Saturday, 24 January 2009

Second Vatican Council tells couples to obey Catholic teaching on birth control says Bishop O’Donoghue

After President Obama’s attack on human life worldwide yesterday, it’s wonderful to wake up to the powerful leadership and prophetic voice of Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, writing in the Catholic Herald this weekend.

Describing the body of documents produced by the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church as “a Magna Carta of the Holy Spirit for the modern Church” Bishop O’Donoghue says:

“ … there is the danger that those involved in the historical search for the Council will create a picture of the ‘Council’ that reflects their own likes and dislikes. If Catholics really knew the documents of the Council there would not be so much confusion about what they actually say:

“1) Catholics could not continue to live lives focused on their own prosperity if they truly knew that Gaudium et Spes 69 teaches, among other things, that we must “feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him”.

“2) Catholics could not say that Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, went against Vatican II if they knew that Gaudium et Spes 51 teaches that couples “may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law ... ”

Recently, the Vatican has strongly endorsed Bishop O’Donoghue’s outspoken defence of Humanae Vitae. In his “Fit For Mission? Church, Being Catholic Today”, he spoke about the mistaken reasoning of those who say the Catholic Church should drop its opposition to contraception.

When I wrote about this document last August I explained why, to my mind, it’s quite clear* that countless human lives have been destroyed as a result of the rejection of Humanae Vitae and its teaching on the wrongfulness of the separation of the unitive significance and procreative significance of the conjugal act, not least through birth control and IVF practices, including amongst Catholics (*albeit on the question of the separation of the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marital act SPUC itself has no policy. The Society is made up of people of all faiths and none and SPUC’s remit is solely concerned with defending the right to life from conception till natural death.)

Friday, 23 January 2009

The party's over: Obama signs order to abort the world's poor

President Obama, America's abortion President, has wasted little time in using his powers to kill the unborn and, in my view, pro-life people worldwide are facing an historic challenge which can be summed up in two words: peaceful resistance.

This afternoon he signed an order "that will put hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of organizations that aggressively promote abortion as a population-control tool in the developing world" according to the US National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

NRLC explains: "Obama's order overturns the 'Mexico City Policy', under which funds in the US 'population assistance' programme go only to overseas organizations that pledge not to 'perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning'.

My picture, above, shows children in Kenya where Dr Stephen Karanja, the head of the Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association, said about the result of the US election: “They have no business electing a person who is going to destroy our countries. And that is what they have done. This is something that a lot of people don’t realise, that what these Americans do affects innocent people thousands and thousands of miles away.”

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the NRLC, explains, "One effect of Obama's order will be to divert many millions of dollars away from groups that do not promote abortion, and into the hands of those organizations that are the most aggressive in promoting abortion in developing countries. President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control.”

NRLC goes on to explain that contrary to some misunderstandings, enforcement of the Mexico City Policy did not reduce the amount of money spent on the programme, nor will Obama's order increase the amount (which is $461 million in the current fiscal year). Rather, the policy affects what type of groups qualify for grants under the programme. Obama's order will result in a redirection of funds to groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which are ideologically committed to the doctrine that abortion on demand must be universally available as a birth control method."

Douglas Johnson of NRLC warns: "This is the first in an anticipated series of attacks on longstanding pro-life policies, as the new administration pushes Obama's sweeping abortion agenda. That agenda includes repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which would result in tax-funded abortion as a birth control method in the U.S., and imposition of sweeping pro-abortion mandates on private employers through health-care reform legislation."

The Obama phenomenon will affect political decision-making worldwide. All our lives will be affected. Pro-life people must organize and encourage powerful, peaceful resistance at every level in society. The right to life must be made the top priority issue at general elections in every country by all right-minded citizens. The great US election party is over. The first killings have been ordered by America's new abortion President - and we've all got a lot of work to get on with.

Irish bill to protect human embryos fails to achieve its objective

The Stem-Cell Research (Protection of Human Embryos) Bill 2008, debated in the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) last November, may now have run its course and may progress no further.

Nevertheless, this well-intentioned bill, introduced by Senator Rónán Mullen, deserves the careful analysis (provided by Southern Cross Bioethics Institute) to which Pat Buckley draws attention today. It's important that legislative measures, seeking to uphold the sanctity of human life, can withstand ethical scrutiny and don't, on reflection, make the situation they seek to resolve worse.

In the words of the analysis which deserves to be read in full, published on Pat Buckley's blog:

" ... How is it possible that a Bill containing in its title the “Protection of Human Embryos” fails to do so?

"The Bill achieves this by bracketing out artificial reproductive technology (ART) from the definition of “embryo-destructive research”. That is, the Bill excludes from the definition of “embryo-destructive research”: (i) in vitro fertilisation and accompanying embryo transfer to a woman’s body, or (ii) any diagnostic procedure carried out for the benefit of the human embryo which is subject to such test.

"Therefore, this Bill provides explicit approval for ART.In every context in which ART takes place, and specifically in vitro fertilisation (IVF), embryo transfer (ET) and related diagnostic testing, human embryos are placed at extreme risk with by far the majority being either discarded, subjected to procedures and processes involving their destruction, or allowed to succumb when unwanted ... "

Thursday, 22 January 2009

BBC licence fees used to fund anti-life propaganda again

Alison Davis, who heads SPUC's disability division, contacted me to tell me about what looks like another very one-sided BBC drama focusing on assisted suicide.

I have frequently commented on BBC bias on life issues. Licence-fees are effectively being used to fund anti-life propaganda, worldwide.

Even before the showing of the feature length drama "A short stay in Switzerland" (BBC1 9pm Sunday 25 January), its leading actress Julie Walters, is quoted as being "set to win awards" for it.

In the drama Ms. Walters plays Anne Turner, a doctor and mother of three adult children who developed Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), just shortly after her husband died of a similar condition. While he died naturally, Dr. Turner, with the "support" of her children, decided to go to the well-known "Dignitas" centre in Zurich, founded by Dr. Ludwig Minelli in order to die by "assisted suicide." She reportedly wanted to go to the clinic while she was still well enough to travel, because "assisted suicide" is illegal in Britain. She particularly wanted to make a stand in favour of the Mental Capacity bill which would legalise death by dehydration and starvation for some vulnerable patients (now the Mental Capacity Act 2005).

PSP involves degeneration of nerve endings, affecting balance, mobility, vision and inability to swallow. Some people with the condition often become unable to walk, feed themselves or communicate easily with others. However, while these symptoms may well be very distressing, not all those with PSP suffer them all, and hospice treatment whether as an in- or out-patient can help both those with the condition and their familes to live well until they die naturally. Average life expectancy from diagnosis is about seven years.

While Ms Walters maintains that she simply wanted the issues aired, her bias is made clear by her comments. She says "Anne was an intelligent, informed and articulate woman. It was a courageous act."

While every individual's response to a disabling condition will be different, Ms. Walters' dubbing of Dr. Turner's response as "courageous" ignores the wonderfully positive response of the actor, comedian and classical pianist Dudley Moore (pictured) who lived with PSP for eight years, during which he raised $100,000 for research into PSP. He was diagnosed in 1999, and died naturally of pneumonia, a common complication of PSP on 27th March 2002. His truly courageous stance receives no mention in the trailers for this film. It looks set to be the viewer's loss to be given only a one-sided look at what possible responses are available for those who experience disabling conditions and their families.

You may like to watch the programme. If you conclude that it's another example of BBC anti-life propaganda, write to your MP and ask him or her to take up your concerns with Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Is the BBC demonising the pro-life movement?

A British television police drama shows pro-life people kidnapping children. SPUC supporters have expressed concern about BBC1's Hunter (starring Hugh Bonneville, right) currently still showing on the internet. Betty Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland who watched the programme tells me she was horrified: "These supposed pro-lifers were shown inscribing 'sacred' on one of their captives and also killing a hostage. The BBC wouldn't dare portray other groups in this way."

It's all very puzzling, to say the least. Might it be an attempt to demonise the pro-life movement? Could BBC producers have been emboldened by the inauguration of Mr Barack Obama as a pro-abortion president? Of course, this is just a fictional situation, but pro-life people are the last to threaten children. Indeed, we defend them.

The pro-life movement lobbies for change to the law, it provides research and information on bioethical issues, and it gives practical and emotional help to women facing difficulties in pregnancy. Some of the nicest, kindest people I've met have been pro-life activists.

Then there is the grim irony that one of the extremists in the programme has spina bifida and seems to want revenge for the deaths of people with a similar disability through abortion. (The overwheming majority of unborn babies discovered to have spina bifida in Britain are aborted).

I guess playwrights and producers can do all sorts of things in the name of good drama, but is there another agenda here? We mustn't be distracted by a TV show from our defence of vulnerable human beings, but maybe it's worth remarking on such an eccentric portrayal of pro-life people just when the most pro-abortion president in US history has been inaugurated.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama's inauguration offers no hope for women at home or abroad

Here are my comments on some extracts from President Obama's inauguration speech:

"I stand here today ... mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors." [JS: Like the sacrifices of your mother, Mr Obama, who did not seek to have you aborted.]

"America has carried on ... because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents." [JS: Such as the Declaration of Independence : "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life..." under which killing children before birth should be unthinkable.]

"The time has come ... to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. [JS: except for the millions that will be aborted under President Obama's laws and policies.]

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost." [JS: not by abusing and killing embryonic children!]

"America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity" [JS: except for millions of unborn children in America and elsewhere, who will be denied any sort of future by President Obama's pro-abortion policies.]

" ... those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents [JS: What else is abortion than slaughtering innocents?]

"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish..." [JS: But in China, farms are destroyed for violations of the one-child policy, a policy in which President Obama has pledged to be complicit, through re-funding UNFPA and IPPF.]

"It is ... a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate. [JS: How does promoting abortion encourage this willingness? What about the majority of Chinese women who are willing to have another child, but will be denied one by an Obama-funded population control programme?]

It is chilling to note that the following information appeared on the White House website within minutes of Mr Obama's inauguration:
"Reproductive Choice

  • Supports a Woman's Right to Choose: President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Adminstration. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.
  • Preventing Unintended Pregnancy: President Obama was an original co-sponsor of legislation to expand access to contraception, health information, and preventive services to help reduce unintended pregnancies. Introduced in January 2007, the Prevention First Act will increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe sex methods. The Act will also end insurance discrimination against contraception, improve awareness about emergency contraception, and provide compassionate assistance to rape victims.

  • "Health Care

  • Supporting Stem Cell Research: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe that we owe it to the American public to explore the potential of stem cells to treat the millions of people suffering from debilitating and life-threatening diseases. Obama is a co-sponsor of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, which will allow research of human embryonic stem cells derived from embryos donated (with consent) from in vitro fertilization clinics. These embryos must be deemed in excess and created based solely for the purpose of fertility treatment."
  • On the right-hand side of my blog I will be recording the life- and family-related actions of Mr Obama as US president. Please use this to keep up-to-date with the challenges that the pro-life movement will face in the coming years.

    Monday, 19 January 2009

    Joined up thinking about the unborn is needed at University College Dublin

    Pat Buckley has spotted an important article on the unborn in the Irish Times.

    "Emotional well-being begins before birth ... " writes Marie Murray, a director of psychology and the director of the Student Counselling Services in University College Dublin (UCD).

    "Life begins not at birth but before it" she continues. "One piece of evidence for this is the way babies respond to voices, patterns of sounds, melodies and stories that they have heard prenatally when they are provided with those same sound sequences and experiences after birth".

    In a good article in the Irish Times, she concludes: "Inevitably, some of the research on womb life has been exploited in educational programmes by those who promote prenatal education for intellectual advancement and advantage over others.

    "But that is not the primary purpose of research on interuterine conditions. Rather than exploiting knowledge about life in the womb for competitive gain, this is information to be used to provide the most conducive environment for the development of human potential, happiness, security and love in order to lay down the psychological foundation that will support the child through all the developmental stages that lie ahead ... "

    In the light of her obvious concern for the unborn (whose "life begins not at birth but before it ... " as she puts it) I do hope that Marie Murray does something about the deeply misleading information posted on the UCD Student Counselling Services about so-called "contraception".

    In the UCD Student Counselling Service webpage on "Contraception Choices" the action of the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) the coil is described as follows: "A small plastic and copper device is put into the womb. It works in several different ways – by stopping sperm from meeting the egg, by delaying the egg getting to the womb or by preventing the egg from settling in the womb." This description uses the word "egg" three times - in the first place to denote the unfertilised ovum and, in the second and third places, to denote a newly-conceived human being.

    Children have no chance of developing their "human potential, happiness, security and love" if their very existence is obscured, so that students at UCD, perhaps unwittingly, experience an early, unrecognised abortion by using the IUCD.

    A fuller description of the way IUCD works would be that it can: interfere with the ability of sperm to pass through the uterine cavity; or, interfere with fertilisation in the fallopian tube; or cause local inflammation in the uterine lining, inhibiting implantation if conception has occurred and thus can induce an early abortion.

    Similarly, with other kinds of "contraceptive" drugs and devices, their abortifacient nature is not mentioned at all - for example, the implant, combined oral contraception, and injectable contraception. Fuller details of how such products work can be found here.

    Joined up thinking about the unborn is needed at University College Dublin - and, undoubtedly, elsewhere in the academic world. Students are entitled to the full truth about the unborn, about when human life begins, and about the abortifacient nature of so-called contraceptive drugs and devices.