evidence presented there shows that the medical applications of NaPro have grown to become a comprehensive branch of women’s health medicine, which respects both the natural fertility cycle and the teaching of the Catholic Church. Working cooperatively with the woman’s body, NaPro has been shown to treat many gynaecological conditions including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, miscarriage and other causes of infertility. Is The Tablet interested by any chance?

Other evidence presented at the conference by Dr. Phil Boyle showing that NaPro has between a 40-60% success rate in achieving pregnancy. This compares to a maximum success rate of 30% for IVF (UK average raw data “take-home-baby” rate).

As I blogged yesterday, IVF – which gave birth to the first IVF child thirty years ago – has led to over two million embryos discarded, or frozen, or selectively aborted, or miscarried or used in destructive experiments. (2,137,924 human embryos were created by specialists while assisting couples in the UK to have babies between 1991 and 2005, according to BioNews. During this period, the HFEA informs us that the total of live babies born through IVF procedures was 109,469.)

Pope Benedict’s address (above) continues:

“As I wrote in my first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united.... Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves" (n. 5). If this unity is removed, the value of the person is lost and there is a serious risk of considering the body a commodity that can be bought or sold (cf. ibid). In a culture subjected to the prevalence of "having" over "being", human life risks losing its value.”

Would Catherine Pepinster be interested in exploring in The Tablet the connection between the Pope’s words and what’s happened during the past 30 years with the IVF industry?

Catherine Pepinster reminds The Times readers that “The Church has much to teach society about the needs of the developing world and the nature of justice”

If she could put down her anti-Humanae Vitae megaphone for a moment and reflect on Pope Benedict’s words in the opening address of his visit to Australia for World Youth Day:

"The concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection upon the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable."

One starting-point for this “profound reflection” might be the abortifacient nature of virtually all contraceptive drugs and devices – with the exception of course of prophylactics like condoms – as freely acknowledged by their manufacturers. And what about about the fulfilment in England and Wales of Pope Paul VI’s prophecy in Humanae Vitae, that governments will impose on countries birth control measures which are considered lawful by couples in pursuit of a solution to particular family difficulties? And how the Catholic authorities in England and Wales are co-operating with the British government in imposing birth control, including abortion, on families through children’s access to secret abortion in schools, including in Catholic schools?

Are these aspects of Humanae Vitae in which Catherine Pepinster is interested? Or is she actually on the other side of the abortion debate? After all, a recent edition of the Tablet (which describes itself as "the international Catholic weekly") contains a glossy full-colour insert advertising Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sometimes known by its English name Doctors Without Borders (DWB). The insert's front page has a modern paraphrase of the Hippocratic Oath, "I will tread with care in matters of life and death". Yet inside, an MSF nurse working in the Democratic Republic of Congo recounts how her team "trained local nurses to provide emergency contraception", i.e. the morning-after pill, which may cause an early abortion. See my recent blog on this here.

Finally, if Ms Pepinster must continue to use the Tablet as an anti-Humanae Vitae megaphone, spare us the percentages of Catholics who ignore or don’t know or don’t understand the Church’s teaching. It will be less grating to hear such observations when journals like The Tablet put down their megaphones and begin to follow what’s happening in the world and to count the human cost of Humanae Vitae’s message being ignored.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Continued overwhelming silence of religious leaders and the pro-life movement on why IVF is always wrong will be a catastrophe

Continued overwhelming silence on the part of religious leaders and the pro-life movement on why IVF is always wrong will be a catastrophe in the struggle to defend the sanctity of human life from conception till natural death. Already, the pro-life struggle is being undermined by widespread acceptance of IVF in the communities from which the movement derives most of its support. Compassion for childless couples may be the reason for such silence – but it cannot be justified, in view of the availability of the more effective alternative of NaproTechnology, and, above all, in view of terrible human cost of the IVF industry.

2,137,924 human embryos were created by specialists while assisting couples in the UK to have babies between 1991 and 2005, according to BioNews. During this period, the HFEA informs us that the total of live babies born through IVF procedures was 109,469. What happened to the other 2,028,455 human embryos? Again, according to BioNews:

“Unused embryos in clinics under UK law may by consent be discarded, frozen, donated to research or donated to other infertile couples…” and, of course, many embryos are transferred to the womb only to miscarry or to be selectively aborted.

If the abuse and destruction of literally millions of human beings are passed over in silence in the name of compassion something is badly wrong. How can any human life be effectively defended – from abortion, destructive embryo research or even from euthanasia – when the lives of millions of human beings cannot be mentioned for fear of giving offence?

This week the Telegraph newspaper in the UK has carried a number of stories and interviews highlighting changes in IVF and other aspects of assisted reproductive technology since the birth of the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, 30 years ago.

The Telegraph coverage illustrates all too clearly how IVF has led to human embryos being treated as products to be discarded when “faulty” (disabled) or excess to requirements.

The very language of journalism – Judith Woods of the Telegraph refers to “the birth of the IVF industry” thirty years ago – reveals the truth at the heart of IVF: the IVF child is in a position of profound subordination to the will of the technologists and parents. The technologist becomes the ‘maker’ of another without the protecting love that a parent normally provides.

SPUC's basic objection to IVF is that it amounts to the manufacture of human beings. The practice of IVF assumes that our offspring may be produced in the laboratory, and that the role of the natural mother, in safeguarding with her own body the welfare of the embryo from conception, may legitimately be transferred to other people. IVF thus makes embryos vulnerable, exposing them to the risks of being discarded, frozen or experimented upon. Many thousands of human embryos have perished in the development and practice of IVF.

Recently, the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute prepared a paper for SPUC regarding the “Creation and Transfer of Single Embryo in Reproductive Technology”. What they say is, in my view, very important, so it is reproduced in full on the SPUC website here.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Abortion extremists bid to impose abortion on Northern Ireland

Extreme pro-abortion MPs at Westminster have launched a bid to impose abortion on Northern Ireland. MPs for five English and one Scottish constituency have tabled an amendment to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, via the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill.

Betty Gibson, SPUC Northern Ireland chairwoman commented:

"This attempt to impose abortion on Northern Ireland is extremist, anti-democratic and arrogant. The move flies in the face of the will of the people of Northern Ireland who have, through their elected representatives in both Stormont and Westminster, continued to say no to abortion. The leaders of all four major political parties and the four main Churches right across Northern Ireland's traditional divide have written to both the government and all Westminster MPs calling on them to allow the issue of abortion law to be decided by the Province's devolved government.

"None of the MPs who've tabled this amendment represent anyone from Northern Ireland. Dr Evan Harris is notorious for his anti-life extremism, and John Bercow has tabled another amendment launching a witch-hunt against pro-life pregnancy counselling services. Diane Abbott [pictured] misled listeners of this morning's Today programme by claiming that the law on abortion in Northern Ireland is stricter than in the Republic of Ireland.

"This amendment is a desperate attempt by the most extreme members of the anti-life lobby to legalise abortion on demand ahead of the devolution of criminal justice matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

"SPUC is calling on everyone opposed to the Abortion Act being forced on Northern Ireland to make their opposition public by wearing the Little Feet lapel pin showing the feet of an unborn baby at 10 weeks. This is an international symbol of solidarity with unborn children. Anyone in Northern Ireland can order Little Feet lapel pins for free by contacting SPUC's Belfast office on 028 9077 8018.

SPUC is also asking for volunteers to flood the Province with thousands of leaflets explaining the effect of abortion on unborn children and their mothers," said Mrs Gibson.

The MPs for the five English constituencies are Diane Abbott, Dr Evan Harris, John Bercow, Jacqui Lait, and John McDonnell, and the MP for the Scottish constituency is Katy Clark.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Can you remember what you were doing when Parliament voted to create human-animal hybrids?

A reader sent me this snippet from Grayfriar News, Summer 2008, the newsletter of the Roman Catholic religious order, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal:

"It was beautiful sunny May day in St. James Park, London. The sky was blue, the foliage in lush green bloom and the birds in full spring voice. A day to thank God for the wonder of His creation and for the simple joy of being alive. Those people who were walking, jogging and cycling through the park were enjoying one of the finest days of the year so far. All seemed right with the world. But the evening before, just half a mile away, something had happened, something momentous, something most people had deemed unthinkable. In the Houses of Parliament, members of the House of Commons had voted overwhelmingly... to legalise the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos. One of the Catholic newspapers commented, `We have become used to calling ourselves a post-Christian society. But we flatter ourselves. From this week onwards we have definitively chosen to become a post-human society."

Monday, 21 July 2008

The pro-life leadership of Cardinal Keith O'Brien

The website of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh says the following about Cardinal Keith O'Brien's engagements in July:

"The Cardinal will be absent from Scotland during most of the month of July, initially leading the annual Archdiocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes and then travelling to Australia for the World Youth Day in Sydney, followed by a visit to the Diocese of Wollongong; and then journeying to New Zealand before returning to Scotland on Thursday 31 July 2008."

His absence in Lourdes, Australia and New Zealand, has not prevented the Scottish cardinal from continuing to provide pro-life leadership and speaking out powerfully on abortion and embryo experimentation in the run-up to this week's by-election in Glasgow East. Cardinal O’Brien says: "We are facing a crisis in society and we must ask ourselves is human life important to us or is it not?...[The Human Fertilisation and Embryology] Bill is a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life. …MPs must search their hearts and their consciences in this extra time in which they have been given to decide whether or not the value of human life really matters or whether or not it is simply one more commodity to be cast aside in our throw-away society."

New research paper on stem cells


An ethical approach to stem cell treatment by Alison Davies of ‘No Less Human’

Scientific research is proceeding at such a pace that it is often difficult to keep track of the latest developments that impact on human life. One of the fastest developing areas in this regard is stem cell treatment. Alison Davies, who heads No Less Human, SPUC’s division concerned with promoting the rights of people with disabilities, has written a research paper into the various forms of stem cell treatment and whether an ‘ethical approach’ is possible. Her paper is extensive in the ground it covers and exemplary in the presentation, which is both scientific and accessible to the layman.

It is very difficult to cover here all the topics which this research paper touches on. Two points of particular importance, however, stood out to me. First was the depth and clarity of Alison’s account of recent developments in adult stem cell (pictured) research, this includes great discussion of recent discoveries which have been termed induced Pluripotent stem cells (iPs) cells, which are mature cells ‘reprogrammed’ to have great flexibility in terms of the cell types into which they can transform.

It has been the contention of many scientists that the major difference between adult and embryonic stem cells is that the latter has great capability (or plasticity) to transform into many different types of cell, and thus are more useful in the fight against disease. The paper reports, however, that “the evidence which has been assembled since 2007 strongly supports the proposition that induced pluripotent stem cells have a plasticity comparable with that of any embryonic stem cell line.”

The second feature of this research paper which makes it an invaluable resource is that Alison looks at the specific promises of stem cell treatment in seven specific conditions: Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and bone disorders. In these sections the research paper not only manages to pick out the milestones in recent research into the conditions themselves, but from the evidence of a multiplicity of scientists, aims to predict how stem cell treatment might help those who suffer from these conditions.

Yet, as one would expect from a pro-lifer who has spent her life fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, Alison Davies does not shy away from criticism of the many scientists who have turned a blind eye to the ethics of killing embryos simply because some good, somewhere down the line might come of it. Alison writes:

“I am totally appalled at the suggestion (made both by scientists and by the British Government) that unethical stem cell research using human embryos is somehow justified because it might “help” people like me. I cannot think of anything more reprehensible than to suggest that it is acceptable to research upon and kill the most vulnerable of human individuals because there may be something in it for me.”

This research paper provides a very useful starting point for those scientists and members of the general public who would either like a survey of the scientific situation as it stands, or would like to launch into a more detailed study themselves.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Hillary Clinton attacks health professionals' right to conscientious objection to abortion and abortifacient birth control

George Bush, the US president, is under fire from Hillary Clinton for seeking to protect doctors’ and nurses’ conscientious objection to abortion, including abortifacient birth control drugs and devices. She reportedly described a Bush administration plan to define several widely used contraception methods as abortion is a "gratuitous, unnecessary insult" to women.

According to Reuters, a copy of a memo that appears to be an Department of Health and Human Services draft carries a broad definition of abortion as any procedures, including prescription drugs, ‘that result in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.’

Hillary Clinton’s response to the Bush administration’s initiative shows that the “freedom” to choose abortion turns out to be a triple attack on freedom, the freedom of:
  • the unborn to live
  • health professionals and others not to participate in killing innocent human lives, and
  • women and men to know the truth about the abortifacient properties of birth control drugs and devices.
I hope the Bush administration sticks to its guns on this issue.