Friday, 19 September 2008

Bedford's pro-life fighter

At an SPUC meeting on Wednesday in Bedford, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Dudley Orman, aged 87, who has lived much of his life in the town. He has a track-record of more than 40 years in campaigning for the pro-life cause.

When abortion looked likely to be legalised in the 1960s, Mr Orman put pro-life placards on his bicycle and motorcycle. He recalls an SPUC rally in Hyde Park, London, which was attended by 100,000 people, including himself and his sister. The meeting was addressed by members of parliament and, afterwards, he was among those carrying a banner in a march. Mr Orman later became a member of the committee of the Bedford branch of Life.

Mr Orman has been secretary of the Bedfordshire group of Amnesty International, and raised the matter of abortion and human rights at a major meeting of the organisation some 30 years ago. He says that half of the audience supported his pro-life position while half disagreed. He regrets recent moves to change Amnesty's neutral policy on abortion to one which supports it, saying that abortion is a human rights issue just as much as false imprisonment.

Mr Orman says his pro-life views are motivated by his religious beliefs. He converted aged 17, initially attending the Catholic church and Jehovah's Witnesses, and currently going to Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal services.

He is a keen and frequently published correspondent with the county's local newspapers and says it is important to keep the abortion issue in the public eye. He has also often written Mr Patrick Hall, his town's MP. Sadly, Mr Hall does not agree with the pro-life position. "He won't budge," says Mr Orman, "but I'll keep trying to persuade him."

Mr Orman has taken part in most of the Pro-Life Chains held in Bedford over the past 12 years. SPUC supporters stand alongside a main road holding placards which remind passers-by of the tragedy of abortion and publicise a helpline for people affected by abortion.

After last year's demonstration, he put his placard in an upstairs window. It says: "Abortion hurts women and kills children." Sadly, someone threw a stone at the window and broke it, though no-one was hurt. Mr Orman says: "I feel sorry for the person who threw that stone. I'm not bitter. I just hope they come one day to see that abortion is wrong."

Although the local press did not take a picture of the damage, the house, with Mr Orman's placard, featured on an auctioneer's website and was thus visible worldwide. He recalled the words of William Cowper's hymn: "God moves in a mysterious way/His wonders to perform."

Mr Orman says he intends to carry on fighting the pro-life fight for as long as he is able, hopefully attending next year's Pro-Life Chain and keeping the issue otherwise in the public eye. It is on such dedication that SPUC was founded and it is thanks to campaigners like Mr Dudley Orman of Bedford that we shall be able to continue our work.

Baroness Warnock and a "duty to die"

Today's Telegraph reports that Baroness (Mary) Warnock, the anti-life philosopher, has continued her promotion of the idea that people with disabling conditions have a duty to die prematurely. In an interview with the Church of Scotland's Life and Work magazine, Lady Warnock says:

"If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives – your family's lives – and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service.

"I'm absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there's a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.

"Actually I've just written an article called 'A Duty to Die?' for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there's nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself."

One wonders why the Church of Scotland gave Lady Warnock a platform for her unChristian views, especially considering the Church of Scotland's position:

"The Church of Scotland is opposed to all forms of euthanasia. Doctor-assisted dying may currently be seen as one option for the terminally ill, but we are concerned that it may come to be regarded as a duty in future.

"The situation must never arise where the terminally-ill or the very elderly feel pressurised by society to end their lives."

Some people will regard Lady Warnock's opinions as progressive. Her opinions are, in fact, a regression to the brutal ancient world, when enforced suicide as a punishment was commonplace. She implies that some patients should, like Socrates, accept death so as not to inconvenience the state, society and themselves with a troublesome existence.

Lady Warnock is considerably more honest than the government about the pro-euthanasia nature and agenda of the Mental Capacity Act:

"If you've an advance directive, appointing someone else to act on your behalf, if you become incapacitated, then I think there is a hope that your advocate may say that you would not wish to live in this condition so please try to help her die.

"I think that's the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you'd be licensing people to put others down."

Interestingly, according to Melanie Philips, the commentator, Lady Warnock "was fully aware that her incurably ill husband, Geoffrey [pictured with Lady Warnock], accepted the help of a family doctor to take lethal doses of morphine in order to end his life."

Even more interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on Lady Warnock says:

"She never knew her eldest sibling, Malcolm, who was severely mentally handicapped with autism and cared for in a nursing home, spending his last days in a Dorset Hospital."

Perhaps if she had known Malcolm, she would have been exposed at a formative age to the humanity of caring for the disabled, and the disabled of today would not be burdened by her inhuman ideas.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The threat to fundamental human rights in Europe

Following the atrocities of World War II, the international community attempted to restore peace and justice to the world. Not only did they bring the sword of justice on the heads of those who attacked the dignity of the human person, but they also articulated fundamental shared values, which would serve as a basis for the future protection of every member of the human family. The United Nations was assembled and produced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which assured individuals of their fundamental rights regardless of age, sex, race or disability. Western countries were unanimous in their adoption of the declaration, and breathed a sigh of relief in the knowledge that they were united in defence of, amongst other things, their inherent right to life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

In his article entitled ‘Human Rights Pitted Against Man,’ author Jakob Cornides (who spoke at SPUC's national conference earlier this month) indicates that a new era of rights is dawning upon us. The rights articulated in the UDHR and most fundamentally known to us are under threat. Jakob Cornides devotes this paper to examining the nature and extent of that threat.

Cornides identifies the current threat to human rights as the result of a subtle power shift to unelected international bodies seeking to advance a new doctrine of human rights. His article addresses two examples of this emerging ideology through reference to: (1) a Legal Opinion published by a Network of Experts on Fundamental Rights set up by the European Union (EU), and (2) a decision handed down by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Tysiac v Poland. While the Legal Opinion challenges the freedom of those in the medical profession to conscientiously object to certain practices like abortion, both examples take unfounded steps towards establishing abortion as a new 'human right.'

However, according to a classical conception of rights, which Cornides upholds, it is not possible to advance a new doctrine of human rights. On this view, basic human rights have to hold in all times and places. There can be no such a thing as a basic human right that thwarts a natural human function, as occurs in abortion – especially when a right to abortion would so directly undermine the right to life. Nor can our list of human rights expand. Cornides draws on ancient authors such as Cicero in defence of this assertion. His current concern is that we are witnessing a concerted attempt on the international stage to elicit a twofold shift in the conception of rights: first, a shift in the criteria for what constitutes a right, which means that the list of rights is ever-expanding and changing; and second, an abandonment of a natural hierarchy of rights, which weakens, amongst other things, the logical primacy of the right to life.

An example of this shifting doctrine of human rights is present in the Network's Legal Opinion, which raises concerns about the role of conscientious objection clauses in concordats. (The Opinion is solely responding to conscientious objection clauses in concordats with the Holy See, specifically a draft concordat between Slovakia and the Holy See). The Opinion asserts that clauses which grant a subjective right to medical practitioners to abstain from medical procedures (such as abortion) would: (1) deny women lawful access to abortions, and (2) discriminate between medical practitioners according to their religious faith, or lack thereof. Cornides explains the genesis of the Network’s Opinion and responds to its concerns, which he considers to be pre-emptive and replete with numerous contradictions. He also exposes the Network's manipulation of basic terms, its omission of important facts, its inadequacies in research and misdiagnosis of the issue. Cornides reveals the Network’s Opinion to be anything but a reliable exposition of the truth of the matter. While recognising that this Opinion has no legal force, Cornides argues that documents such as this have significant political influence on the international stage.

The case of Tysiac v Poland (Application 5410/03), hailed by pro-abortion activists as a breakthrough, is a somewhat different example of an attempt to force the recognition of a right to abortion. It is an attempt, Cornides says, “… not openly, but through the back door.” The decision of the ECHR is serious, because unlike the Network of Experts, it is harder to ignore.

In this case, the plaintiff sought an abortion fearing that the strain of her pregnancy would further deteriorate her already severely impaired eyesight. Despite these risks, the plaintiff was denied access to the procedure by several doctors because there were other ways to avoid the risk – such as delivery by caesarean section. However, when Tysiac's child was born and her eyesight rapidly deteriorated some six weeks later, she took action against her medical practitioners. The Polish courts decided that the doctors involved had no case to answer, but unsatisfied, Tysiac went to the ECHR. In the end, the ECHR effectively disciplined Poland for failing to ensure access to legal abortion services. The fact that the abortion was not lawful under Polish law was disregarded. As was the fact that “eight specialists had unanimously declared that they had not found any threat or any link between the pregnancy and delivery and the deterioration of the applicant’s eyesight” (Dissenting opinion of Judge Borrego Borrego, para 10). Cornides explores a whole range of issues with regard to this case, including the attempt by an international court to trump domestic law. He also shows how, through failing to apply the law to the facts in question, the courts of law which once brought the sword of justice on the heads of those who demeaned the dignity of the human person are now bringing it to fall on the heads of those who uphold human dignity and seek to protect human life.

Cornides shows how this recent attack on human rights has been launched by highly influential international bodies, who assume authority that they do not have. He does so in a context where abortion is still considered a crime in most countries and is fundamentally contrary to the doctrines of major world religions. Pulling no punches, Cornides is scathing: “Today’s innovators … use obscure and dishonest strategies to attain their objective. They have a habit of using manipulative and misleading language, obfuscating and denying reality, inventing and distorting statistics, putting subjective sentiments in the place of objective facts. Their talking and writing is not characterized by transparency, but by falsehood, mimicry and waffle …”

While the new language of rights may seem persuasive, in reality it is nothing but a wolf in sheep's clothing. In the words of Pope John Paul II, Cornides warns us to beware the “new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden than its predecessors which attempts to pit even human rights against the family and against man.”

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Taking the pro-life battle around the country

Rt Rev Ambrose Griffiths OSB, former Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, attended a meeting at which I spoke in Lancashire on Monday evening. He was joined by several other clergy, both Catholic and Anglican, in an enthusiastic audience of 65 people.

Last night was the second in a series of public meetings about how we must strengthen the pro-life battle in Britain and Northern Ireland. We were at the Fox Lane Sports Club, Leyland, and the event was masterfully organised by Mr David Newton who lives in the town. We hope to found an SPUC branch there.

My hour-long talk, after which I took questions, included dire warnings about the abortion-related amendments to the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which returns to the House of Commons next month. These measures would further liberalise Britain's abortion regime, perhaps even extending it to Northern Ireland.

I urged those present to write to their MPs and to Mr Gordon Brown, the prime minister, to oppose these amendments. If they are debated, we want MPs to oppose them (and in fact the whole bill) because they could produce the worst development of the Abortion Act since 1990.

Last Wednesday (10 September) I gave a similar talk to around 100 people (again including clergy) at St Patrick's Catholic parish, Newport, Gwent. A coachload of people had come down from the valleys and others came from Cardiff. Fr Brian Cuddihy IC, parish priest, attended the meeting which was convened by Norman Plaisted, chairman of the town's SPUC branch.

These meetings are well-attended, I think, because people are worried that something terribly wrong is happening in the country. I hear concerns at how, through the Connexions scheme, schools in England have become part of the abortion-establishment. Children in England under the age of consent can be referred for abortion and given abortifacient drugs and devices, even in faith schools. Parents aren't even told, let alone asked for their agreement.

My next meeting in the series will be in Rotherham at 7.30 pm tomorrow-week (Wednesday 24 September) in Blessed Trinity church hall, Northfield Lane, Wickersley, S66 2HF. The organisers are Michael and Sally Hill, our keen supporters in that South Yorkshire town, and they can be called on (01709) 547307.

As I was preparing in an ante-room for the Newport meeting, I overheard a conversation between two local ladies. One of them was about to visit an elderly woman who needed help with some sewing she was doing. It struck me as remarkable that, while some members of our society are engaged in practical works of charity for others, there are people intent on bringing abortion to children in schools.

Conscientious objection to supplying birth control

A pharmacy in Michigan has stopped selling birth control drugs and devices because of the abortifacient threat they can pose. Mike Koelzer, the pharmacist (pictured) explained how some birth control makes the womb hostile to newly-conceived embryonic children: "It would be similar to taking a field, putting an asphalt parking lot on top of it, and then trying to grow a lawn on it".

Here in Britain Dr Evan Harris, the extreme anti-life MP, has tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill aimed at removing protection from such pharmacists. If passed the amendment would prevent anyone using the conscience clause in the 1967 Abortion Act to defend their decision not to supply (or to be complicit in supplying) birth control. The amendment basically denies that killing an embryo before his or her implantation in the womb is an abortion. The amendment seems to be designed to force all doctors, nurses and pharmacists to prescribe, provide, dispense or administer birth control when requested to do so.

Dr Harris is a front-bench spokesman of the Liberal Democrat party. Let me hasten to add that SPUC is neutral in terms of political parties. The party's constitution claims that Liberal Democrats "champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals", "acknowledge and respect [individuals'] right to freedom of conscience" and "reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon [inter alia] religion". (It should be noted that many conscientious objectors to embryo killing, while basing their objection on the scientific fact that life begins at fertilisation/conception, are also motivated to object by their religious beliefs.)

Perhaps Dr Harris might like to explain to his party why he feels he has permission to dissent from its core principles, by promoting amendments which violate them?

Monday, 15 September 2008

Abortion on demand leads to abortion by coercion

Our colleagues at LifeNews report that a man in Massachusetts has been charged with assaulting his pregnant girlfriend because she refused to have an abortion.

Pregnant women are often put under intense pressure and abortion can seem to be the only option. Our colleagues at the Elliot Institute have found that 64% of abortions involve coercion. They also point out that the leading cause of death among pregnant women is homicide, and in many cases it is known that the violence happened solely to prevent birth.

As abortion has been declared to be a constitutional right in the United States, abortion is almost totally unrestricted. In Britain, pro-abortion MPs are seeking to move the law as far as possible towards the American situation, through amendments to the Abortion Act 1967 via the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill. We owe it to women to act now to stop those amendments, because easier access to abortion places women under pressure to have abortions.