Thursday, 28 April 2011

SPUC is determined to hand on political experience to young people

Last week I wrote about twelve courageous national delegations at the United Nations which rejected the use of abortion as an instrument of international policy.

For nearly 20 years, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has been working at the United Nations in New York, Geneva and elsewhere, lobbying national delegations on behalf of the unborn and on behalf of parental rights as the primary educators of their children. SPUC's lobbyists, and our colleagues in other pro-life groups, have been calling for real help for women, children and men in developing countries - rather than the final solution of abortion promoted by Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and the new British coalition Government.

SPUC is determined to hand on its political experience to young people. It's the young who are increasingly carrying the pro-life baton and who will go on to win the race to restore respect for human life and the family for future generations yet unborn.

Anne is a young student supporter of SPUC, who worked for the Society as an intern last summer. Anne joined SPUC's lobby at the UN's meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York earlier this year. She sent me the following report:
"Thank you for this wonderful opportunity of going to the UN. I've learnt so much and have met so many remarkable people. I really admire the good work SPUC is doing at the UN. (By the way a group of us from university went to the student conference last month which I believe has inspired more students to be pro active and pro-life.)

"During my internship for SPUC last summer I met Peter Smith, UN representative for SPUC and secretary of SPUC’s Evangelical division. Peter offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the 55th session on the Commission on the Status of Women, at the UN Headquarters in New York City [28th February- 4th March 2011]. I was thrilled at the prospect of accompanying Peter at the UN and began making travel arrangements without a moment’s delay.

"On my first day at the UN I had the privilege of meeting Jeanne Head, UN representative for National Right to Life, International Right to Life and winner of the prestigious Life Prizes Pro-life award. [Jeanne is pictured at the UN, above, with Pat Buckley, a SPUC lobbyist.] Before becoming the vice president for International Affairs for National Right to Life, Jeanne worked as an obstetric nurse. Jeanne really inspired and encouraged me; she has so much experience, rigour and enthusiasm and is so pro-active in her work. I enjoyed hearing of her triumphs at the UN and I found that even on my first day I was getting a real insight into the inner working of the UN.

"After meeting Jeanne, Peter and I attended a side event on the Yogyakarta Principles. The Yogyakarta Principles apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. Advocators of these principles want them to become part of international human rights law. Before attending this side event, I hadn’t heard of the Yogyakarta Principles. I found the implications of implementing these principles very interesting, especially once I had discovered that there are multiple kinds of gender identity and sexual orientation. The Yogyakarta Principles may even permit the abhorrent acts of bestiality, if this is considered a type of ‘sexual orientation’.

"On Tuesday I attended a negotiation on the working document for this session of the CSW: Access and participation of women and girls to education, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. It was fascinating to hear delegates from all over the world comment upon, edit and suggest changes to the document that would become UN policy.

"The meticulous attention to detail - language, punctuation and phraseology - shows how thorough and important a document it is. Interestingly, it seemed that the more controversial the paragraph, the faster the chairman urged the discussion to go. By contrast, it seemed as though a disproportionately lengthy amount of time was spent on trivial paragraphs, where delegates would be excessively particular about the usage of commas and other marks of punctuation.

"After negotiations rounded off for lunch, there was a discussion on the prevention of maternal mortality and morbidity. This was of particular interest to me after having learnt about the UN prevention of maternal mortality during my internship for SPUC. The discussion was to primarily address MDG 5 and review the progress from last year. The pro-abortion agenda was quite explicit. The main preventative measure for reducing maternal mortality was to increase sexual reproductive health services [a term which they define as including access to abortion]. It was argued that early childbearing is a key factor of maternal mortality. As a result, they discussed ways to prevent early marriages; the encouragement and retention of girls in school being the main way to deter girls from entering into an early marriage. It was argued that girls who stay in school will make ‘better’ choices about when it is appropriate to marry and how to space their children ... Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be much discussion about ensuring better pre and post natal care for mothers.

"On Wednesday I accompanied Peter when he went for lunch with Dr Seyed Vahid Karimi, first secretary and delegate for Iran. It was encouraging to meet a high profile figure who was pro-life and positive about the family. Having lunch with Peter and Dr. Karimi made me realise the importance of pro-life NGOs forming alliances with delegates. Being a pro-life presence at the UN encourages and supports pro-life delegates to continue to uphold the pro-life message in a very pressurised environment. Fr. Bene, the delegate from the Holy See was encouraged to see me and other young pro-lifers helping our NGOs and I think our enthusiasm lifted everyone’s spirits. I was glad to meet Fr. Bene and speak to him briefly. He was so committed to his duties as a delegate, attending all of the negotiations up until the small hours of the morning. Despite diligently attending the negotiations, he found the time to greet the Teen Eagles and me. The Teen Eagles were also helping pro-life NGOs and I very much enjoyed their company.

"On Thursday we met with the Ambassador of Namibia; Ambassador Emvula. This added to my ever increasing list of delegates and state figures that I’d met throughout the course of the week. That evening I was to meet the Ambassador of Iran at the Iranian reception.

"In the last two days of my time at the UN, I attended some excellent pro-life side events. We watched the premiere showing of the second Demographic Winter film, which was very insightful and thought provoking. I also attended a side event given by Sharon Slater; president of Family Watch International. This side event was a real eye opener, as the terminology used in UN documents was explained. Sharon highlighted the subtleties in UN language and the way that vague or ambiguous terms can and are used as umbrella terms; so that more can become permissible. I was shocked to learn about the kind of literature that is to be promoted and taught in schools in order for schools to have a “comprehensive sexuality education”. Some of the leaflets were published solely to promote sexual pleasure and rights. These leaflets were very graphic and encouraged sexual exploration, portraying it as some kind of right. Thankfully, Sharon exposes these issues by showing delegates what “comprehensive sexuality education” actually means and how leaflets such as “Healthy, Happy and Hot” are designed for young people, encouraging sexual exploration and activity.

"I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to attend the 55th session on the CSW at the UN. I feel as though my eyes have been opened and I have learnt a lot about how the UN works. I have had the privilege of meeting some very influential people and some truly inspiring pro-life activists who have dedicated their lives to the pro-life cause. I thank Peter Smith and SPUC for giving me this incredible experience and insight and I continue to admire their work."
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This morning's must-read pro-life news-stories, Thursday 28 April

Hu Jintao, Communist China's president
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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Catholic case against embryo adoption

Fr John Fleming, SPUC's bioethical consultant and adjunct professor of the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute (Australia), has kindly sent me his response (below) to a recent article by Dr Gerard Nadal, an American Catholic scientist and pro-life bioethicist, entitled "The Catholic Case for Embryo Adoption" (May I also encourage readers to order copies of Fr Fleming's book "Dignitas Personae Explained".)

Reply to Gerard Nadal’s “ Catholic case for embryo adoption”

What to with embryonic human beings left over from treatments for infertility? Gerard Nadal proposes that embryo adoption is not only a reasonable response to the question but even “an imperative”.

Dr Nadal, like many other pro-lifers, is motivated by his deep respect for the life of a human being, whether conceived inside or outside of the body of his mother. That I disagree with Dr Nadal’s reasoning should not be read as any personal criticism of a fellow Catholic pro-lifer who has admirably articulated his case based upon the best possible motives.

But, I think, his moral reasoning is not secure.

In the first place he uses the word “conceive” in two different senses.  A child is “conceived” outside of the womb of his mother.  A woman has conceived a child by virtue of being pregnant.

We see this fault in the analogy he draws between embryos created ex corporis in the laboratory, and children conceived by rape and fornication. But these situations are entirely different. In one case a woman is pregnant (ie has conceived a child) through a violent and obviously non-consensual act which we call rape. In the second case a woman is pregnant (ie has conceived a child) through a consensual act of intercourse with a man to whom she is not married, ie fornication. But in the case of an embryo created in the laboratory we something different again. Here there is no intercourse, no established biological connection with the mother – a child in complete isolation.

Second, the teaching of the Church contained in Dignitas personae (DP) is all about the dignity of the human being and human being here means all those who are affected by whatever action is done. The man masturbates to produce sperm – an insult to the dignity of the man. The woman has her entire reproductive system turned upside down to harvest eggs and later to prepare her body for implantation – an insult to the dignity of the woman. The embryonic human being is created in a glass dish – an insult to the dignity of this person too.

So when a woman is made pregnant by artificial means it is an insult to the dignity of the woman who should only become pregnant through acts of sexual intimacy with her husband.

DP is clear that “respect for that dignity is owed to every human being because each one carries in an indelible way his own dignity and value.” (DP, n 6)  Moreover, through DP the Church reminds us all “that the ethical value of biomedical science is gauged in reference to both the unconditional respect owed to every human being at every moment of his or her existence, and the defense of the specific character of the personal act which transmits life.

The problem with embryo adoption is that it requires artificial interventions to supplant marital intimacy as the means of making a woman pregnant. That is, we are being invited to violate one foundational ethical principle (“Procreation which is truly responsible vis-à-vis the child to be born must be the fruit of marriage”) to provide further protection for the exposed embryonic human being.  But this violates the first principle of natural law, that one must not do evil to achieve good (and cf Romans 3:8).

To support his contention that it is right to violate one good in order to achieve another, Dr Nadal refers to Christ’s behaviour on the Sabbath:
Jesus admonished the Pharisees when they took exception to His disciples picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath. He also admonished them about the lawfulness of saving life on the Sabbath, even if it meant breaking the law to do so. “Who among you would not pull his sheep out of a hole to save it on the Sabbath?”
But this is to misuse Scripture in two ways. First, it is interpreting one passage of Scripture to contradict another setting Romans 3: 8 against Christ’s teaching on the Sabbath. And second, it misunderstands Christ’s teaching on the Sabbath.

Our Lord says two things about the Sabbath:
  1. He is Lord of the Sabbath. Because his father created the Sabbath, and “the Father continues to work on the Sabbath, the divine Son can only do what his Father does (John 5:18).” [note 1] His contemporaries understood that to mean he was claiming equality with God.
  2. Jesus also claims he is “fulfilling the true intent of the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). In other words, by healing and restoring, he is lifting burdens from the lives of the people, giving them rest from years of physical and spiritual bondage. The Sabbath is therefore something that frees rather than something that binds (Luke 13:10-17).” [note 2]
Our Lord is teaching his disciples that “acts of charity and necessity are ... in harmony with the Sabbath’s deepest level of significance (Matt 12:1-6; Luke 6:9).” [note 3]

In no way then can these passages from the Gospels be used to justify embryo adoption, or the doing of an evil to achieve a good.

So it is that DP teaches us that the mess created by wilful human beings is not patient of an easy solution this side of the grave.  We must leave these children in the hands of God their heavenly Father.  Embryo adoption is excluded as a “Catholic” response to so-called unwanted human embryos.

The Rev’d Dr John I Fleming PhD
Adjunct Professor of Bioethics
Southern Cross Bioethics Institute (Adelaide, South Australia)


1. Scott Hahn, ed. Catholic Bible Dictionary, New York, Doubleday, 2009, 787
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

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Pro-life campaigners to hold nationwide street witness this Saturday 30 April

Pro-life campaigners will give silent witness to unborn babies killed in the 43 years since the implementation of the Abortion Act, as well as to the hurt caused to women by abortion.

This Saturday 30 April, supporters of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) will form a chain, standing at intervals holding placards which bring home the reality of abortion. The event is known as the Pro-life Chains and will be held from 11am till 1pm.

The 1967 Abortion Act came into effect on 27 April 1968. Since then, over seven million unborn children have been killed through registered abortion in Britain. This figure does not include abortions which may be caused by birth control drugs and devices. Nor does it include the number of embryos destroyed or discarded during and after in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

The full list of locations for the event is listed below. Media outlets are welcome to send a reporter and/or photographer to cover the event. Media and supporters interested in the event should contact Tony Mullett, the event's national organiser on (01772) 258580 or at

Chains will take place at the following towns on Saturday 30 April 2011, 11am to 1pm, unless otherwise stated:

Ashton-under-Lyne - Sunday 1 May
Balsall Common
Bedford - Saturday 21 May
Birmingham, Edgbaston
Birmingham, Erdington
Birmingham, Handsworth - 12pm to 2pm
Brecon - Saturday 7 May
Liverpool, Crosby
Liverpool, Wavertree
Milton Keynes
Newcastle under Lyme
Newcastle upon Tyne
Peterborough - Saturday 7 May
Uddingston - Saturday 7 May
Vale of Glamorgan

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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

This afternoon's must-read pro-life news-stories, Tuesday 26 April

Jessica and Clint Council with their son
Sexual ethics
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This morning's must-read pro-life news-stories, Tuesday 26 April

Cori Schumacher, surfing champion
  • French bishops supporting two pro-abortion groups in Latin America [, 21 April]
  • Women's world surfing champ (pictured) boycotts China over forced abortion [Cypress Times, 18 April]
Sexual ethics
  • British girls worst binge drinkers in western world, leading to rise in teen pregnancies [Telegraph, 22 April]
  • Ontario Bishops ask all Catholic high schools to implement gay anti-bullying clubs [, 19 April]
  • New contraceptive pills triples blood clot risk, suggests study [Telegraph, 22 April]
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