Were you there?

As a parent there is nothing worse than watching your child when they are ill, especially when they are very young and unable to comprehend their pain and distress and you are unable to explain what is happening or verbally reassure. The feeling is one of utter powerlessness, you do what you can to physically comfort the child and alleviate the symptoms but it’s horrible to watch them suffer and not be able to help. Many is the time that I’ve asked the Lord whether I might suffer in their place, I think most parents, particularly those of terribly sick children, have. I don’t know a parent who would not commit an act of extreme self-sacrifice if it would relieve the suffering of their child.

I was reflecting upon this earlier when small person was lying pale, red-eyed and listlessly on the sofa, her racking cough vibrating through every fibre in her body and wrenching my heart-strings. I just wanted to take her pain away. I was thinking that there is nothing that I would not do, nothing that I would not be prepared to sacrifice, for the sake of my children.

My mind cast back to an excellent speculative article by Pete Hoskin in the Spectator about what will happen if the US defaults on its debt and I began to wonder whether to stock up on tinned goods and pre-paid money cards. I’m actually being quite serious. I began to think about how awful if would be if I could not manage to feed my children, as if in the unlikely event the US does default, things will swiftly unravel. Steve Hilton’s blue-sky thinking and lack of maternity leave could be the least of our worries. We could be facing the worst economic crisis in history, unless you have a useful manual trade, you’d be out of a job. Lengthy queues for soup kitchens would be commonplace. We’re talking austerity, poverty and hunger on a scale never experienced in recent history in the Western world. It’s terrifying stuff.

As I thought about how I would literally do almost anything to ensure my children did not starve, I looked at my baby who was happily guzzling a breastful of milk and my toddler snuggled next to me, happily occupied with trying to thread a string through some cotton reels. Smooth skin, soft cheeks, plump limbs, shining eyes and beaming smiles. Full bellies and plenty of energy to bat toys or concentrate on developing a new physical milestone, not emaciated protruding rib cages, swollen stomachs and stick-like bones sharply poking out through parchment skin and no energy to lift an arm and swat away the flies. No pitiful wails of hunger, no eyes clouded with pain, the whites turned yellow through malnutrition. I thought about how it must feel to literally have nothing to give your children to eat, have no clean water or sanitation and the tears would not stop. How it must feel to watch your children get sick and die in front of your eyes, to hold them tightly, to look at the expression of fear in their eyes, to desperately rock their painfully light and emaciated frame, but know that there was ultimately absolutely nothing you could do other than pray their death was painless.

The thought is beyond heart-breaking. If it happened to me, I would hope and pray that someone might take pity. I wouldn’t care about whether this was in my country’s best long term economic interests, all I would care about would be feeding my children and keeping them safe.

We bang on about equality, about rights, whilst doing very little to ensure true equality; namely that every single person in the world regardless of creed or colour has enough food to eat, clean water, shelter, basic medical healthcare and an opportunity to provide for themselves. Until that is achieved, then you can take all the other so-called spurious “rights” and stick them where the sun don’t shine. As long as one baby starves to death or suffers from malnutrition, I’m not going to give two hoots as to the percentage of women employed at board level or that Trevor and Justin are being denied their IVF surrogacy funding.

And because all day I’ve been getting myself rather overwrought by the obscenity that I have luxurious items whilst people are literally starving to death there’s going to be quite a few changes to the way we live and some sales on EBay.

One of the things that separates humanity is our ability and capacity for love and compassion. We don’t just let the weakest die and neither should we. If I ever find myself in the situation where my children are literally starving to death, I hope and pray that someone would do absolutely everything in their power to help. “Whatever you do for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do for me”.

To donate £5 to the Save the Children East Africa Appeal, text DONATE to 70555, lines close on 31 July.

To donate £5 to Christian Aid East Africa Appeal, text AFRICA to 70800

Naming of parts

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring.

I have been toying with the idea of blogging a rather amusing incident which occurred around the dinner table last week as a bit of light relief, it’s the moment every parent dreads.

By way of background, small person (aged 7) understands the following by way of “sex ed”. Babies are made by ‘special cuddles’ which you can only have once you get married. During the ‘special cuddle’ the man gives the woman some seed which joins with her eggs to make a baby. (Not a stork or a gooseberry bush in sight).

Small Person (SP): Did you have a special cuddle and make a baby last night?

Husband spits food. 

Me (po-faced): No darling, why?

SP: I just wondered. Are you going to make one tonight?

DH: No darling we’re not. We are going to wait until the baby is older before we think about making another one.

SP: Well you’d better make sure that you don’t give mummy any seed by accident. Because that’s what happened last time. You said “Whoops, oh look I’ve accidentally given you some seed”.

Adults snigger

SP: So what happens when you have a special cuddle?

Exchange of panicked glances

Me (attempted sotto voce): Is this the part where we fetch the banana and the condom?

SP: What’s that mummy? Bananas?

Me: Nothing

Toddler (eyes lighting up): Narna, narna, narna. (pointing insistently and leaning out of high chair) Narna. NARNA! NARNA! NARNA! NARNAAAAAA!

Me (in manic tone of voice): WELL DONE!!! You said banana. CLEVER girl!! Oooh would you like a banana darling, lovely, see, look mummy will peel it for you. Would you like one too small person, you can have some ice-cream to go with it if you like.

SP: Yes please. Anyway mummy…

Raises eyes heavenwards

SP: What happens when you have special cuddles? (Inquistively) Describe it!

Hysterical and nervous laughter and exchange of glances

SP: (plaintively) Don’t laugh at me!

DH: (pulls himself together and adopts serious tone) Sorry darling, we didn’t meant to laugh at you. It’s important that you feel you can ask us whatever you want. What did you want to know exactly?

SP: How the baby is made!

Me: Ah well….cue lots of explanations about seed being called sperm, looking like tadpoles, losing tails, how the eggs don’t have shells, promising to get out pregnancy books and look up some pictures on the internet so she can see the sperm merging with the egg and the baby being formed and pictures of the baby growing in utero. Stuff that she already knows, but perhaps needs refreshing.

DH: Anything else you wanted to know

SP: What is the baby thinking when it’s in mummy’s tummy then.

More general discourse, followed by:

SP: But what if there were one hundred eggs and one hundred sperm, you’d have one hundred babies

DH: (reddening slightly) Well that wouldn’t happen because although mummy has lots of eggs, she only releases one a month, sometimes ladies release two which is when they have twins as you know, or if the egg, once the sperm has joined it splits in half.

SP: Oh right, anyway what time is my bedtime tonight.

DH: (sensing we’ve made a bit of a pigs ear) One thing though darling, you must always ask us if you’ve got questions and we’ll do our best to answer, we’re sorry if we laughed at you, we were just a bit surprised. One thing we didn’t tell you is that when husbands and wives have special cuddles they don’t wear any clothes.


Bullet dodged. For now. Admittedly that wasn’t handled quite as well as it could have been and we are now scouring the bookstores for some appropriate material.

It’s probably time for Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to you-know-what.

Poetics, politics and polemics

I wonder what epithet will be applied to this year? 2011: The Summer of Lies? With public interest in phone-hacking having reached saturation point, the spotlight has turned back onto Johann Hari, who, it can reasonably be inferred, is about to be stripped of his 2008 Orwell Prize for Journalism.

In order to pre-empt and diffuse the inevitable renewal of interest in this story, David Allen Green reminded everyone that Johann Hari is reported as being in a fragile mental state and reminded Hari’s employers at the Independent that they had a duty of care towards him, as well as suggesting that a renewed feeding frenzy and Schadenfreude would not be the most compassionate response. Indeed Guy Walters, Damian Thompson,and David Allen Green (in a later post), all assert that questions need to be asked of the editors of the Independent.

I would agree. It seems to me that all newspaper editors need to be reminded of their duties of responsibility to both their readership and their young journalists. Factual inaccuracies should not be allowed to be passed off as truth.

As I said a few days previously, I was incensed by the lack of judgement on behalf of the New Statesman in relation to Laurie Penny’s article. What Laurie had done was to base her entire article around two lies, entirely unnecessarily. The points she wished to make could have been equally well articulated without needing to resort to untruths. These untruths were nothing more than assumptions or suppositions, ones that needed further explanation and examination and should not have been allowed to be printed unchallenged as truth.

This is important, not because of the issue that was under discussion, but because people still tend to believe and trust in the kind of journalism and opinion pieces of reputable and quality publications. Critique and criticism is vital but it must be based on truth, otherwise any debate and discussion will be meaningless, and any change or reforms brought about by such debate will be misconceived and ineffectual.

I confess to having experienced a touch of Schadenfreude having watched what happened to Johann Hari, because his writing indirectly contributed to a great deal of the abuse and haranguing I received on-line for my defence of Catholicism. In the run up to the Papal visit of last September, acres of column inches were devoted to attacking the Pope, the Vatican, the Holy See and Catholicism in general, not only for the child-abuse scandal, but also in relation to Catholic doctrine regarding sexual ethics. Ill-informed anti-catholic propaganda was being peddled across the media and the internet, anti-catholicism was seen as an acceptable prejudice and catholics everywhere were being pounced upon if they dared to speak up in support of their faith and their pontiff. There was concern that this prejudice had the capacity to turn violent.

I experienced this on-line, to some extent I still do. In the run up to the Papal visit, I commented that David Cameron seemed very enthusiastic to welcome the Pope and capture and explore the Catholic teaching on social justice, he was keen to draw parallels between his big society and Catholic social teaching. By pointing this out and generally defending the Pope’s visit, it was claimed that I was manic and on the edge of a mental breakdown.

In the midst of all this Johann Hari published an article chock full of inaccuracies in which he stated Catholics who supported the papal visit were “cheering a man who facilitated the rape of your children” and that to to support him was to endorse “his crimes and cruelties”. It was nothing other than libelous offensive rhetoric based upon his own irrational prejudices. Hari smeared and slandered the Pope offering absolutely no evidence for his assertions, other than alluding to a canon law document that he clearly did not understand, nor was going to take the trouble to interpret (several canon law specialists could have explained and contextualised it to him) and some cases of child abuse in the US, which had absolutely no links to the Pope whatsoever, but were great for upping the emotional ante and outrage. Thomas Bridge competently fisks the article here.

This article was syndicated everywhere, even the Daily Mail published it, and it was responsible for a surge of criticism. Catholics everywhere were dismayed by Hari’s distortions, his hysteria and his patronising language. Hari’s implications were clear. Catholics were obviously very stupid if kindly and generally benign individuals who didn’t understand their own religion. Hari would condescendingly deign to explain to them what the Gospels really meant, what Jesus would really think and he would have absolutely no problem with them being Catholics, so long as they didn’t agree with a large portion of their Church’s teaching and they attempted to get their leader arrested on his say-so. “Catholics, I implore you” he bleated. If Catholics didn’t agree with him, they were either ignorant, bigots or defenders of child abuse, probably a mixture of all three, but to be despised at any rate.

I had this article sent to me countless times. “Look Caroline, look, see what your pope has done, Johann Hari says it here and he’s always so right about everything. It’s the Independent, they are never biased, why are you so blind, why can’t you look and see”…Bleurgh. It did nothing for the morning sickness. Someone went so far as to say “you would stand by, watch a priest rape your daughter and do absolutely nothing about it. In fact you’d probably encourage it and then blame or disbelieve your daughter”. Somewhat unsurprisingly I snapped.

Since then I’ve never been particularly disposed to our Mr Hari. His polemics were too emotive and too sanctimonious by half and I could never be sure exactly how trustworthy they were, given his propensity to twist the facts. If anyone tried to engage with him, to point out the factual errors and ask him to consider alternative points of view then he simply blocked them. He wrote an article in a similar vein about Muslims, about how Muslim women needed to be shown what their faith really meant, how they needed to have it properly explained to them.

He seemed to suffer from a condition coined by the Curt Jester – homophobia-phobia. An irrational fear or aversion to homophobia, a contagion which seems to be spreading across the press. He wrote another article, beautifully disseminated by Quiet Riot Girl here, about homophobic bullying. Anyone who had any opposition to the notion of gay marriage or of two homosexual people buying into heterosexual norms of marriage and family and objecting to same-sex couples’ use of surrogacy had the blood of dead schoolchildren on their hands. Again, I was sent this article countless times, in some sort of effort to make me change my evil and abhorrent views. (Just to point out, I am categorically NOT homophobic, I have no fear, aversion or hatred of people with same-sex attraction; I defend the Catholic position and the vast majority of my time I have much better things to think about than the sexual peccadilloes, whatever they might be, of other people.).

I wrote about Hari’s ill-conceived campaign to attempt to persuade people to give up a benefit which they are yet to be granted, which grated for several reasons. The response was to cry “Homophobe!”, something of a non-sequitur and a link to said article on homophobic bullying together with a threat to run and snitch to Hari about my “twisted lifestyle”.

My beef with Johann Hari was how he twisted the truth to suit his own ends. Hari is a great writer. His rhetoric has a hypnotic and compelling quality. I can see how easy it is to be drawn into his narrative, but what is infuriating is that The Independent allowed him a platform from which to speak unchecked. The very fact that they were willing to publish him, cemented his reputation amongst his equally young, ideological and gullible readership, who understandably thought that his work had been edited and fact-checked. The Independent with their high standards of journalism wouldn’t publish falsehoods would they? Lately Hari seemed to be on a collision course, almost everything he wrote was critiqued somewhere, he would write lengthy polemics and have an opinion on almost anything, with very little factual grasp of the subject matter in hand, as Tim Worstall demonstrated when he laid into him for his misunderstanding of economics.

Any criticism of Hari was put down to either homophobia, jealousy of his status or age or simply due to opposing ideology, he was the great St Hari, the great campaigner, his views were sacrosanct. I think people were simply over-awed by both his Cambridge degree, his undoubted passion, however misguided, and his complex prose – full of obscure words and neologisms. Ironically I rather enjoyed his interviews, it seemed to me that this was the most honest aspect of his work, the notion of plagiarism did not occur. For those of us who do occasionally get our work published elsewhere, Hari’s actions are galling. I meticulously check everything before submitting work that is going to be published either on another website, or in print. I had nightmares about receiving a lawsuit from George Weigel prior to my piece in the Catholic Herald on John Paul 2 at Easter, given that I had relied on his biography for historical background.

As for Hari’s alleged sock-puppetry on Wikipedia, that is serious matter, as it could, if left unchecked or unedited have ruined lives and reputations. Johann is obviously extremely fragile and pathologically unable to handle any sort of criticism at all. He seems to have become dependent upon his reputation, to crave the glory, the pundits, the accolades and the fame. Who can blame him? It must be heady stuff and it seems that without it, his life is empty, devoid of meaning. There is an irony in the winner of the Orwell Prize covertly operating his own Ministry of Truth.

I said on Jack of Kent’s blog that Hari is a modern day tragic hero, a Henchard or Lear of our time. The Greek word hamartia or tragic flaw is especially apt given that it can encapsulate accident or mistake, as well as error or wrongdoing. I hope that like a tragic hero he can find his redemption and we our catharsis.

I think Johann Hari still has a career, he certainly has the makings of a novelist or even a poet about him. Sir Philip Sidney held that poetry should be mimetic, that it should imitate

” it is a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth–to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture–with this end, to teach and delight…the poets only ever deliver a golden”.

Hari was certainly an artist or word-smith and in the words of Wilde. “No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did he would cease to be an artist.”

I think similar could be levelled at Laurie Penny, who is of an ilk to Hari and for whom concern has been expressed, her highly controversial writing often results with her at the receiving end of personal attack, although she has not been particularly circumspect on her attacks on other people; recent examples include praising Amy Winehouse for spitting at Pippa Middleton and calling Damian Thompson a pathetic excuse for humanity.

Both Hari and Laurie must be seen more as artists than journalists, it can be the only explanation as to why they are allowed so much poetic licence and not pulled up on their loose and sloppy reporting of facts. They want to spin a narrative, create a golden, a talking picture, one that corresponds with their own world view.

Like Philip Sidney, the young courtier to Queen Elizabeth, both have “great expectations” placed upon them, due to their age and stratospheric rise. Like Sidney, Hari must be thinking:

For since mad March great promise made of me,
If now the May of my years much decline,
What can be hoped my harvest time will be?”
Like Sidney’s Astrophil, Johann Hari has written himself into a corner. If Laurie Penny wishes to avoid a similar fate and extend her influence beyond her coterie, she needs to accept like Sidney, her “young mind marred” and appreciate, unlike Hari, that words may be “right, healthful caustics“.

In words like weeds

“In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold”

If he were writing today I wonder if Tennyson might have written “In Tweets like weeds”? The sentiment is as applicable to the group Internet mentality today as it was to a private individual mourning the death of his beloved friend in 1833.

Via the medium of twitter we can all express our sadness at the tragic and untimely death of Amy Winehouse. In 140 characters we pour out our horror at the events in Oslo. In one concise phrase we encapsulate the suffering of the victims of the famine in Sudan. A brief moment spent reading the profound thoughts of others, adding our sentiments before moving on.

Immersed in Twitter, armoured by words we don’t really have to think too deeply. We don’t need to engage on a meaningful level and yet we can live tragedies vicariously. These past few weeks have felt seminal, there’s been a palpable seismic shift in attitudes, Twitter has broken news and formed views.

Events seem blown out of all proportion. A very talented young woman has been found dead. The BBC has just devoted well over an hour’s coverage on News 24, interviewing amongst others, the owner of her local restaurant where she would sometimes pop in for a take-away or the bloke who struck up a friendship with her on holiday.

It is sad. We can all feel like we’re caught up in some major world event and whilst getting wrapped up in the superficial grief (and it is superficial, unless you knew her, how can it be anything else) we can experience the modern day version of a Greek tragedy via the news with Twitter cast into the role of the chorus.

Wrapped in the validation of others we feel less alone and by looking to what others say we feel more confident and secure in our own opinions. We don’t have to focus on our own mortality, we can procrastinate by dwelling on the death of another in a maudlin, narcissistic fashion. By expressing “grief” for a total stranger, we are admitting and projecting our grief and terror of our own mortality.

And if Tweets are today’s widow’s weeds, we must ask why we need them, why do we look for shelter in the virtual, not the real? What has happened today is not real, in the sense that it is not going to affect us beyond evoking sympathy and regret. What is going to affect us, what is of real value and worth is how we live our lives, for Christians how we live out the Gospel, where we see suffering and loss, what are going to do in practical and meaningful terms to alleviate, comfort and soothe the pain, tragedy and grief that we see all around us, not just on the TV or internet. That has to go beyond the self-indulgent “how do I feel about this”, “how may I express it”, on-line self affirming group hug.

Time to go beyond the verbiage.

“Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within”.

Particularly when they are limited to 140 characters.

The new conchies?

Monday’s Guardian reports that an increasing number of doctors are refusing to perform abortions on pregnant women, which goes some way to explaining why the NHS feel the need to outsource the provision to private providers.

A study in the Journal of Medical Ethics reports that “almost a third of students would not perform an abortion for a congenitally malformed foetus after 24 weeks, a quarter would not perform an abortion for failed contraception before 24 weeks and a fifth would not perform an abortion on a minor who was the victim of rape,”

The Guardian goes on to report “The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has voiced concern about the “slow but growing problem of trainees opting out of training in the termination of pregnancy and is therefore concerned about the abortion service of the future”.

Ann Furedi takes the infuriatingly liberal and patronising line that these young doctors are clearly young, ill-educated ideologues in need of training in order to make them more right-thinking. She guesses that “students may not be required to engage much with the reasons why a woman may find herself with an unwanted pregnancy” and goes on to assert the “need to ensure that young doctors understand why women need abortions”.

She assumes that the reason why doctors may not wish to perform abortions is because they are somehow casting judgement on the woman’s character and doesn’t wish to entertain the idea that perhaps doctors are uncomfortable with performing unnecessary abortion procedures, because they recognise that it is the destruction of life, something which they are bound to protect.

Having already introduced the idea that refusing abortion might be all about the irrational prejudices of doctors, the article goes on to consolidate this, by conflating the issue of abortion, with that of whether or not patients with drink or drug related problems should be treated, quoting selectively from the Chair of the GMC . “It is not acceptable to opt out of treating a particular patient or group of patients because of personal beliefs or views about them, for example if they misuse drugs or alcohol,” said Dr Peter Rubin, the GMC’s chair.”

The issue of abortion is entirely unrelated to what a doctor might think about their patient, it is disingenuous to link the idea of being opposed to the destruction of human life and thus refuse to carry out a procedure to kill another, to that of moral judgement upon an individual and the circumstances in which they may find themselves. A refusal to participate in abortion does not amount to any sort of moral judgement as to how that woman became pregnant or the reasons behind her decision. It is more an absolutist principle as to the ethics of abortion.

The Department of Health said: “Patients’ clinical needs always come first, and practising doctors understand this. It is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief and the law does not entitle people to apply such beliefs in a way which impinges upon other people, even if they claim that their religion or belief requires them to act in this way.”

The concept of clinical need is clearly a highly subjective one, does a woman wishing to have an abortion for social reasons constitute a “clinical need”? What would happen to her medically if she could not have the procedure? In most cases, the answer physically is nothing, any adverse effect would arise out of her own intervention, although mental health is undeniably a factor when it comes to assessing issues of clinical need. Could the mental distress and anguish at not being able to procure abortion be enough to compel the patient to harm herself and would the harm outweigh the harm done to the unborn child?

The problem with the abortion law is that it casts the doctor into the role of moral arbiter, as with any other treatment. A person can’t simply demand a specific course of action because that is what they have already deemed appropriate. What constitutes clinical need will always be a highly subjective affair and thus talk of “why women need abortions” is nothing more than pro-abort propaganda. I fail to see why doctors would be any less aware than the rest of the population as to why an abortion might seem to be a solution. Aren’t they taught these things in school these days? Or is it that Ms Furedi feels that the message has clearly not permeated through the thick skulls of those who are studying for one of the most competitive, intellectually rigorous and academically selective professions? Doctors will be the ones taking these decisions so they need to be shown which are the right ones? Bit rich coming from someone who can hardly claim to be the most impartial on the matter.

What interests me is that whenever abortion is discussed, the inevitable polemic consisting of “you can’t force me to carry a baby to term against my will, ” comes into play. If this is the case, why is it then deemed acceptable to force a clinician to physically perform a procedure that is against their will?

Fortunately the GMC also reminds practitioners that the 1967 Abortion Act permits that ‘no person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in the treatment authorised in this Act to which he has a conscientious objection’.

Furthermore the case of Janaway v Salford Health Authority All England Law Rep 1988 Dec 1;[1988] 3:1079-84 set a precedent and defined participation as ‘actually taking part in treatment designed to terminate a pregnancy’.

My suspicion is that students are opting out of the training in order that they don’t need to get involved in ever performing an abortion or being put in the position whereby they may need to exercise their conscience. Much easier to say “I can’t do that, I’m not qualified”.

It would be interesting to note, should a test case ever come up,which way the ECHR might fall on this, particularly in the light of last week’s announcement; the battle has already been won, although it seems as though there are some who would like to pursue this.

The UK has a brave and noble tradition of conscientious objectors. Long may it continue.


<a href="This website also discusses the “problem” and suggests that students need to be “triaged” for unhelpful beliefs. How very sinister. It seems that the conchie, the person who refuses to be coerced by the state into killing another, is as relevant and as pressing a “problem” now, as it was over 70 years ago.

Charitable? Call me Bernard.

The Right to Know campaign released a report yesterday with evidence highlighting the theme of this blog for quite some time, namely that abortion providers are in this for the profit.

Here are some salient figures:

In 1991 the NHS funded 9,197 abortions carried out by the private sector.

By 2010 that figure had risen to 111,775 – an increase of over 1100%.

In 1991 the NHS funded 10% of abortions carried out by the private sector.

By 2010 that figure had risen to 93%.

In 1991 the NHS funded 84,369 abortions.

By 2010 that figure had more than doubled to 181,304.

The growth of NHS-funded but privately provided abortions entirely accounted for this increase.

As noted last week, BPAS’s statement of aims to the Charity Commission outlines its wishes to extend both the scope and the amount of its NHS contracts; in its Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2009-2010 it notes the following achievements:

• “The attainment of an additional 2,400 NHS procedures in calendar year 2009 compared to 2008.

• An increase of more than 3,000 procedures at less than 9 weeks gestation in calendar year 2009 compared to 2008.

• A key role in the development of DH policy regarding the commission and provision of abortion services.”

The Business Plan for 2010-2011 sets out the following:

Our key aim is to:

Develop further our use of the internet and multimedia to market services.

Identify opportunities and develop strategies for expansion…

Generate a surplus of £2m, before depreciation and refurbishment costs, to support further investment in our services, and move towards reinstating a cash reserve.

All seems very business-like to me. It’s all about growing a business, absolutely nothing different there from the stuff you’d read in the annual accounts of any PLC. The report also contains descriptions of free marketing materials handed out to doctors surgeries as well the copy of a job description for a Business Development Manager. Their primary responsibility would be to “promote the growth of business and income generation within the region” and to “actively source and develop new business (private and NHS). Other duties include “to undertake local marketing and public relations activities” and to “work in conjunction with the Business Development department to meet business needs”. The successful candidate should ideally posses “A diploma and experience in sales and marketing”.

The word charity is conspicuously absent, not appearing once in the job specification. For all of the whining that these are charities motivated by altruism, not the dirty word of “profit”, it would seem that BPAS doesn’t even think of itself as a charity, the language being purely corporate speak. It’s about brand, marketing and image as drivers for new business.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with charities organising themselves around business models, in fact it makes sense to ensure that you have your marketing and finances in order to maximise revenue streams. Private schools often take a lot of criticism for their charitable status, as like BPAS and MSI they are not-for-profit. It is recognised that private schools are run as businesses, for the benefit of the institution in order to be self-sustaining for many years into the future. The difference is that an argument may be made for the public benefit of private schools. The parents of pupils who attend private schools effectively pay double for their child’s education, both in school fees and in taxes and remove the burden of the cost from the state. Private schools also now have to demonstrate how they benefit the wider community and so facilities must be made available to state schools and more scholarships and bursaries available to those who would not otherwise be able to benefit.

Without getting into an ideological debate about the public/private school system, there is at least a case that might be made for private schools to retain their charitable status. I fail to see how any sort of case might be made in the case of BPAS or MSI. What public benefit do they provide? They don’t offer free abortions to those who are unable to access the NHS for whatever reason, the vast majority of their abortions are paid for by the NHS, they are simply an organisation to whom the NHS outsource. Why does the NHS outsource in this way? The answer is that fewer and fewer doctors wish to be involved in performing abortion and exercise their right of conscientious objection, something that the previous government tried its hardest to overturn.

Their aims are to increase the numbers of those having abortions on a year on year basis. How on earth may that be said to be in the public benefit, unless of course you are some sort of eugenicist. BPAS are profiting from human misery. “Oh but they provide other services too, like contraception”. And what happens when the contraception invariably fails, where will the user come back to?

Laurie Penny asks why profit is an unacceptable vested interest when it comes to the provision of healthcare services? Because this is women’s lives and the lives of their unborn children. Because, unlike in other situations, the client needs to make a choice whether to accept intervention or not. In almost every case the woman will not die from lack of intervention.A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy needs care and support, not coercion and sales messages. Whatever she does this is going to have an impact on the rest of her life and thus if she is confused about what course of action she should take, no organisation which stands to make money from one particular outcome should be in the position of advising her. Besides which the issue of abortion is a cross-party one, there are many who feel that private providers should play no part in the NHS.

As an aside, Lord Alton is currently lobbying the government in order to ascertain precisely how much money is spent outsourcing abortions to private providers every year. The government say they have no idea as to the figures, they have not kept any records. If these figures are published, they should make very interesting reading.

Not everyone is motivated by profit but no doubt Ann Furedi’s salary package is commensurate with her helping BPAS to achieve their stated aims in expanding the number of abortions carried out every year and generating a £2 million profit. It can hardly be surprising that they are vehemently opposing any measures that might reduce their revenue streams.

It’s amazing what passes as charity these days. What is clear is that for BPAS the word charity means nothing more than a favourable tax status, one that is highly dubious, given that BPAS exists simply to sustain itself and grow its business to abort ever increasing numbers of unborn children. A business that seeks to take taxpayers money to provide “healthcare” , a business who has rid itself of an unprofitable pension scheme, a business who seeks to make a £2 million profit, off the back of women’s misery, none of which will be spent on providing any sort of free services, is a charity? It’s as much a charity as I am an ordained Catholic priest called Bernard.