Friday, 2 March 2012

The sun is shining for the young pro-life movement in Britain

This evening is the first evening of SPUC's 5th international youth pro-life conference, which this year is being held in Rotherham, south Yorkshire. Pro-life youth have come from all parts of the United Kingdom and from European countries, including Spain, Malta and even the Faroe Islands! There is a great camaraderie not only between the young delegates but also between the youth and SPUC's conference staff.

This evening featured a viewing of "Sophie Scholl: the final days", about the White Rose anti-Nazi student group whose leaders were tried and executed in 1943. (See my blogs of 22 February 2008 and 17 December 2008 about the link between the White Rose group and SPUC's work today). Sam Sheridan-Garrity (pictured) from SPUC Rotherham introduced the film, saying:
"Tonight's film is from a time in our recent history when human dignity was not respected. It tells us that when a small voice speaks the truth it can speak very loudly."
Two lines spoken by the Sophie Scholl character in the film stood out for me:
"Every life is precious"
and
"Laws change; conscience doesn't".
Only this week we have witnessed great bravery in defence of life and conscience by two Scottish midwives fighting to uphold their right not to be complicit in abortion.

I truly believe that the young people gathering at this weekend's conference are the future for our world. Conversations I'm having with young people here from universities and elsewhere the length and breadth of Britain are informing me about an extraordinary new networking in this generation of pro-lifers, the like of which I've not witnessed in 38 years in the movement. Despite the darkness of the culture of death threatening to envelop us, "the sun is still shining" (in the words of Sophie Scholl in this evening's film).

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Thursday, 1 March 2012

SPUC's comment on the 'after-birth abortion' paper

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, has been quoted overnight in The Huffington Post UK and The Sun, commenting on "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?", the pro-infanticide paper which appeared last week in The Journal of Medical Ethics. Anthony said:
“The paper proves what pro-lifers have long been arguing: that the common arguments for abortion also justify infanticide. There is no difference in moral status between a child one day before birth and a child one day after birth.

“Birth is merely a change of location, not a change from non-personhood to personhood. International human rights law makes no distinction between human beings according to various theories about what constitutes personhood.

“All human beings, regardless of age, location or capacities, are regarded in international law as equal members of the human family and thus as having an equal right to life. This chilling promotion of infanticide is a measure of how abortion is creating a culture of death.”
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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Statement by Glasgow midwives after abortion judgment

The two Glasgow midwives at the centre of today's court judgment on conscientious objection to abortion have made the following statement:

Miss Mary Doogan said:
"Connie [Wood] and I are both very disappointed and greatly saddened by today's verdict.

For most of our 20-plus years of employment as midwifery sisters at the Southern General Hospital we have been proud to be associated with a maternity unit in which the right of all midwifery staff to freedom of conscience has been acknowledged, protected and upheld with no detrimental outcome to any mother whatsoever.

Neither Connie nor I stand in judgement of any woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy for whatever reasons. We are more than aware of the difficult choices that some expectant mothers may be faced with in a crisis pregnancy.
    
However, in holding to the view that life should be protected from conception to natural death, neither do we wish to be judged for exercising what is our legal right to refuse to participate in the process of medical termination of pregnancy.

We wish now to take some time to consider all options that are available to us (including appeal) before making any further comment."
Since both women remain employees of the health board they are not in a position to make further comment or give interviews.

SPUC has supported the midwives in bringing their case, underwriting their legal costs, and will now be considering their further legal options with them.

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Midwives must take charge of abortion says court

Judgment was handed down today in the case of two senior midwives from Glasgow who have a conscientious objection to abortion. The midwives have been told that they must accept the decision of their hospital management that they must oversee other midwives performing abortions on the labour ward.

Lady Smith, sitting in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, ruled that the senior midwives’ role is not covered by the conscience clause in the Abortion Act.

Commenting on the judgment, Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, told the media earlier today:
“We are very disappointed by the judgment. SPUC has supported the midwives in bringing their case, and will now be considering their further legal options with them."
The senior midwives argued that their legal right included not directing or assisting other midwives performing abortions.

Both the midwives have served for over 20 years at the Southern General Hospital, caring for many thousands of mothers and babies. The case arose when the hospital demanded that all senior midwives must take responsibility for overseeing mid-term and late term abortions. Since 2008 the hospital has insisted that these abortions, mostly for suspected disability in the foetus, must be conducted on the labour ward, rather than the gynaecology ward where most early abortions are performed.

The midwives in the case, Miss Mary Doogan and Mrs Connie Wood, argued that they had never been required to supervise abortion procedures in the past, and that the hospital was asking them to be morally, medically and legally responsible for abortions. They argued that this conflicted with their profound objection to abortions and with the right to opt-out that is protected in the 1967 Abortion Act.

The case was subject of a protracted grievance procedure before coming to court in January.

The late abortion procedure, called “Medical Termination of Pregnancy” or MTOP, entails the mother being given drugs to induce labour, and then having to go through labour and deliver the baby.  In more advanced pregnancies the baby is killed first by an ultrasound-guided lethal injection while still in the womb.

The hospital’s labour ward delivers 6000 babies every year, but is also required to provide about 1-3 MTOPs each week – a number which has increased since a special unit for diagnosing disability in the womb was transferred to the Southern General Hospital in January 2010.

The conscience clause was included in the Abortion Act to assure MPs that no-one would be forced to participate in abortions.

The midwives were represented in court by David Johnston, QC of Axiom Advocates and Marie Clark of Arnot Manderson Advocates.

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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Fall in teen pregnancies welcome but not due to greater provision of contraception

SPUC has responded to new figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which suggest a fall in teenage pregnancies. Any such falls are welcome but are attributed wrongly to greater provision of contraception.

Professor David Paton, professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University Business School, told the media earlier today:
"The fall in conception rates to minors is to be welcomed. The decrease in the rate of conceptions ending in abortion for under-16s over the past three years is particularly good news, although it is still higher than in 1999, when the last government introduced its Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. Since that time, there appears to be no correlation at all between changes to contraceptive services for young people and changes in the conception rate. For example, the number of contraceptive clinic sessions offered specifically for young people was static in 2010 following increases in previous years. Despite this, the teenage conception rate continued to fall in 2010.

Indeed, Anne Milton, the health minister, just last week stated the following when questioned about recent cuts to contraception services: 'Statistics on conceptions ... and abortions ... do not suggest that any recent changes to contraception provision offered by PCTs has had an impact on the number or rate of conceptions or abortions.' This bears out studies in the peer-reviewed literature which show that access to birth control (and in particular the morning-after pill) has little or no causal effect in reducing teenage pregnancy rates."
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Monday, 27 February 2012

SPUC works to build international pro-life co-operation

Last week I was in Washington and New York meeting pro-life leaders of groups with which SPUC has been collaborating for four decades.

The mother of God is central to the work of Human Life International (HLI), the pro-life group based in Front Royal, Virginia, founded by Fr Paul Marx and which has pro-life groups and workers on the ground in over 100 countries.

Pictured around Our Lady's statue in the reception area of their Virginia headquarters are Fr Shenan Boquet (right), the new HLI president, Fr Peter West, vice-president for HLI missions, and yours truly.

We had a productive meeting about SPUC's work at the United Nations and HLI's vital presence in more countries than any other pro-life group. I told them that Europe owes a great debt to HLI for spreading the pro-life message and for the courageous HLI witnesses who have risen up in so many nations - many of whose work I have seen personally and deeply admired.

I pray that my meeting with Fr Boquet and his team - and my meetings with other pro-life leaders I met during my short visit - will be part of a renewed and powerful commitment to international pro-life co-operation.

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