Saturday, 5 July 2008

Scottish Cardinal's new "Cry of alarm" on abortion amendments must be heard by other religious leaders

As millions throughout the UK relax to watch the Wimbledon final tomorrow, as thousands of churches fill up with the faithful coming to worship God - spare a thought for what MPs have the power to do on Monday week, 14th July: to strip away as much of the little protection that is left in British legislation for unborn children, increase the pressures on mothers-to-be and on doctors and nurses striving to oppose abortion by conscientious objection.

I am pleased to report that Cardinal O'Brien, the archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, has sent out another clarion call in "The Scotsman" which I pray will not only reverberate in the hearts and consciences of Members of Parliament but will prompt many other Christian leaders to mobilise the faithful and all people of good will in defence of life.

With characteristic prophetic bluntness and in entirely appropriate dramatic terms, he writes:

"My letter to MPs is more than a piece of political lobbying. It is a cry of alarm; a final desperate effort to prevent our nation sleepwalking into one of the most shameful decisions of its history...Our spiralling abortion statistics are already a badge of shame for our nation and it confounds the reason of any decent person that such a situation should be exacerbated. From the time of the Abortion Act in 1967 we have watched the growing tragedy whilst its architects have refused to repent their handiwork. Now those who have demeaned every human life by targeting the most vulnerable would have us remove what little restraint there is in relation to abortion...As I grow older myself I will look back at the legislation we pass and ask myself whether I did everything possible to fight for the right to life of the unborn and I ask everyone in our nation, most especially our politicians who will be directly responsible, to ponder the same question themselves. A society which sacrifices its most vulnerable, for whatever reason, invests in its own future ruin."

Now forgive me, Cardinal, if I add my own heartfelt comment.

Never before in our history has outstanding pro-life leadership, such as yours, been needed from Christian leaders and religious leaders of all denominations. Not only will millions more human lives be destroyed and the lives of countless women blighted in Britain, anti-life legislation passed in Westminster will have a catastrophic, life-destroying, impact worldwide, especially in the English-speaking common-law world, as we have seen again and again since the passage of the British Abortion Act in 1967.

If the right to life of one priest, one politician, one nurse or teacher was to be swept away by the raw power of Parliament in the coming weeks, would we not be called to prayer, would we not be called to action, in urgent terms by religious leaders? The unborn in their desperate plight are entitled to be treated in exactly the same way. Pro-life lobbyists, pro-life politicians, pro-life clergy cannot win these battles on their own.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Catholic agency Progressio and its ambiguous position on the abortion law in El Salvador

As a Catholic, now that our offices have moved south of the river, I have started going to St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, for Mass whenever I can. On a recent visit, I noticed newsletters on display from Progressio, the working name for the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR).

On Progressio’s website, they describe themselves as "an international development charity working for justice and the eradication of poverty", combining “a heritage of radical Catholicism and secular thought." Reflecting on its history, Progressio claims that after the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) "there was a clear division within the church between the progressive and the more conservative elements" and that "CIIR's then education department supported the progressive elements of the church in various liberation and human rights struggles in Central America, southern Africa and Asia. CIIR published booklets on liberation theology and promoted progressive church speakers."

64% of Progressio's funding comes from the British government – the Department for International Development, which the website links to ”with grateful thanks”. Catholic Action UK has compiled a dossier on Progressio’s work. Whilst some of the issues raised do not fall within SPUC’s remit, it makes sobering reading…

…Not quite so sobering as the spring 2008 issue of Progressio’s own publication Interact, in which a development worker working with Progressio’s partner La Dignas writes of her desire to make a documentary about ‘the serious consequences of the total criminalisation of abortion’ in El Salvador.

By the sound of it, this documentary won’t share the sentiments of a pro-life petition signed by every one of the 84 lawmakers in the El Salvador Congress. "Every human being should be protected and respected from the moment of conception…until his natural death," the petition reads. "Our primary responsibility as legislators is to unconditionally defend life. We condemn abortion as an abominable crime." Possibly Progressio’s principal funders, the British Government, which promotes abortion on demand worldwide, would have something to say about it if the documentary adopted the same line as El Salvador’s lawmakers!

Progressio's position on the abortion law in El Salvador is ambiguous to say the least.

Not only is Progressio being promoted among worshippers at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, it is listed in the Catholic Directory under “International/Third World Catholic Agencies”. Catholics have a right to expect agencies that claim any connection with the Catholic Church to uphold the Church’s teachings on sexuality and the sanctity of life. Agencies that fail to do so have no place looking for support in a Catholic cathedral.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Pro-abortion amendments due 14 July

The Report stage and 3rd reading of the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill has been announced for Monday 14 July. Several pro-abortion amendments to the Abortion Act 1967 via the HFE bill have been tabled.

The amendments attempt to remove safeguards on abortion, such as a second doctor's signature and specified medical grounds on all early and mid-term abortions. The amendments would also allow abortion providers to use nurses and midwives to perform abortions instead of doctors and allow abortions to be performed in a wider range of health care centres. SPUC has posted an analysis of the effect of the two main pro-abortion amendments here.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, has commented today: "These amendments are trying to say that abortion is no different to other medical procedures. But it is vastly different. The pro-abortion MPs insist that abortion is a woman's right to choose but there is no right, either in law or in ethics, for patients to demand a medical procedure with no medical benefit, let alone one which kills another human being, and may harm themselves.

"There is no legal requirement for abortion providers to offer counselling or tell women about alternatives to abortion. These amendments promote the abortion providers' 'conveyor belt' approach which denies women the opportunity to consider fully the gravity and possible consequences of an abortion. It will leave many women vulnerable to pressure and even coercion to have an abortion they don't want.

"An increasing proportion of doctors are refusing to be complicit in abortion, many for ethical reasons. Removing restrictions on abortion will place considerable pressure upon medical staff with a conscientious objection to abortion. Nurses and midwives should not be pressured to become abortion practitioners. Dumping abortion work on nurses and midwives will also put women's lives at risk, as they are not equipped to deal with emergencies that will arise during an abortion.

"It is expected that some MPs will also table amendments to restrict abortions in certain ways. If this happens MPs must be wary not to get embroiled in a trade-off, agreeing to sacrifice some babies in order to help others. SPUC therefore urges MPs with pro-life sympathies not to promote amendments on abortion, as Parliament's pro-abortion majority may well use the Report stage as the opportunity for a new settlement on abortion which will lead to more, not fewer, deaths of unborn children."

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has written to all MPs, also urging them to vote against the pro-abortion amendments. The full text of his letter can be read below:

My dear Member of Parliament

As you may know, I recently had the opportunity of visiting the Houses of Parliament, of celebrating Mass and preaching in St Mary Undercroft, and of hosting a reception in the Scotland Office. This visit had been pre-arranged, but occurred shortly after the debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. This is a Bill, as you will be very much aware, which deals with extremely sensitive and controversial issues.

You will be aware also of the opposition I have expressed on behalf of my Church and many others to specific aspects of the bill specifically around inter-species embryos, abortion, saviour siblings and the role of fathers. These have been dealt with in Committee stage albeit not favourably from my perspective.

I wish now, however, to ask you to consider seriously any proposals at Report stage which would make early abortion more readily available. We already have a shamefully high level of abortions in the UK which continues to climb. This cannot be good for anyone involved in the whole process and I ask you respectfully to vote against measures which would exacerbate the situation.

I know that there is still no date set for the Report stage of the Bill. I am aware, however, that amendments have been put down to allow abortion on request up to 24 weeks gestation, with approval needed from one doctor only and a further amendment to allow nurses and midwives to perform abortions. These amendments do reflect very sadly on our society at this present time.

I would hate to think that as I myself grow older, I will look back at the passage of the legislation and ask myself whether or not I did everything possible to fight for the right to life of the unborn. Consequently, I am asking you to seriously use your conscience at this time and let that be your guide as to how you will vote in the short time which lies ahead concerning this Bill.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Yours sincerely in Christ

+ Keith Patrick Cardinal O’Brien

Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

Monday, 30 June 2008

Student skydives for SPUC

A first-year medical student performed a 14,000 feet skydive on Saturday to raise awareness of the pressure on medical staff to take part in abortion against their consciences. Siobhan Fearon, 19, of Hull York Medical School did the jump from Black Knights Parachute Centre, Cockerham, Lancaster. The sponsored parachute jump is also raising money for SPUC.

Siobhan experienced 50 seconds of freefall and then descended the rest of the way by parachute for eight minutes. Though admitting to terror before the jump, afterwards she wanted to do it again.

Siobhan writes: "I think it is vital that society understands and appreciates the sanctity of every human life whether it is a developing child in the womb or somebody approaching the end of their life. When I graduate and become a doctor I am hoping to be able to use my skills to help save lives. I think abortion is never the answer and hope that one day, as a doctor, I will be able to help women to make the right decision."

Two years ago, Siobhan, of Crosby, Merseyside, did a sponsored walk for SPUC around Hyde Park in London. She is one of six children who have all been involved in pro-life work. Mrs Anne Fearon, her mother is an active member of the local SPUC branch and region. Abigail Smith, also 19 and at Hull York Medical School, was prevented by bad weather from jumping on Saturday. She plans to skydive for SPUC in September.

Recommended Standards for Sexual Health, a government-endorsed document, has intensified pressure on doctors and nurses and is putting more unborn babies at risk from abortion. The document demands access, without hesitation or delay, to abortion and to "morning-after birth control". These are drugs and devices which may cause an early abortion only days after conception.

The document steps up pressure on health professionals to provide these so-called services which promote the killing of unborn children. It also includes a thinly-veiled warning of severe punitive action against health care professionals who break a strict code of secrecy concerning abortions for children under 16.

SPUC recently also criticised Recommended Standards for Sexual Health for being part of government policy to fast-track abortions. Figures for England and Wales out earlier this month showed the highest-ever abortion totals (205,598), the highest abortion rate (18.6 per 1000 residents) and the greatest rate of child-abortions.

Anne Fearon, Siobhan's mum, left, has written a vivid and witty account of the day. Our website has a page with more about the event and details of how to sponsor the jumpers.