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Here we go again

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A number of mainstream media outlets are reporting on the tragic case of a Sicilian woman, Valentina Milluzzo who became pregnant with twins following IVF treatment and then died after miscarrying them.

Scant detail has been reported, but according to reports, Mrs Milluzzo was admitted to the Cannizzaro hospital in Catania, Sicily, after falling ill and going into labour at just 19 weeks in pregnancy, on September 29 where she remained in a stable condition for a couple of weeks.

On October 15 her condition worsened and one baby was then stillborn, Mrs Milluzzo’s condition then rapidly deteriorated, her family then asked for the other baby to be aborted, doctors refused supposedly on the grounds of conscientious objection, then it appears that the other baby was miscarried, shortly after which poor Valentina Miluzzo died too.

The various media reports seem muddled. In the Daily Mail the family’s lawyer allegedly reported that one of the unborn twins was suffering from from a ‘breathing complication’. This doesn’t stack up because a baby in utero does not actually breathe through their nose and mouth, but rather exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide with the mother through the placenta and umbilical cord. Clearly there was some kind of complication causing foetal distress which may have led to the miscarriage, but ‘breathing difficulty’ seems to be an overly-simplistic term. That said, this could simply be a translation error. But in any event the account in the Daily Mail, has the doctor refusing to abort both babies.

The BBC has a similar account, namely the doctor apparently refused to intervene to abort both babies after one got into difficulty, but the Guardian claims that having given birth to one stillborn baby, poor Valentina was in agony for 12 hours with the doctors refusing to intervene on the grounds that the other baby was still alive. The family begged for the doctors to abort the other child to save her life, the doctors refused and shortly afterwards the baby was born dead and Mrs Milluzzo died of septic shock.

The Guardian of course carries a photograph of pro-life nuns, just in case you hadn’t got with the programme about these evil Catholic types. It also runs a load of irrelevant copy with implied supposition about the recent decline in abortions in Italy being due to a shortage of doctors willing to perform them and whether or not Italy actually has enough people to carry out abortions because, shock horror, there’s a high rate of conscientious objectors. A decline in abortions, can never be seen as positive news now can it, and what this unsubtle inference fails to mention is Italy’s catastrophically declining birth rate. Maybe, just maybe, fewer women are getting pregnant and those who do actually want to keep their babies?!

First off, nobody should be blamed or jump to conclusions because the fact is that we do not know what happened. Of course the family would have been enormously distressed by the way events unfolded and one cannot blame them for wishing medics to take whatever action necessary to save the life of their beloved wife and daughter.

But in this situation, when we have the very sketchiest of facts, it is a revolting political opportunism that wishes to capitalise on a terrible tragedy of a woman, who is not yet buried, to claim, as the profiteers at International Planned Parenthood Federation (who  make money from abortion) have done, that the right of medics to conscientiously object to abortion, puts women at risk and must be removed. Medics are not disrespecting the law, they are acting in accordance with it. Italian law in common with other European laws, allows for abortion in certain specific prescribed circumstances, and also allows doctors who feel that their remit is to save lives not end them, to opt out. Freedom of conscience ought to take primacy. Nobody should be coerced by the law into carrying out acts which they find to be morally abhorrent.

In the case of a woman who has achieved a much-wanted pregnancy via IVF, one can well understand the reticence of doctors to abort the child, if there was a chance that they might survive. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, in the case of miscarriage, the best clinical approach is to conservatively manage a miscarriage, which negates the risks and complications of surgery. It’s not clear how aborting the surviving twin would actually have saved her life – an unborn baby is not some kind of toxin, poisoning a woman’s system from within.

There seem to be several terrible parallels with the case of Savita Halappanavar going on here. Both women would appear to have died of septic shock. The HSE inquiry ruled that Mrs Halapannaver died of sepsis which went undiagnosed for too long. An abortion would not have saved her life, but prompt administration of antibiotics could well have done, though sepsis does require extremely swift diagnosis and intervention.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, master of the Rotunda hospital in Dublin commented that Ireland’s pro-life laws had little to do with Mrs Hlappanavar’s death and echoed the view of most gynaecologists saying

 “I think most of us who work in obstetrics and gynaecology, there may be individual differences, but the majority would be of the view that if the health is such a risk that there is a risk of death and we are dealing with a foetus that is not viable, there is only one answer to that question, we bring the pregnancy to an end.”

Here are the known facts. At 22 weeks, Mrs Milluzzo’s much-wanted child was viable and potentially had a chance of life. Abortion is not on the protocols of treatment for pregnant women with sepsis. Patients and family wishes must of course be taken into account, but the fact that they may have been understandably begging for a course of treatment which they believed was the best chance of saving this woman’s life, does not mean that aborting the baby was the correct medical solution. Wishing to save both the life of the baby and the mother, if at all possible, does not mean that the doctors were negligent, uncaring or adopting a rigourist approach.

The hospital is strongly disputing the family’s account. They have said the following:

“There was no conscientious objection on behalf of the doctor that intervened in this case because there was no voluntary termination of the pregnancy, but (the miscarriage) was forced by the grave circumstances…I rule out that a doctor could have told the family what they say he told them.”

Italian law forbids doctors to withhold life-saving treatment when a mother’s life is at risk. This has been reiterated by a national association of Catholic doctors who said that when a mother’s life is at risk, doctors must do whatever is necessary to save it.

Regardless of what may or may have been said to the family by the doctor (and I think we also have to allow for misunderstandings, especially in such a traumatic situation) there is nothing as yet, which demonstrates that doctors wilfully refused to save the life of a dying pregnant woman and sacrificed her for the sake of her unborn child. We do not have enough evidence and we should not speculate or seek to vilify the doctors, who were the ones actually dealing with the situation and who had the medical knowledge to ascertain the best course of action. Presumably when Mrs Milluzzo went into hospital she was hoping that the doctors would do everything possible to save her children. The request for an abortion was a response to ease suffering and save her life when her condition deteriorated, but chances are that by this stage it was already too late.

There are always two sides to every story, what happened to innocent until proven guilty?

But sadly, that won’t stop the pro-choice bandwagon from using this story as further proof of the uncaring pro-lifers forcing women to die for the sake of their unborn children and trying to remove the conscience rights of doctors, even though tragic cases such as these are very few and far between. With an absence of backstreet butchery upon which to hang the need for compassion, any maternal death with any possible tenuous link to abortion must be milked to ensure every drop of righteous indignation and anger is directed at those who wish to protect the lives of the unborn, who must be portrayed as uncaring misogynists. Especially if they happen to be doctors.

Valentina Milluzzo was a beautiful woman with everything to look forward to. May she and her babies rest in peace.

If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll know that my personal view is that Britain ought to vote to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum. The most compelling case, from a Catholic perspective is presented here, by Tim Stanley. There is also another highly persuasive video from Toby Young of the Spectator.

However, a friend of mine, Dr Rupert Beale, is passionately in favour of remaining in the EU and has asked me to host a guest blog proposing an alternate view. In the interests of impartiality I am delighted to do so.

Wherever you stand on Britain’s membership of the EU, I would urge voters to exercise their democratic right to participate in Thursday’s referendum, remembering the millions of servicemen and woman who have given their lives in order for you to enjoy this privilege. We cannot complain about the result, unless we have taken part.

Over to Dr Beale:

Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;

The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide.

I had intended this to be a riposte to the various arguments with a Catholic flavour in favour of the UK leaving the EU, but the words of G.K. Chesterton’s hymn have been swirling round my brain of late. I fear that what I might have written would have been scornful. There’s been quite enough of that.

What I ask of all people of good conscience who believe that the EU is not a good thing is this: please do not vote for us to leave.

Many people were upset by the death of Jo Cox despite never having met her. I cannot imagine the shock and anguish that her husband must be feeling. Somehow he found the strength to issue a very dignified and fitting tribute to his wife. One poignant sentence stands out for me: “She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”

It is love for one another that defines us as Christians. A love that imitates Christ’s universal and self-sacrificial love. That is why we defend all human lives, and why we do not try to make different categories of worth between persons – all are infinitely loved by an infinite God. Value to us is the dignity and flourishing of persons; it is not a number of pounds in a bank, even if it’s the Bank of England.  People to us are equal: born or unborn, young and vigorous or old and dying. They are not different in value for being British or French, Romanian or Bangladeshi.

We can have a debate about the European Union. It’s a human political institution, with all the usual faults. I have argued that Britain benefits from membership (it certainly does in narrow monetary terms). I have also argued that British political influence has been a good thing in the EU as regards an area that’s personally important to me: scientific research. This scientific excellence fostered by the EU promotes economic growth, as well as the health and wellbeing of Britons, Europeans and all humanity. These, we should agree, are good things. Furthermore, it’s very hard to see how the UK could get a better deal outside the EU.

The EU is not an unalloyed ode to joy. There is a point of view that the loss of sovereignty entailed by (for example) allowing an international court primacy over a British court is intolerable. Some believe that the EU is remote and less accountable than it should be. The original noble ideals of the predecessor to the EU – which were couched in rather specifically Christian terms – have to some extent been betrayed.

Personally, I do not see that voluntary submission to the judgements of international courts (not confined to the EU of course) is a regrettable loss of sovereignty, but I think you can have a reasonable debate about it.  There is also a very uncomfortable argument that it is in fact Britain that’s bad for the EU (our influence is by no means always for the best).

The EU is a collection of 28 separate nation states, one of which is our own decidedly imperfect one. I agree that the EU has done and continues to do things which go against the high ideals of its founders – but imperfection is to be expected, whatever mechanisms are in place to help smooth relationships between our different countries.

Whatever you think about the EU, it cannot be emphasised enough that the merits or otherwise of the EU are not on the ballot paper. What’s on the ballot paper is leaving the EU. The wider context of this vote is not the impassioned but usually polite discourse between committed Christians. The context is fear of immigrants, lies about money, distrust of foreigners, distrust of economists, distrust of politicians, distrust of journalists, distrust of ‘experts’ – distrust of everybody.

The context is also a national political debate in which we have the love of money played off against the fear of immigrants. Across continental Europe, the context is many national parties that wish their particular country to break off from the EU (and most of those parties make our own Far Right seem pretty tame).

The context is also the recent horrible killing of an MP doing her job. The suspect has given his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Inevitably, the motives and state of mind of the suspect have been subject to speculation, and that speculation has varied depending on the particular views of the speculator.

It’s illustrative of the poverty of the national debate that this terrible tragedy is being used to score points. It’s Jo Cox’s husband’s words that we should take to heart, and not give way to hatred. That means no hatred of foreigners, and it means no hatred of politicians either – even if they are guilty of rabble-rousing and xenophobia (as some most assuredly are).

The secular debate around the EU referendum has been conducted in terms which are too often bound by entombing walls of gold and the love of money. They are also being conducted in a way that suggests people – some people at any rate – can be cast adrift.

From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,

From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;

From sale and profanation of honour and the sword;

From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!

In a sea of lies and half-truths there is one particular depth of mendacity that I wish to plunge into: the claim that £350m a week can be spent on the NHS if we leave. It is worse than a deliberate lie. It is specially designed to be a lie, because the Leave camp’s spin-doctors have realised that if they lie about it, it will be talked about a lot.

The counter-argument is that the real figure is lower: £136m. This is great for the Leave camp: it still sounds like a large number, and cements the broader untruth that the EU costs us money in the minds of voters. The demographic they are especially targeting – older Labour voters – is tickled by the promise to spend all that money on the NHS. They have told us a small lie to make us believe a bigger one – what clever fellows those spin-doctors are!

Mendacity is not the special vice of the Leave campaign. It has long ago infected our whole political discourse. If all truth is relative, a lie can surely be a legitimate tool used in pursuit of a political goal. In those circumstances, where to tell a lie is neither considered wicked nor shameful – and is in fact admired for its ability to shift public opinion – it is little wonder that people have lost trust.

Truth and truth-telling are essential to Christian values. Of course, there is nowadays little or no reference to Christianity in public life. But truth-telling is important to secular humanists and people of other faiths too. Can we not replace Christian values with ‘Enlightenment’ values? I don’t see much evidence of that happening.

The secular debate – even if conducted in terms that don’t abandon the concept of truth altogether – is dominated by narrow self-interest. Will Britain be better off? Will I be better off? Will we be able to keep the foreigners out? It’s not exactly the universal brotherhood of man. The Enlightenment owes far more of a debt to Christianity than is generally admitted. The philosopher that atheists don’t much like to talk about is Nietzsche. Right now, it’s his abyss that’s staring into us.

I could see myself voting for Brexit under certain circumstances. For example, if it became a condition of our continued membership that we join the Euro (this would by law be subject to a referendum). The procedure there would be for an elected government to carefully build global alliances and put us in a position to negotiate an orderly withdrawal (we have no such alliance in place, and all our trading partners, allies and EU neighbours are against us leaving). We would need to ensure that any exit did not produce a severe economic shock.

At present, we have no credible scenario to achieve a successful negotiated settlement, and a substantial economic shock is certain if we leave. (I accept that some economists believe we could recover in a decade or so, while others don’t – but that there will be an initial shock is agreed by all.) A severe economic shock to Britain and to the EU at this time would give rise to the perfect conditions for bigotry and hatred to flourish. This we must not allow.

If you, like me, believe on balance that Britain is good for the EU and the EU is good for Britain I expect you will vote to remain. If we do vote to leave, we give succour to the very worst elements of our national politics and the national politics of the other EU members, and we must endure the national humiliation that will follow as best we can.

Take not thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.

 

 

ihaveagreatLife

As reported in the Catholic Herald, academic Catholic theologian Tina Beattie has signed a letter to the Polish Bishops’ Conference supporting ‘early, safe and legal’ abortion.

Joseph Shaw has demolished her ethical and theological arguments on his philosophy blog here – Mrs Beattie’s position is an indefensible one from a Catholic point of view.

But there is an another important element to Tina Beattie’s letter which is so far being overlooked. She says that in” those situations where abortion is deemed necessary – such as those currently permitted under Polish law, we believe that access to early, safe and legal abortion is necessary”.

Dr Shaw reminds us of the conclusions of the 2012 Dublin Declaration on Maternal health, which was signed by over one thousand medical practitioners, which explicitly stated that ‘the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of the woman.’

On those rare occasions that medical treatment needs to be carried out to preserve the life of the mother which could endanger the baby’s life,  the timing is only important in as much as the treatment is performed at a stage when it is going to be efficacious. Sometimes life threatening complications do not occur until a later stage in pregnancy, at which point it is often possible to treat them, while at the same time preserving the life of the infant.

Tina Beattie seems to be propagating the point of view that the earlier an abortion is carried out, the easier and safer it is for the woman. This confirms the sales propaganda of the abortion clinics, who use this to pressure women to make swift decisions, ones which they may later regret.

I speak from bitter experience here as I bought the very same line, opting to take the swift ‘medical abortion’ route under pressure and thus avoid the need for surgery. If, as the letter suggests, women very often face an agonising decision in terms of what to do about their pregnancies, then suggesting that they need to make the decision as quickly as possible in order maximise health outcomes, only puts further pressure on them. The question is whether or not we ought to be ending the lives of unwanted unborn babies, not at what stage this ought to be carried out. The idea of swift early safe abortion for disabled children, is a red herring to justify the lie of abortion being the only compassionate and responsible option in certain circumstances.

The UK abortion industry justify their existence by noting that the majority of abortions performed in the UK are done so in the first trimester. For the last year that statistics are available (2014) the number of medical abortions performed, accounted for 51% of the total and 92% of all abortions were in the first trimester. Of the 184, 571 abortions carried out in this year, 2%, (3099 babies) were aborted on the grounds of foetal disability.

Mrs Beattie’s push for early, safe and legal abortion for situations of disability, rape and danger to the mother’s life as well as being morally and ethically unsound is based on a dodgy grasp of the physical reality and one that could potentially mislead women into making an irreversible decision, on mistaken health grounds.

The idea of an early, safe abortion for babies with disabilities is dangerous myth. The first screening test for abnormalities occurs at the end of the first trimester. Most women going for a 12 week scan will have already made the decision that they are keeping their baby. Women are now able to discover that they are pregnant even a few days before their period is due. The nuchal fold combined screening test, which is a specific test for chromosomal abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome, is performed somewhere between the 11th and 14th week of pregnancy. The results of an ultrasound are combined with the results of a blood test in order to give women a result which tells them the probability that their baby has Downs Syndrome or another chromosomal disorder. If the result is higher than a 1 in 150 chance, then you will be offered counselling and a further diagnostic test, either an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling which will confirm any diagnosis. Sometimes, a nuchal fold screening may not be able to be performed, if for example the baby is in the wrong position, in which case a quadruple serum test would be carried out after 14 weeks, but like the nuchal fold test, this will only give you a probability score.

The earliest that one is therefore likely to receive a confirmed diagnosis, will be around the 14 week mark, taking into account the timing of lab result tests and appointments. Should you decide that you want to have an abortion, then it would not be performed for at least another 24-48 hours.

Realistically, an abortion for a chromosomal abnormality will take place at around 15 weeks at the earliest, at which point the procedure is already more risky due to the rapidly growing foetus. The option of a medical abortion will be long gone and the suction method to evacuate the baby from the womb, is no longer possible either. You are already looking at a more complicated D&E procedure, which carries more risks. At 15 weeks many women will be experiencing foetal movements.

That’s not to promote any method of abortion as being the more desirable, but if Tina Beattie is going to cite medical facts, then she needs to be aware that swift, early stage abortion, is off the table for women who find that their babies have a physical abnormality. And there are many other non-chromosomal disorders which are not discovered until the 20 week scan, which if the mother decided that she didn’t want to keep the baby, would necessitate a  traumatic late-stage abortion.

It’s therefore deeply problematic to cite or advocate early stage abortion as a solution for disabled children, not just on the eugenic or moral grounds, but because it is not a physical reality. A brief look at the current ante-natal support threads on Mumsnet, will tell stories of mothers being given false diagnoses of disability, along with women really agonising over what to do and not wanting to take the decision to abort their baby, until they really do have every last piece of information regarding their condition and have sought second opinions, advice, counselling and so on. Nobody is rushing to abort, even though many report feeling under pressure from the medics.

It’s a disservice to women who find themselves in this heartbreaking situation, to present them with an option of early abortion, that they do not actually have. It displays a profoundly disturbing obstetric ignorance from someone who ought to have done more basic research. It is disingenuous in the extreme to use disability as a justification for early-stage abortion. 

If I were to claim to be a card-carrying member of the Labour party and yet propagate Tory views, claiming them as legtimate Labour views and actually use my membership to gain myself a platform and employment as a representative of the Labour party, then they would be well within their rights to have my membership withdrawn and to be clear that I did not represent the party’s political views.

This isn’t about the Polish Church attempting to impose theological views on the rest of the country, but merely making their doctrinal position clear, as they are entitled to do so. Poland is a functioning democracy; any measures to protect the right to life of the unborn child are in full accordance with Article 3 of the UN Charter for Human Rights which specifically lays out the right to life, are being enacted by an elected and accountable government.

The attempt to tell the Polish bishops they are wrong seems to be about imposing a feminist agenda onto Catholicism, more than a little presumptious as well as ethically, theologically and morally incorrect, as Father Alexander Lucie-Smith has also made clear.  Hence the resulting outrage.This is not the Catholic position; to present it as such could cause confusion and worst still, cost lives.

Getting desperate

By all accounts the couple involved in the injuncted PJS really doesn’t want you to know who they are and in true Pravda style, are frantically submitting requests to Google to remove any links which name them. They really want this story to disappear into thin air.

Which begs several more questions. Judge Jackson notes that the spouse of PJS accepts that theirs is not a mutually exclusive sexual relationship. PJS has permission to engage in sexual encounters outside of the relationship.

Many people in open relationships are keen to vaunt and advocate for their situations, believing that there should be no taboo. Why not PJS?

Could it be that there is too much at stake commercially in the image of a happily married faithful stable family man? That if the public knew the dynamics of the relationship it could reflect negatively on revenue, sales and media opportunities?

Could it be that if this is made public it will upset the interests of several wealthy and influential commercial lobby groups? Could the doings of this couple who espouse a cause celebre, irrevocably damage an entire movement?

Could it be that the self-worth of said celebrity is so tied up with his public image that it would be incredibly damaging  for a narcissistic psyche, for his image to be shattered in this way?

Or could it, just could it possibly be that the attempt at cover-up is an acknowledgement and acceptance that such behaviour is not commensurate with the raising of happy and healthy children?

Aren’t we in a progressive society where your sex life doesn’t matter so long as it’s between consenting adults and feels right for them? Obviously not.

But remember folks, Judge Jackson has decided that none of these issues are in the public interest. The general public can continue to be fooled by the false public image presented by the couple and must continue to promote and fund them, oblivious to a rather unsavoury truth which may cause them to close their wallets. There is no public interest in discussing the nature of marital relationships and child welfare.

Don’t you worry your silly little heads about sexual debauchery and motherless young children. Repeat after me: “less orthodox relationships and family structures of the rich and famous must never be questioned.”

Since publishing my blog yesterday about why the case of the PJS (currently under injunction) is in the public interest, a few commentators have suggested that the argument doesn’t necessarily wash, because it’s widely known and accepted by the general public, that gay male relationships don’t tend to be monogamous in nature.

Anecdotally, I would agree with that up to a point. Regular readers will know that I worked as cabin crew in the late 1990’s, a profession which seems to attract a disproportionately high number of gay men. My observation was indeed that there were very few stable monogamous relationships; they did exist but they were in the minority. Whether or not the gay scene that I socialised in is representative of the wider population is difficult to say, but it was characterised by promiscuity, multiple concurrent sexual partners and a entirely different set of sexual norms to those which the female crew were expected to adhere to.

But as I said, this was only my personal observation and for those who would believe that I  looked upon my friends and colleagues with disdain, nothing could be further from the truth. It all seemed like jolly good fun to an untravelled twenty-something. I notched up my fair share of wild nights on the razz in gay joints in places as far afield as Bangkok – miles apart from a suburban upbringing on the outskirts of Essex, it felt at times as though I was living a surreal and glamourous dream!

And this is why I have always been reluctant to extrapolate or discuss my intimate experience of the gay male scene, because I don’t know whether or not what I experienced had as much to do with the fact that I was living an international jet-set existence with other people who were as young, free and single as myself. As long as everything was done by consenting adults where was the issue? I witnessed quite a few sordid and distressing incidents, but was happy to push them to the back of my mind. So what if someone wanted to spend take-off discussing the graphic details of their multi-way encounter with a bunch of strangers in a Cologne sauna, while in earshot of fare-paying passengers, it was all part of the craic! So what if I caught two strangers who’d only just met in the briefing room a few hours earlier, engaging in sex acts in the forward galley? Any objection, distaste or disgust would surely be homophobic?

But should I have dared to venture in any public forum, any suggestion that gay relationships (and I am talking about male ones here, the lesbians I know do tend to have life-long partnerships) do not, in my experience, lend themselves to monogamy, then one can only imagine the public shaming exercise to which I would have been subjected. All sorts of high-profile couples would have been trotted out to highlight and condemn my bigotry. Nonetheless the statistics, especially those surrounding male-to-male HIV transmission would also seem to support the contention.

As I said, I’m not sure that even is my opinion, because I’m not sure that one can generalise  using the example of the social bubble of long-haul cabin crew  and I do have friends who are in committed, faithful monogamous romantic relationships with people of the same sex.  All I can say is that I still have gay male friends in the industry who support my stance on marriage, believing that their lifestyle doesn’t lend itself towards either fidelity or children. But then again I also have straight friends who are clinging on to their lucrative, long-since abolished BA contracts which earn them more than a GP, who do manage both a monogamous marriage and children – no mean juggling feat when you are spending a good proportion of the month in another country!

It’s astounding and infuriating therefore to hear other people glibly expounding the principle that gay relationships and marriages are an entirely different proposition to heterosexual ones. Yeah sure you are going to be into monogamy and all that Caroline, because you are innately socially conservative, but other more liberal types, aren’t quite so bothered.

It’s not only annoying because they articulated something which I dared not to mention (Catholic bigot says that gay people are incapable of keeping it in their pants or being faithful to each other) but also because this is absolutely not what was sold or argued to the general public when a new definition of marriage was undemocratically imposed upon us, in 2013 and couples such as PJS were waved about as examples.

Every time anyone tried to argue that the definition of marriage was changing, we were told time and time again it was not, and that this was simply just opening up a conservative institution, one which had many benefits to society, to a wider group of people. If you attempted to make the case, that the fundamental nature of the institution was being changed, you were told that it had changed throughout the ages (which is not strictly true, the conditions under which you could enter marriage were altered along with the way in which it was formalised) but the institution itself was not in any event being radically altered, rather being made ‘equal’.

As I argued yesterday, the new definition did not abolish differentation between the types of union because those in a gay marriage, are not implicitly taking vows of fidelity, because they are unable to use adultery for grounds of divorce.

Had you asked the general public about whether or not there should be two types of marriage and whether or not marriage should no longer mean monogamy for some couples, they would not have endorsed such a prospect. What was the slogan? ‘Different families, same love’! In every single country which has recently legalised gay marriage, from the UK, to Ireland to the US it has been on the grounds that it would be cruel to deny gay people the dignity and privileges of marriage.

Those who argued that marriage was being irrevocably redefined in a social experiment were told that we were reactionary doom-mongering, hate-spreading bigots.

The judges in the case of PJS certainly seem to be holding them to a different standard than everyone else – are they reflecting a new expectation that society doesn’t demand monogamy from same-sex couples? Or is it the principle that monogamy no longer matters in a marriage and that arguments surrounding it, don’t advance any sort of debate? But if monogamy is no longer a vital element of civil marriages, then it might be nice were there to have been some consultation about this.

It seems to be widely accepted that the celebrities who blazed a trail and became standard bearers for same-sex marriage and surrogacy are not living as one might expect and yet no-one should ask any questions in terms of whether or not they have the right to bring children into this situation and encourage others to do so. (And there’s no doubt that their example has given succour to the exploitative surrogacy industry. I can think of at least one couple who cites the example of PJS and who give the impression of living in a similarly open relationship). Instead of addressing the potential damage done to children in these sorts of situations, the judiciary seems to be a signalling a head in sand approach of stopping people from talking about it. How long before we are all subject to a re-education policy by a concerned lobby group, wanting to teach children that it’s okay for parents to have lots of simultaneous sexual partners? In reality, the children of PJS are going to be brought up in a protective and supportive celebrity bubble, rather than running the gaunlet of their local comp-turned-academy.

Many people were concerned that the attempt to redefine marriage by extending it to same-sex couples was in fact a subtle attempt to breakdown the family, by altering and remodelling the insitution and removing the requirement of monogamy. According to Marxist thought, the family needs to be obliterated in order to establish and justify state intervention into every element of people’s lives.

At the time, I was inclined towards a more charitable approach, believing that those in favour were acting out of a short-sighted compassion. It’s hard to take on board the concept that a lie may have been deliberately marketed and peddled to us, in order to breakdown the family allowing the state to step in. But when one sees how the couple involved in PJS deliberately manipulated public opinion in order not only to financially profit but also to affect public policy, then it does give cause to wonder. Not once was it ever mooted that due to the nature of gay relationships which are not naturally fruitful, that the element of monogamy may thought of as an unecessary element and dispensed with.

Was this really just all about removing the idea of a lifelong faithful, monogamous, one-man, one-woman relationship as the gold standard for society and the raising of children and just giving egual legitimacy to other forms of relationships in an attempt to undermine the family? It certainly feels like it from where I’m standing.

Imagine dear reader, what would happen were someone to discover that I, a Catholic with a moderately high profile, someone who advocates the beauty and sanctity of the Christian meaning of marriage, was actually in a consensually open relationship? What if a third party with whom I’d had sex, while ostensibly in a committed relationship, wanted to sell their story to the tabloid press?

Like the vast majority of the British public, I wouldn’t have the funds to pursue any sort of legal action or injuction to protect my family’s privacy and would have to suck up the embarassment, but just say I did manage to get to court. Would a sympathetic judge rule that the privacy of my five children is paramount and that despite it being accepted that I would have sexual encounters from time to time, the image which I portray to the public of my husband and myself of being in a committed relationship, is essentially correct?

Would they buffalo? There would be none of this “commitment does not entail monogamy” guff, they would rightly rule that there is a public interest, given that I have participated in public debate on the nature of marriage. If I were to be found to be in a clandestine open relationship, or to have had extra-marital affairs, then my hypocrisy ought to be exposed. If I am worried about the effect on my children, then perhaps I ought not to have engaged in sexual activities outside of a relationship while at the same time as attempting to maintain a certain public image and accepting media invitations while promoting the good of marriage.

So why is the case of PJS any different? Because my friends, if this blogger is correct then he is a rich and famous celebrity, who just happens to be in a same-sex relationship. This is important because the conduct of these individuals, cuts straight to the core of the debate about marriage, and they were held up as an exemplary model of gay families. If these were private individuals thrust into the temporary spotlight, through no fault of their own, then arguably there would be a much better case for allowing their privacy.

But this is not the case with PJS and his partner. They have repeatedly put themselves into the media, including in 2014, inviting the whole world to their  wedding  via Instagram, posting intimate photos of the event, together with the hashtag ‘share the love’, with no disclaimer that their love was not monogamous. Prior to that they had been in a civil partnership since 2005.

I don’t give two hoots about the specifics of what PJS got up to, apart from noting that it all appears rather squalid. When the entire issue of same-sex marriage was debated in Parliament it was assumed that gay marriages would be conducted under the same auspices as heterosexual marriage and have the same level of commitment. As it turned out, the legislation was so tricky to enact, gay men and women actually enter into a different version of marriage to that of straight couples. Fidelity is not a legal requirement – gay men and women are unable to use adultery as grounds for divorce. 

Perhaps this is why the High Court has ruled that their infidelity is of little consequence to the overall image of commitment and loyalty which they attempt to cultivate amongst the public? This is a relationship which has acquired two children using the means of surrogacy. We don’t know whether or not their two sons are still maintaining contact with their mother, but what if the couple do split up as has been suggested by some outlets? The case of poor Rocco Ritchie demonstrates how difficult life is for children of divorced celebrity couples? What stability will they have, split between two warring male households, one of which is headed by a man soon to hit his seventies?

It’s not clear whether or not PJS and his celebrity partner were in an open relationship when they acquired their first son via surrogacy in 2010, but the alleged infidelity took place in 2011, with the next son coming along in 2013. Neither of the boys are listed as having a mother on their birth certificate. There is most definitely a public interest in debating whether or not a couple in an open relationship should be able to acquire children through surrogacy, and obliterate the name of the mother, who is deemed an irrelevance. In the case of two gay males in an open relationship, is two people who love them the basis of all child welfare, as is so often claimed? Is ‘love’ really all that matters? Are open relationships, whether gay or straight, the best environment in which to bring up children?

This is a couple who are often cited as being a wonderful example of surrogacy and gay parenting, and yet the public are not permitted to know that their relationship is not what one might reasonably expect. There is an implicit acknowledgement and understanding that married couples will be faithful to each other, a sacrifice commonly accepted by the public, as being in the best interests of the children. Open marriages no matter, who they are carried out by, contradict this principle.

What it means to be married, is of crucial importance to society as is the welfare of children. And yet in their wisdom, the High Court judges have decided, that we, the plebiscite are not allowed to know, that the relationship is not all that we might reasonably assume – that this couple have not, in fact, chosen to forsake all others. The judgement says “to publish will not advance the public debate or provide support for any of the competing opinions which are in circulation.” In other words, lets silence this debate before it’s even started, or identified what it’s all about because we don’t like what other people may have to say and furthermore, we don’t think opinions contrary to ours have any validity.

This couple chose to use their relationship and their profile to attempt to alter public policy. As a gay male friend of mine noted, this injunction feels like a gag to protect appalling social policy and dreadful decisions from public scrutiny.

We all have a right to a private life. But if you make your private life part of the public debate on marriage, hold up your relationship and family as being one which should be emulated and affect public policy, then if your relationship turns out to be founded on a questionable premise, the the rest of us do have a right to know, especially when the new definition of marriage affects not only our own marriages, but impacts upon religious freedom, education policies and is lauded as being a British value, with anyone who disagrees being branded a potential extremist threat.

It blows my mind that the judges have arbitrarily ruled that fidelity or monogamy can no longer be safely assumed to be an essential part of any committed relationship and that no-one is allowed to discuss the implications of this couple and their effect on public policy and debate, on pain of jail. What does it say about free speech in our society when a rich and famous member of the Establishment is able to use the state to force a person to stay silent about their sexual encounter with you, on pain of imprisonment? What is happening when the Speaker of the House of Commons is able to arbitrarily restrict Parliamentary Privilege and when Joe Public risk being put into jail if they dare to link to and discuss the wider implications of information easily available in another part of the United Kingdom.

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The pro-life world is currently in uproar about remarks made by Chelsea Clinton at a recent fundraiser for her mother, Hilary, in which she claimed to have left the Baptist Church at the age of 6, thanks to its stance on abortion.

 I was raised in a Methodist church and I left the Baptist church before my dad did, because I didn’t know why they were talking to me about abortion when I was 6 in Sunday school.

Going on to defend her faith and that of mother’s which she believes is wholly compatible with a pro-choice viewpoint, she said “I recognized that there were many expressions of faith that I don’t agree with and feel [are] quite antithetical to how I read the Bible…But I find it really challenging when people who are self-professed liberals kind of look askance at my family’s history.”

The subtext is clear – support of abortion is compatible with Christianity as evidenced by her family’s own religious faith. Many people would take issue with how far the Clinton family exemplify Christian values, but let’s be charitable and accept her belief that her family are all God-fearing Christians. It still doesn’t mean that their interpretation of the Bible when it comes to abortion is the correct one, and billions of Christians around the world, would vehemently disagree as to whether a Christian can sanction the killing of the unborn. But I can accept that this is a genuinely held, if theologically flawed, point of view.

Where I do take issue, is the idea that voters are being asked to uncritically accept the idea that the six year-old Chelsea had such a prodigious intellect that she was able to criticise the appropriateness of abortion as a topic in Sunday school and make a conscious decision to reject the Baptist church thanks to a theological difference of opinion. It stretches credulity to say the least.

A far more likely explanation is that upon being asked about what they learnt about in Sunday school that week, little Chelsea piped up something about abortion and Hilary whipped her out sharpish and promptly attempted to unpick any pro-life sentiment or ideas which may have taken root in the impressionable six year old’s brain.

How many, even precocious, six year-olds would really object to being given a pro-life point of view in Sunday school, believing that abortion was a vital necessity and one which could be supported by a certain interpretation of Scripture?

Either Chelsea’s recollection of events is distorted, or she is telling blatant untruths, but either way it displays an unhealthy narcissism. Does she genuinely expect voters to believe that hers is such a brilliant mind that she was able to critically engage with theology and the thorny issue of abortion as a six-year old? In effect she is saying, ‘I was so wise and wonderful, that I knew, even at the age of tender age of six, that abortion was a great, wonderful and necessary tool for women’s empowerment. I am descended from the great tribe of political and academic heavyweights, listen and look upon my mighty intellect, ye proles, and take heed’.

Where pro-lifers are wrong however, is to assume that if she is telling the truth, that this is evidence of abusive or bad parenting, on the basis that no six year-old ought to know about abortion. If that is the case, then the Baptist Church which was mentioning such things to six year olds, deserves criticism. Although pro-choicers like Chelsea, ought to be honest with themselves as to why? If abortion is simply more than a removal of unwanted tissue or cells, and not a real human being, then what is the problem with telling children about it, in similar terms to describing a tonsilectomy or other similar minor procedure?

I remember losing a glut of Facebook and Twitter followers, who were all ironically pro-choicers, who were appalled when I mentioned that I’d had to discuss abortion with my eldest child, who was about seven at the time. It was felt that children wouldn’t be old enough to fully understand abortion and therefore shouldn’t be told. Which is in itself an admission that there’s something more moral and fundamental at stake that just putting a stop to a pregnancy. There’s also the feeling from both pro-lifers and pro-choicers that the role of parents is to protect their children from life’s horrors, until they are able to contextualise them. Again, an implicit understanding that abortion is not a ‘nice’ thing or a suitable topic for children.

I was forced to broach the issue, albeit in very gentle terms, with my daughter when she was in Year two or three, simply because she could read. She saw a leaflet from a pro-life organisation that was kicking about the house and asked what the word meant. She also overhead an answerphone message from a media outlet inviting me on a show to discuss abortion.The final nail in the coffin was having to drive past large displays of graphic images outside Brighton’s abortion clinic. She could see for herself what they were. I don’t believe in lying to children, or treating them as though they are stupid, but answering their questions in age-appropriate ways. Ours is a household in which lots of things are discussed calmly and sensibly, without ever once inviting scorn or hatred upon people. My daughter’s school was taken over by the notoriously progressive Brighton College – therefore we found ourselves forced to broach certain difficult and taboo topics, living as we did in a hub of LGBT activism with a disproportionate amount of the population who reject heteronormatism.  It’s ironic that many of those who are campaigning for children to be taught sex-education including the topics of homosexuality and transgenderism in schools from the age of 5, are recoiling at the notion that children could be told about abortion.

It was perhaps inevitable that a child in my household would become exposed to the concept of abortion, although interestingly it hasn’t yet cropped up with my younger children, the oldest of whom is now also six. So I don’t blame Hilary Clinton for Chelsea’s exposure to pro-choice views from an early age, because to some extent this was inevitable, although I would question anyone, on either side of the debate, who decided to sit down and explain the concept of abortion with a young child. I don’t have a problem with taking young children to pro-life events, or even with them joining in with prayer vigils outside clinics – it can very simply be explained without having to go into the specifics of abortion.

Most children, when they learn about abortion, are naturally horrified. They know instinctively that it’s an abhorrent and upsetting thing, which is why caution needs to be exercised and the topic needs to be discussed sensitively.

The horror and disgust levelled at Hilary Clinton is because, if Chelsea is to be believed, then she must have put in quite a bit of work to overcome a young child’s natural revulsion and convince her that abortion is a perfectly acceptable act. Children instinctively look to their mothers to protect them, they understand that their mothers have carried them in their tummies and the thought that a mother might decide to kill or get rid of a baby in her tummy is the stuff of childish nightmares and anxieties, especially if they believe that it’s something that their own mother might do at some point.

Heaven knows, I have some terrible explaining of my own to do at some point, which is why I was so distressed to be so publicly outed and betrayed by a former friend about my own abortion, a few years ago.

But where we do need to be careful, is in our condemnation of Hilary for her supposed indoctrination of Chelsea. No matter how heinous her views, as a parent, she has every right to pass them down to her children, and tragically this seems to have been the case. Chelsea obviously feels immensely proud and privileged to have been the recipient of such an upbringing and that her mother did the right thing in imparting her views.

The rights of parents as primary educators of their children is integral to Catholic teaching and therefore it is hypocritical of us to attempt to abuse or denigrate others for exercising those very same rights that we lay claim to when it comes to our own  children. We don’t have to tolerate the ideas which others are passing on to their children, but we must respect others’ rights to educate their children into their own value system, with the proviso that these views do not encourage, condone or coerce vulnerable youngsters into acts of violent terrorism.

The same accusation of harm or abuse, that we could level at militant atheists or devoted pro-choicers, could and often is, similarly and far more frequently lobbied at those of us with religious and socially conservative views.

As a 35 year old mother, Chelsea Clinton has had ample opportunity to reflect upon the values instilled in her as a child and either accept or reject them. But her experience bears out what both Catholics and left-leaning socialists accept. The family remains the most powerful source of political and religious evangelism there is and a family who not only expresses, but also positively lives out their convictions or views without hypocrisy are infinitely more likely to pass them down to future generations.