Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury warns of "disaster" if assisted suicide mirrors abortion dynamic

Earlier this week Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, addressed the Church of England's General Synod during a debate on assisted suicide. Among other things, Dr Williams said (full text, audio):
"[T]here have been a number of discussions in Parliament in recent years on this subject, and the emergence of this so-called Independent Commission and its report prompts the question “What has changed to make a re-opening of the question necessary?” Paradoxically, the answer seems to be that the only thing that has changed, and that is still changing, is advances in medical science and in palliative care. In other words, changes in exactly the direction which suggests that we do not need a change in the law such as envisaged.

...

"Law exists so that people may be protected, especially the vulnerable. Law exists to guarantee equality of protection to all.

...

"What we are faced with here in these proposals from the Commission is a legal outcome in which protection is diminished, not only for vulnerable individuals but also for medical professionals. A point has been made, and it needs to be made again, that it is front-line physicians who are going to find themselves more and more in a deeply uncomfortable – perhaps unsustainable – place in all this.

...

"The default position on abortion has shifted quite clearly over the past 40 years, and to see the default position shifting on the sanctity of life would be a disaster.

...

"To say that there are certain conditions in which life is legally declared to be not worth living is a major shift in the moral and spiritual atmosphere in which we live ... [T]o change the law on this subject is, I believe, to change something vital in our sense of the value of life itself."
Thankfully the General Synod voted overwhelmingly to "affirm the intrinsic value of every human life and express its support for the current law on assisted suicide".

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Watch SPUC's Anthony McCarthy speak on Channel 4 about gay marriage

Anthony McCarthy, SPUC's education and publications manager, this week appeared on Channel Four's 4thought.tv series to speak on the subject of gay marriage. You can watch Anthony's appearance here.

Anthony said that neither the church nor the state has the right to redefine marriage; and that to try to change the heterosexual nature of marriage is to undermine an institution which protects children and society. You can read more about SPUC's position on gay marriage in our position paper and background paper.

I appeared on 4thought.tv in November 2010 on abortion, and Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, appeared in June last year on organ donation.

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Today's must-read pro-life news-stories, Wed 8 Feb

Photo showing size of implants
Top stories:

13-year-old girls fitted secretly with birth control implants

13-year-old girls at nine schools in Southampton, England, have been fitted with birth control implants without their parents' knowledge. Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: "Schemes like these inevitably lead to boys putting pressure on girls to have sex. The last thing they should be doing is fuelling the flames of promiscuity and the sexual health crisis with schemes that treat parents, the law and basic moral principles with contempt." [Telegraph, 8 February] John Smeaton, SPUC director, commented: "These implants not only act as contraceptives, but can also act as abortifacients, killing newly-conceived embryos by stopping them from implanting in the womb."

Leader of Anglican Communion says legalising assisted suicide would spell "disaster"
Dr Rowan Williams, the leader of the Anglican Communion, has said that legalising assisted suicidewould spell "disaster". Addressing a General Synod debate, Dr Williams said: "[T]o change the law on this subject is, I believe, to change something vital in our sense of the value of life itself." The synod voted overwhelmingly to "affirm the intrinsic value of every human life and express its support for the current law on assisted suicide" [Archbishop of Canterbury, 6 February]

Morning-after pills dispensed by vending machine at US university
Students at a university in the American state of Pennsylvania can buy morning-after pills from a vending machine. The machine also provides condoms and pregnancy tests. [Mail, 7 February] According to the manufacturers, morning-after pills may cause early abortions by preventing embryos implanting in the womb.

Other stories:

General
  • Sarah Palin’s touching account of living with a son with Down’s syndrome [Mail, 6 February]
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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Catholic Voices amends abortion blogpost but has further work to do

Following my blogpost yesterday evening ("Does Catholic Voices now "accept that abortion should be legal"?"), I welcome the fact that Catholic Voices has now amended its blogpost. Here is the original version of the section I focused on (my emphases in bold):
"But in reality, Catholics on campus have nothing to fear. The motion contains no definition of "pro-choice"; if it means simply someone who accepts that abortion should be legal, most Catholics -- including the bishops of England and Wales, who advocate incremental restrictions, but not yet a total ban -- would fit that description.

And that is why it may turn out that the UCLU motion will come to be seen not as closing down discussion of abortion but a major spur to opening it up."
Today the same section now reads:
"But in reality, Catholics on campus have nothing to fear. The motion's definition of pro-choice ideology is so narrow and extreme, and its actions so brow-beating and authoritarian, that it will show informed pro-lifers who accept that abortion cannot be prohibited immediately -- including the bishops of England and Wales, who advocate incremental restrictions, but realise that a total ban is currently impossible to achieve -- to be the true advocates of moderate, rational and humane principle.

And that is why it may turn out that the UCLU motion will come to be seen not as closing down discussion of abortion but a major spur to opening it up."
Catholic Voices, however, has not amended the blogpost's erroneous references to abortion law (my emphases in bold):
  • "Of course women have the legal right, within the 1967 Act, to seek an abortion; but does the UCLU believe that women have the right to break the law by seeking an abortion after the 24-week legal upper limit?"
  • "Fewer than 5 per cent of the population believes, as the UCLU motion suggests, that the legal upper time limit for abortion should be increased from 24 weeks."
  • "Should someone who believes the limit should be lowered from the current 24 weeks be classed as pro-choice or pro-life?"
Firstly, it is not clear whether "seek an abortion" means simply that, or means (as the context implies) "seek and have an abortion". Whatever it means, however, there is no "legal right" to abortion in any law in the United Kingdom. Abortion is a criminal offence under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861. The Abortion Act 1967 does not create a "legal right" to abortion: rather, the Act provides automatic exoneration from prosecution for those involved in an abortion if they follow the Act's conditions. It is dangerously irresponsible for a Catholic organisation to concede that there is a "legal right" to abortion in domestic law, as such concessions are gold-dust for the international pro-abortion lobby. At the United Nations and other high-level international institutions, the pro-abortion lobby repeats examples of national laws which grant a "legal right" to abortion, in order to argue that there is a worldwide consensus that abortion is a woman's right. Pro-lifers, for the sake of the international battle for the unborn, cannot afford to be unclear about the criminal status of abortion in British national law.

Secondly, as I said in my blogpost yesterday, 24 weeks is not the upper time-limit for abortion in Britain; in fact, abortion is allowed up to birth under the Abortion Act 1967 as amended in 1990. Only two grounds (C and D) of the seven grounds for abortion (as used in the official abortion statistics) are limited to 24 weeks; the other five grounds have no time-limit i.e. up to birth. Under those five grounds, abortions are performed on both disabled children (under ground E) and non-disabled children (under grounds A, B, F and G). The fact that the majority of abortions are performed under the two time-limited grounds does not make those grounds normative, either in law or in fact. Also, abortions under the five grounds with no time-limit are not exceptions, either in law or in fact. In law, those five grounds have equal status with the two time-limited grounds; and in fact, abortions on both disabled and non-disabled children are performed on average every day. (See A Way of Life section 1.2.2 and other sections for more information about abortion law. Word-searches on my blog and the SPUC website will also provide more such information.)

So Catholic Voices has further work to do in correcting its blogpost - and proving that it is a reliable source of pro-life commentary.

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Monday, 6 February 2012

Does Catholic Voices now "accept that abortion should be legal"?

On Friday the Catholic Voices Monitor blog commented on a pro-abortion motion passed by the University College London Union (UCLU). Monitor wrote:
"The motion then went on to attempt to ban pro-life meetings -- 'to ensure that any future open events focusing on the issue of termination invite an anti-choice speaker and a pro-choice speaker as well as an independent chair, to ensure there is a balance to the argument' -- in resolving that: 'When clubs and societies invite pro-life speakers they should also invite a pro- choice speaker to balance the debate and vice-versa.'"
The Monitor blog-post concluded (my emphases in bold):
"But in reality, Catholics on campus have nothing to fear. The motion contains no definition of "pro-choice"; if it means simply someone who accepts that abortion should be legal, most Catholics -- including the bishops of England and Wales, who advocate incremental restrictions, but not yet a total ban -- would fit that description.

And that is why it may turn out that the UCLU motion will come to be seen not as closing down discussion of abortion but a major spur to opening it up."
Firstly, Monitor is wrong that "the motion contains no definition of "pro-choice". The motion reads:
"This Union believes:
1. That both men and women have the right to exercise complete control over their own bodies and this includes the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy or not.
2. Safe and free termination should be available for all who require it..."
and
"This Union resolves:
1. To officially take a pro-choice stance and support students' right to choose the best option for them when pregnant, whether this involves continuing or terminating the pregnancy."
Secondly, Catholic teaching cannot be 'reframed' as 'pro-choice' on abortion, any more that it can be 'reframed' as 'pro-choice' on racism. Yes, pro-lifers can assert rightly that they are 'pro-choice' in the sense they offer women ethical alternatives to abortion, or that they give unborn children the choice to live which abortion denies. However, what pro-lifers, Catholics, bishops etc. cannot do is "accept[ ] that abortion should be legal" and therefore adopt the label 'pro-choice' on that basis.

Thirdly, does Catholic Voices now "accept[ ] that abortion should be legal"? For this is what is strongly implied by the Monitor blogpost when it says that "most Catholics -- including the bishops of England and Wales" "accept[ ] that abortion should be legal". The function of this purported acceptance is placed by the Monitor blogpost in a positive context:
  • "[T]he motion may...offer[ ] an opportunity for Catholic voices to be heard where normally they are shut out."
  • "Catholics on campus have nothing to fear"
  • "[I]t may turn out that the UCLU motion will come to be seen not as closing down discussion of abortion but a major spur to opening it up."
Fourthly, what is Catholic Voices's source(s) for its claim that "most Catholics -- including the bishops of England and Wales" "accept[ ] that abortion should be legal"?

Last year Dr Austen Ivereigh, one of Catholic Voices's founders and coordinators, co-authored a book entitled: "Catholic Voices: putting the case for the Church in an era of 24-hour news". Among a number of dubious things, the book says (p.159):
"The abortion question is really two: the wrongness/licitness of abortion itself; and what the law and the state should determine."
However, St Thomas Aquinas, the common Doctor of the Catholic Church, taught that:
"Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like."
Summa Theologica I-II, q.96, art.2
Abortion is indeed:
  • one of "the more grievous vices";
  • "possible for the majority to abstain" from;
  • "chiefly...to the hurt of others";
  • "without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained"; and
  • "murder".
Legal bans on abortion:
  • exists for the sake of the common good (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #1951);
  • check audacity, safeguard innocence and prevent harm (cf. St Isidore, quoted by St Thomas, Summa Theologica I-II, q.95, art.1);
  • bind men to the common principle of the natural moral law that the intentional killing of the innocent is always wrong (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #1957).
To accept as currently desirable - as distinct from recognising as deplorable - the legal availability of abortion is to accept an operating principle of fatal discrimination against the unborn; and would undermine the efforts of the pro-life movement internationally.

The Catholic Voices book also says (p.164):
"To re-criminalise abortion is an unrealistic political ambition".
Is this not, however, a self-fulfilling prophecy, the acceptance of which is a goal within a strategy often employed by the pro-abortion lobby to make the success of their ‘progressive’ agenda seem inevitable?

Along with Dr Ivereigh, another likely source for Catholic Voices' erroneous ideas about abortion is Clifford Longley, one of the "experts assisting" Catholic Voices'. Mr Longley is the editorial consultant of The Tablet, which is notorious for its dissent from Catholic teaching on pro-life and pro-family issues. Dr Ivereigh is a former deputy editor of The Tablet, to which he remains unswervingly loyal. Last November Mr Longley defended Dr Jon Cruddas, the pro-abortion Catholic MP, by rejecting the claim that Britain's law on abortion should mirror the moral law by banning abortion (see my letter published in The Tablet in response. Tabula delenda est.)

The Monitor blogpost also makes the error that the upper time-limit for abortion in Britain is 24 weeks, when in fact abortion is allowed up to birth under the Abortion Act 1967 as amended in 1990. Such an error is understandable when repeated by the biased and ignorant mainstream media, but is simply not tolerable when repeated by an organisation which was set up to dispel such myths and which includes speakers active in pro-life organisations.

Among the speakers for Catholic Voices are good pro-life people, from good pro-life families and with valuable pro-life experience and skills. They joined Catholic Voices because they want Catholic teaching, including pro-life teachings, to be heard in the media in a totally truthful and accurate way. Those young talents are being let down badly by Austen Ivereigh, Jack Valero and some of their fellow Catholic Voices, who continue to misrepresent those teachings.

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