Saturday, 25 October 2008

Catholic Church is a "signpost for consciences" says Cardinal at SPUC Scotland conference

Yesterday I had the great privilege of introducing Cardinal O'Brien (pictured above with Ian Murray, SPUC Scotland director), the archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, as the principal speaker at SPUC Scotland's packed conference in Glasgow. "I am one of the many thousands of people in Britain and around the world who's very happy that this priest, born in Northern Ireland, was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II", I said.

Cardinal O'Brien addressed his words to all people of good will, saying: "We must consider more the role of conscience and its link to the truth. For those of us here who are Catholics, our church is signpost for consciences and others look to us as a signpost for conscience. People of other faiths have said - thank God for the leadership you have given in our country" (a sentiment echoed by George Bell, a leading pro-life evangelical who attended the SPUC Scotland conference).

Referring to this year's 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Cardinal O'Brien said: "The harsh reality is that the noble words of so many high blown declarations have been matched with a barbaric indifference to the rights of the unborn."

He praised the work of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children saying: "SPUC has worked tirelessly in Scotland and the UK to fight the evil of abortion for almost 40 years but we must recognise that what really can be described as the forces of darkness have distorted the laws and consciences in our nation and that our situation is now worse than ever."

He went on: "I'm here to strengthen the resolve of SPUC and I hope that they and other pro-life groups will extend their message more and more in the world in which we live."

On Wednesday, MPs voted by 355 to 129 in favour of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill in their final vote on legislation which enshrines and extends the creation and abuse of human embryos outside the womb.

Cardinal O`Brien told his audience in Glasgow: "I called on our Members of Parliament to search their hearts and their consciences over the summer months to decide whether or not the value of human life really matters or is it simply one more commodity to be cast aside in our throw-away society."

The Cardinal said that while it was "a small mercy" that extreme pro-abortion amendments to the Abortion Act were not considered by MPs , the reality remains that the vote was a tragedy for Britain. "As a direct consequence of this legislation the value of human life will be eroded even further in the United Kingdom", he said.

The cardinal continued: "We live in the shadow of a spiritual problem ... The descent to the culture of death has come when God has been pushed aside ... We can apportion blame and lament inaction ... Those acting in our name reflect the society from which they come. Our ongoing battle should not be just with the elected but also with the electorate ... We cannot allow the fight for life to be perpetually politically focused - placing MPs as the ethical arbiters of all that we do ... If we reach out to our fellow-citizens one by one we can create a culture of life regardless of the laws ... We cannot let up in any way with regard to the law ... We must keep all of our campaigns going.

In spite of his hectic schedule, the cardinal stayed for the entire conference. He listened intently to a delegate (right) putting a question to Lynn Murray who spoke about the "culture of fear" surrounding expectant mothers as a result of the government's promotion of screening tests for disability.

Lynn Murray's fourth child, Rachel, has Down's syndrome and the fact that a baby has Down's syndrome is now being treated in hospitals as a death sentence for the baby. Rachel is now at the local secondary school and she's doing well. She's learned to read and write and "She knows everything that's going on" her teacher says. The disabled need to become their own advocates in the fight for life, Lynn Murray urged in a compelling, informative, talk.

Also speaking at SPUC Scotland's conference were Cathy McBean and Lucy McCully (pictured, right). Cathy manages the work of British Victims of Abortion and Lucy McCully, SPUC Scotland's Education Officer, spoke on youth pro-life activism and the international pro-life youth conference she's organizing on behalf of the Society in March next year.

Lucy's vibrant, forward-looking, presentation is a testament to the work of Ian Murray, SPUC Scotland director, who retires next year and who received a standing ovation from the conference. I was pleased to have the opportunity of thanking Ian, on behalf of the Society, for over thirty years work for the Society as a volunteer in SPUC's Dumbarton branch, as finance director and general secretary of SPUC in the UK, and as SPUC Scotland director. "Ian has taken the work of the Society the forward significantly in every role he has undertaken for SPUC", I said. Ian made clear that the pro-life movement was a lifelong commitment and he would be continuing to work for SPUC as a volunteer.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Don't put your faith in a Conservative government on abortion

It was, of course, a great relief that well-organised, intelligent, pro-life lobbying resulted in the danger of pro-abortion amendments to the Abortion Act being averted for the time being.

However, yesterday's Independent reports that Tory frontbenchers are calling for a "thorough discussion of the 1967 Abortion Act, including proposals to cut the 24-week time limit as well as proposals to liberalise the law".

In other words, Conservative front-benchers are promising to do precisely what a wide range of pro-life groups have been campaigning against in recent months; and what SPUC has been warning about for years - a parliamentary debate on the upper limit for abortion in exchange for widening the law so that many more babies will be killed and women damaged by abortion.

It's not my intention to single out the Conservatives. The anti-life laws and policies put in place by Parliament at the behest of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are costing the lives of countless unborn children, both in Britain and overseas, and countless vulnerable people through euthanasia by neglect.

But before anyone starts to imagine that it will be different under the Conservatives - bear in mind the promises being made by Tory front-benchers, above, and the following facts:

On Wednesday's final vote on the HFE bill as a whole, which legalised all manner of abuses of the human embryo, about a quarter of Tory MPs voted for the bill, including:
  • David Cameron (pictured), leader of the opposition;
  • George Osborne, shadow chancellor, and four shadow secretaries of state, including Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary;
  • 12 other Conservative frontbenchers, including a shadow health minister (Mark Simmonds);
  • the Conservative party deputy chairman (John Maples), plus two Conservative party vice-chairmen (Justine Greening and Grant Shapps);
  • other senior Conservative officials, including the chairman of the Conservative policy review (Oliver Letwin).
With the anti-life votes of MPs of other parties, there would be a big majority for widening the abortion law, just as there was when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister in 1990 - when Parliament voted for abortion up to birth.

SPUC is non-party-political. We urge the public to check how their parliamentary candidates will vote on life issues - abortion, euthanasia, embryo research etc - regardless of their political party.

Let's stick to seeking to elect pro-life MPs, regardless of political party, and lobbying those MPs, regardless of their position on pro-life issues, once elected.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Catholic Church will collaborate with statutory sex and relationship classes in primary and secondary schools

On the day after Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, ensured that Parliament would not vote on pro-abortion amendments to extend the Abortion Act, the Government has announced plans which will ensure that children are being primed to embrace the abortion culture from 4 – 5 years old.

The British government announced today that it intends to make sex and relationship education compulsory throughout both primary and secondary schools. In a simultaneous announcement, the Catholic Education Service makes it clear, not only that it will collaborate with the government’s plans, but that it hopes that parents will not choose to opt out by withdrawing their children from sex education.

The CES says: “… the Government calls for PSHE [personal, social and health education] to be made statutory across all maintained schools in England, including primary and secondary. Programmes of study are still to be drawn up but reassurance has been given that these will not be so prescriptive in character as to involve conflict with Catholic teaching … The statutory rights of parents to withdraw their children from sex education remain but it is our hope that parents will not find the need to exercise this right as children are likely to benefit from experiencing SRE amongst their friends and peers. …"

The CES statement is painfully disingenuous – in view of what is known to be going on in Catholic schools as a consequence of government advisers already being welcomed by the Catholic Education Service in Catholic schools, a point I have a number of times in this blog.

And why does Catholic Church appear, through its Catholic Education Service in England, to be marching in step with the Government – even to the point of making their complementary policy announcements simultaneously?

The first task of everyone entrusted with the Gospel of life is, surely, to oppose government plans to promote and to entrench the abortion culture amongst young people of all faiths and none? SPUC will certainly be keeping its supporters posted on the implications of the government's plans and what constituents should be saying to their MPs.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Tragedy of Commons' approval for embryo bill

This is a tragic day in British history. Tonight at Westminster, MPs voted by 355 to 129 to approve the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill at its third reading, the last main parliamentary vote. This bill will extend the lethal abuse of the most vulnerable members of our society. It enshrines and extends the creation and abuse of human embryos outside the womb. SPUC will raise these fundamental issues at the general election.

During the debate, Sir Gerald Kaufman, a veteran MP not naturally supportive of the pro-life cause, pointed out that the bill raises "fundamental moral issues about human rights" which "goes to the heart of the origin of the human race".

David Burrowes, the Conservative MP who presented SPUC's petition against the bill to Parliament in the summer, pointed out loopholes which would allow even more macabre and sinister experiments than already clear from the face of the bill.

Edward Leigh, the veteran pro-life Catholic MP, said:
"At the heart of the debates on this bill has been that we are treating the human embryo as a thing. The human embryo is not a blob of cells nor a potential human being, but a human being with potential. What we are doing today is very dangerous - we are making ourselves less than human by treating human embryos as things."

Andrew Selous, a Christian MP, protested at how the bill denies people their birthright, namely to have a relationship with their natural father and mother.

On the positive side, thousands of people across the country joined a concerted campaign in solidarity with unborn children. Prominent national church leaders, such as Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, showed that strong, clear, courageous stands can put the sanctity of human life at the forefront of public debate. Scores of doctors, lawyers and academics have defended the weakest of the weak.

Many pro-life groups, representing a wide range of activity in the pro-life movement came together to work against the bill. Choose Life, CARE and Christian Concern for Our Nation led strong initiatives from the Evangelical and Anglican Christians. The Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales gave strong encouragement to Catholic layfolk to speak out on the issue. Others spoke out from the Muslim tradition, the Jewish faith and from multi-faith and interdenominational groups.

Equally important have been the contribution of expert scientific and medical bodies and bioethicists, particularly on the issues of embryology, human-animal hybrids and stem cell research.

And in their powerful resistance, the politicians and people of Northern Ireland showed that a pro-life community cannot be bullied into submission by the ethically compromised Westminster establishment. I'm also blogging on this today.

Future generations will look back on this macabre bill and wonder how a supposedly civilised nation could have so devalued human life.

I just thank God that, as a result of the lobbying efforts of so many, Gordon Brown climbed down on abortion and effectively pulled Parliament back from the brink of voting for extreme pro-abortion amendments to the Abortion Act, including the imposition of the Abortion Act on Northern Ireland, which would have stripped away virtually all remaining vestige of protection for unborn children.

Gordon Brown's climbdown on abortion to be welcomed

Only seven months ago, in answer to a question from the Reverend Ian Paisley, Gordon Brown refused to rule out the imposition of the Abortion Act on Northern Ireland through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill.

So ... Today's moves by Gordon Brown's government to prevent the HFE bill from being used to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland (as well as being used to approve other pro-abortion amendments) are very much to be welcomed.

"This is a significant victory for the people of Northern Ireland and our pro-life politicians who have urged the Prime Minister not to allow the abortion lobby in Britain to impose the Abortion Act upon us", said Betty Gibson, the tireless leader of SPUC Northern Ireland over the past three decades.

It would seem that Gordon Brown has recognised the strength of opposition to liberal abortion within the Northern Ireland Assembly. The leaders of the four major parties in Northern Ireland wrote to every MP opposing the Act's extension, and assembly members made it clear that they would not implement the Act if it was imposed. And it's a year ago to the day since the assembly gave overwhelming backing to a motion rejecting the Act's extension.

The prime minister has seemingly realised that if pro-abortion MPs outside Northern Ireland ignored the assembly and forced a vote in Westminster, it could have created a constitutional dilemma, as I reported following the pro-life rally in Stormont over the weekend.

"Had these measures gone through then the lives of thousands of unborn children in both Britain and Ireland would have been threatened. We all owe Northern Ireland's politicians a huge debt of gratitude for their consistent defence of the sanctity of human life ," said Betty Gibson.

As Betty suggests, the uncompromising stand of Northern Ireland MPs placed Gordon Brown in a constitutional dilemma and may also have helped save Britain from extreme pro-abortion amendments to the abortion law. As a result of the government's programme motion on the business before the House of Commons on the HFE Bill, Gordon Brown ensured that none of the abortion amendments were reached - and so they all fell.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

United Nations body is set to deceive Islamic groups into promoting abortion

Dr A. Majid Katme, the coordinator of SPUC’s Muslim division is urgently contacting Islamic Relief and other Muslim groups in Istanbul to warn them about the pro-abortion agenda of UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund).

According to a press report: “Islamic Relief and UNFPA will be working together to ensure that more women and men have access to reproductive healthcare information and services, including during times of emergency … ” – which entails the promotion of abortion on demand, even in the desperately unsafe environment of refugee camps.

UNFPA is complicit in the promotion of a right to abortion throughout the world. UNFPA is also complicit in supporting and spreading widely "family planning clinics" which supply and/or promote:
  • techniques, devices and/or drugs which abort unborn children;
  • free birth control pills and condoms to our young, unmarried innocent boys and girls;
  • free, immoral sex education;
  • sterilisation;
  • population control (e.g. China's one-child policy), including among Muslims;
  • radical feminism, and "rights" for children in opposition to their parents & family;
  • disrespect and/or manipulation of traditional moral and religious values.
Dr Katme has sent his Muslim colleagues a fact-sheet which includes the following information:
  • In 1979, the very year that China introduced its brutal one-child policy, UNFPA signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" with the Chinese government.
  • In 1983, the year commonly regarded as the worst year for coercion, UNFPA gave one of its first two Population Awards to the minister-in-charge of China’s State Family Planning Commission. (The other award that year was given to Indira Gandhi, the Indian prime minister, whose government enforced compulsory birth control including sterilisation.)
  • In 1985, Rafael Salas, UNFPA’s then executive director, told Premier Zhao Ziyang that "China should feel proud of the achievements made in her family planning program." (reported by The People's Daily, the Communist Party's official newspaper).
  • In 1991, UNFPA's then executive director Nafis Sadik said: "China has every reason to feel proud of and pleased with its remarkable achievements made in its family planning policy and control of its population growth.” (Xinhua, 11 April 1991) In 2002 China's State Family Planning Commission gave Nafis Sadik its own Population Award.
  • In 1999, UNFPA aided and abetted "ethnic cleansing" by indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic by assisting his regime's plan "to limit or forbid the enormous increase of the birthrate in Kosovo".
  • In 2001, Thoraya Obaid, the new UNFPA executive director, said that over the past 20 years, China had seen notable achievements made in population control by implementing the family planning policy.
  • In 2001, research by the (pro-life) Population Research Institute (PRI) found that UNFPA was complicit in population control against Muslims in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
  • In 2003, UNFPA exploited the aftermath of the war in Iraq to launch a campaign to provide "reproductive health" to Iraqi refugees. ("Reproductive health" is a euphemism which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined as including abortion on demand.

Monday, 20 October 2008

"I will not implement the Abortion Act" says Northern Ireland minister

Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA (Democratic Unionist Party MP for Lagan Valley, Junior Minister in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in the Northern Ireland Executive), pictured below, spoke last Saturday to thousands of people from all over Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at a rally in Stormont, organised by Precious Life, against the proposed imposition of the Abortion Act on Wednesday this week in Westminster: "If Westminster imposes the Abortion Act, as a minister I will not implement that law".

Jeffrey Donaldson, who is chairman of the All-Party Pro-life Group of the Northern Ireland Assembly, went on to say:

"Our opponents say that this issue is about equality. Well, where is the equality for the people of Northern Ireland when they can have no say over legislation that they don't want? The Good Friday Agreement, the Belfast Agreement says that all legislation in Northern Ireland must have public consultation. There must be an impact equality assessment. Where is the public consultation?"

Iris Robinson MP MLA, (above) chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly Health Committee, also stirred the rally with an eloquent, unambiguous pro-life speech:

"Abortion in Northern Ireland" she said: "Never, never, never. Ulster says no to abortion! We will not be silenced. That there are so many people here today shows the majority in Northern Ireland do not want abortion to be socially acceptable. Thank you for affirming publicly that human life is precious. I believe it is the duty of government to uphold God's law. We need to fast and pray in the coming days. In 2006 98 percent of Abortions in England and Wales were for social reasons. Only 0.4 percent were for a risk to the life of the mother. Abortion at any stage of pregnancy is the taking of a human life. Stand with me. A majority of people must have the moral conviction to say not in my name!"

Pat Ramsey MLA (pictured right) SDLP, representing the Foyle constituency, welcomed people attending the rally from all over Ireland including a delegation from Cork. He spoke about the joy a child brings into the world. Pat Ramsey recently said to an Irish Catholic newspaper that the imposition of the Abortion Act by Parliament in Westminster could threaten to bring down the Assembly which is already in difficulties over justice and policing powers.

Bernie Smyth (pictured below), the leader of Precious Life organising the rally, introduced Grace Kelly Smyth, her grand-daughter. She was born two days beyond the time limit for social abortions, she had to have eye surgery and needs oxygen everyday.
Joe Scheidler, (pictured right) national director of the Pro-Life Action League in Chicago, USA, gave testimony to the inspiration Northern Ireland gives to the people of the world, with its courageous stand in defence of the sanctity of human life.

For me the most moving speakers of the day were Lynn Coles (picture below left), of Silent No More, who spoke about her abortion experience, and Dr Sean O'Domhnaill (pictured below right), a psychiatrist and vice-chairman of the Mother and Child campaign in Ireland, who spoke about the gift of nine months and nine hours of life of an anencephalic baby whose birth he attended.

I spoke (pictured below, centre, with (L to R) Jeffrey Donaldson, Iris Robinson, Pat Ramsey and Dr Kieran Deeny) about how Northern Ireland's politicians and people had shown the world how to resist abortion - with determination and intelligence. The might of international institutions, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the mis-named Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, all seeking to promote abortion in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the world, had failed to overturn the weight of public opinion, and the strength of the political leadership in Northern Ireland, which steadfastly oppose the killing of the unborn. They had looked at pro-abortion politicians - Diane Abbott, Evan Harris and David Steel - in the eye and told them that they lied about backstreet abortion, when Northern Ireland has the lowest maternal death rate in the UK.

Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland development officer, whose family have led SPUC's battle in Northern Ireland since 1981, paid tribute to Bernie Smyth and Precious Life for their bold and successful initiative in organizing the rally in Stormont. Commenting on Jeffrey Donaldson's speech (see above) he said:

"The Northern Ireland Act which implements the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement requires all legislation in Northern Ireland, even when it's introduced by the Northern Ireland Office (that is directly from Parliament) to be approved by the Assembly. It must be scrutinised for its implications for equality. This is done through a public consultation and an equality impact assessment. This is the case no matter how unimportant the legislation is. If the Executive or a majority in Assembly hold up the introduction of the Abortion Act or refuse to implement it at all, it will result in a major constitutional dilemma which the Gordon Brown would have to deal with. It could even call into question the future of the devolved institutions when they are already under pressure. It is crucial that MPs in England, Scotland and Wales realise just how important this issue is in Northern Ireland."

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Please pray for Gordon Brown and for Michael Martin MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons

During the next 72 hours, please pray for Gordon Brown (pictured), the British Prime Minister, and for Michael Martin MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Wednesday this week, 22nd October, will be one of the most significant dates in Britain’s history. That’s the day of the report stage and third reading of the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) bill.

What Parliament decides that day will be a matter of life or death for possibly countless millions of unborn children. The power of these two men in deciding their fate, particularly in relation to the extreme abortion amendments tabled by pro-abortion MPs, cannot be underestimated.

Of course, how all 646 Members of Parliament decide to vote that day is crucial – and if you’re from Britain or Northern Ireland and you’ve not already written to your MP to ask him or her to vote against pro-abortion amendments on Wednesday, do so now without any further delay. Or phone your MP on 020 7219 3000.

All votes of MPs are, of course, equal. But – even in a democracy – on certain occasions, some MPs are more equal than others! And that’s certainly the case this week.

Firstly, the Speaker of the House of Commons has a pivotal role to play in deciding which New Clauses on abortion will be debated and voted upon by the House of Commons during the Report stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The Standing Orders give the Speaker the power to select or not select, the new clauses and amendments that have been tabled to the Bill at its report stage.

The Speaker, his three Deputies and senior officials meet every day to discuss the handling of business before the House. It is during this meeting (which in the case of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be held on either Tuesday or Wednesday) that the selection of New Clauses and other amendments will be decided.

The Speaker’s selection itself is expected to be made available on either Tuesday or Wednesday morning. The criteria for selecting amendments at the Report stage are more stringent than at committee stage, and amendments re-opening issues (such as the abortion issue) already dealt with in committee are not usually selected for debate but it remains to be seen whether the debate held during the Committee stage in May will influence the Speaker.

The Government of the day, headed by Gordon Brown, the prime minister, can – and have done so on occasions - make representations to the Speaker to offer him their advice on whether to select or not to select certain amendments. Ultimately, it is for the Speaker to decide, in consultation with his senior Clerks and advisers, but everyone knows the influence of the Government of the day under the British parliamentary system.

Finally, Gordon Brown’s and the Government’s position on the extreme abortion amendments tabled by pro-abortion MPs will be crucial in influencing the votes of Labour MPs. So, if you believe in prayer, start praying now for wisdom for Gordon Brown and for Michael Martin MP.