What’s the plan, Stan?

So, I said I’d do one final post, before a break of a few weeks, and here it is. As will become obvious I do want comments to continue to pour in as I think that this could actually prove very constructive.

Let’s be honest. There is no coherent pro-life movement in the UK. I have spent hours pouring over pro-choice literature, academic studies, political analysis, I follow them like a hawk on social media and I have to concede they are expert operators with cogent strategies, smooth PR machines who are able to drive headlines and influence public opinion. I know one or two people who have attended their meetings incognito. I’ve thought about doing the same, with the addition of a black wig and my glasses. What I have been told is that the pro-choice lobby are friendly, very well-organised and above all democratic, transparent and accountable.

What do we have to counter that? A disparate bunch of well-meaning squabblers, and I admit in some respects I may not have helped, but it pains me beyond belief to see the mess our side are in; whilst we squabble, bicker and fight, countless die.

I know all the arguments about Catholic teaching, about Christian teaching and so on and so forth, there is a time and a place to evangelise and I don’t simply mean in Church, but trying to base legislation upon Biblical, Scriptural or Magisterial Authority has not worked since before the Enlightenment. I think we have to draw an important distinction between Christian evangelisation and attempting to achieve our goals. Of course the two are inexorably linked and should complement and support each other, but campaigning for the dignity of the unborn and sick and elderly does not necessitate or require theology or biblical exegesis. We can draw on that to other Christians or in the course of general apologetics, but appealing to God, whilst trying to convince an atheist as to the horror of abortion, or why it is not right to put to death terminally ill or elderly people, is simply not going to wash.

It seems to me we have two options:

Option one

We all agree that I am a cheeky bumptious upstart who has no business sticking her opinionated nose into pro-life politics. If I want to do something I can rattle some collecting tins in Church, attend coffee mornings, bake cakes for pro-life charity sales, maybe do a bit of typing for the Pro-Life times or some such, but generally get back to my life of witness by continuing to have as many babies as I can until my uterus falls out.

In the meantime, the internecine squabbling continues, positions are more firmly entrenched than ever before, pro-life groups carry on doing what they’ve always done, groups are as polarised as ever before, John Smeaton retires in ten years time and passes on the family firm to his son, whilst LIFE carry on doing what they do. Both groups do some things well, but no real progress is made, things just tick on as before, it’s all about the damage limitation.

In the meantime, Dorries pushes for the 20 week reduction and fails miserably, much to the cheers of her detractors. Bouyed up by Nadine’s failure, the pro-choice lobby, decide to push on with their agenda, the requirement for the second doctor’s signature is removed, pro-life groups are no longer allowed to present in schools and are barred from carrying out any pregnancy counselling. Marie Stopes and BPAS build more and more clinics, abortion numbers go up, more sex education is thought to be the solution, more condoms and morning after pills are given out and so the cycle continues. Who knows, they may challenge for an overturning of the abortion pill to be administered in a clinic and will probably start hawking mobile abortion services, or even dial-an-abortion whereby a woman can have her consultation over the phone and the pill delivered by courier.

In short, doom and death.

Option 2

How about a meeting? (I won’t come, I promise, I’ll be too busy skulking or giving birth or something, besides I don’t want to be lynched by anyone). I know this seems incredible, I know we aren’t going to get x, y and z to actually sit down together in a room and begin to talk, dear me no, that could never happen could it, because of things that happened 20 years ago.

How about a team of professional mediators and ALL the major pro-life players and when I say ALL, I mean ALL? Not just representatives from SPUC, LIFE, Right-to-Life, but everyone, from people like Peter Saunders, to John Smeaton, Jack Scarisbrick, to Phyllis Bowman, Josephine Quintavelle, Ed Rennie, heck even Lord Alton, EVERYONE, lets get them all together to sit down, agree common goals and talk, to see where we can all go from here.

What I would love to see is a consolidation of all groups, – one huge group with different arms and focuses, say a euthanasia arm, an education arm, an outreach arm, a political arm, a research arm and so on and so forth. Consolidation has to be the name of the game in this day and age. It’s a clunky analogy but look at the airline industry. All the little airlines could not survive single handedly, routes were being duplicated, losses were being made and so we’ve seen some mergers in order to ensure survival. I know that the pro-life movement is not a business, but surely if we had one movement, one that was democratic, transparent and accountable, then certainly Catholics would know to whom to donate in good faith, as would Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, people of all faiths and none. We seem to have so much duplication and wastage and yet no coherent strategy.

I know there are so many thorny issues to be thought through, I know there are many competing egos, but surely with professional mediators and then with the help of management consultants (sorry, but they would need to be a prerequisite) we could take stock of the resources and expertise available, consolidate and move forward? I know there are issues such as LIFE only do non-directive counselling and really Catholics must tell people the truth that abortion is the killing of a baby and morally wrong, but surely there has to be areas of consensus and commonality?

I really don’t think we can carry on as we are, it’s 2012, it’s time to finally sort this mess out, and getting everyone together in a room seems a good place to start. If the Irish peace process can manage to get Gerry Adams and David Trimble around the table, then there’s hope for all of us.

Which brings me to something that I’ve always wanted to do. One of those poll jobbies. Over to you. What do you think? Maybe the first thing we can organise is that long overdue rally?

11 thoughts on “What’s the plan, Stan?

  1. The only person who has sufficient clout to “invite” the major players to a meeting is the Archbishop of Westminster. This would, of course, tar the enterprise with a “Catholic” brush, but it seems to me that this would be the least of our worries. We certainly aren’t “fine as we are”.

    (Perhaps ++Vincent jointly with a prominent lay figure, but who?)

  2. It seems none of you attended Viva la Vida at World Youth Day. Jaw dropping experience, everyone should attend one, british pilgrims should be made to go and this should be brought urgently to the UK and be taught to British young people. Speakers included representatives from mostly all CBR (The center of Bio Ethical Reform) including Ireland – and all the wonderful work they are doing to keep Ireland abortion free, USA with Lila Rose (must youtube her) who is famous for her undercover work to Planned Parenthood and currently going de-funding by government ( the marie stopes of UK) and Poland who has successfully (and partially) overturned the abortion law in their country by gaining public acceptance that abortion is what it is: gruesome. http://www.abort67.co.uk/about-abort67/cbr-worldwide.html

    There I spoke to Andy, head of Abort67 and asked him: Where are the other abortion charities of the UK? Life, Spuc etc – apparently they don’t agree with showing graphic images to the public. However and unfortunately, this is the truth about abortion and society, education, abortion clinics and even policies have fabricated such a lie around the abortion business that it is only with the crude reality of what abortion is, when people will start changing their opinion in that this killing of babies is simply not right.

    Here are a few articles about Viva la Vida: http://ukpilgrims.com/?s=viva+la+vida&submit=Search

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDRJLgoiVqc – Lila Rose – Madrid
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsB4pD-122A – flash mob – quite funny – madrid

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9Zj9yx2j0Y – live action undercover Planned Parenthood Manager Offers to Help Sex Ring, Gets Fired

  3. I don’t think you can have a unified, uniform movement, or should, because

    a) large centralised organisations lose accountability and become bland (have you read Joyce McMillan’s comment on Salmond’s being named Briton of the Year?)

    b) similarly, different groups do different things, different parts of the country are different in their make-up, and trying to put them all groups together would simply destroy their independence (compare, for example, the Cardinal Winning Initiative and Good Counsel, or SPUC and SPUC Scotland) – by the same argument, there is a place for slick giant “brands”.

    c) there is a place for the Gospel in pro-life campaigning, obviously, but equally obviously not every organisation is or should be Catholic as an organisation – you would, it seems, have one giant organisation that was not professedly Catholic, thus cutting out the gospel completely from the field of pro-life work proper to lay people.

    I was reading recently an article featuring the head of the Polish Federation of Pro-Life groups, and he was saying, sensibly it seems to me, that the diversity of groups working in Poland is something good and effective – each approach reaches different people. In Poland also lay people have more than once stopped the bishops from supporting dodgy proposed legislation, explaining to them why it is wrong and not in accord with Catholic moral teaching. They didn’t have some cunning strategy, they were just wrong, and changed their minds when it was shown to them (in person, not by blog). This is the country where public support for a total ban on abortion for any reason has been growing and growing. So they must be doing something right.

  4. Although I’ve gone with the ’round the table option’, I agree with Berenike: the aim shouldn’t be to have just unified group. But there should be (at least) an absence of rancour between the groups and as much strategic co-operation as possible.

  5. I think getting everyone together to talk sensibly (and with professional help if necessary) would be a good move.

    I do not think that need or should result in one large organisation, for many of the reasons Berenike cites.

    But it would be a vast improvement if they could agree what their different areas of operation were, collaborate and co-operate where appropriate, and above all stop inter-necine squabbling.

    But there are huge issues that would probably prevent any real convergence even at a strategic level. For example: should we attempt to limit abortion (eg reduce the time limits) or only support complete abolition?

    I would add the Anscombe Centre to the list of invitees – possibly at the head of it…

    BTW I love your poll options!

  6. We will NEVER get some of those people to agree with each other – a meeting with that as an agenda will be a waste of time. We need another group that can work with all the others – in this way uniting our efforts. This other group should work on two aspects- legal and philosophical. There should be a study done of the UK and other European Constitutions and a debate amongst anyone who wants to participate on the kind of society/community we want (rather like Cameron’s “Big Society” but not that). In this debate abortion should not be mentioned at the outset but we should consider what we mean by “human life” and “human rights”. At the back of this debate we need some dedicated pro-life philosophers and lawyers – people who really know what they are talking about. We then need a new “Human Life Charter” which all pro-life groups should accept and adopt. Then this charter should be presented to the European Parliament and then to the UK Government. In the event of the charter being rejected, the “other” group should then become the association for the charter on human life and rights and then begin a world-wide education campaign. Personally I believe the pro-life arguments, when properly marshaled, are unassailable. The disunity of the pro-life groups is bad news – VERY bad news, but we need to move on in a different direction.

  7. Caroline

    I have enjoyed reading your thoughts over the last few days, on the variety of topics. While I prefer to put my energy into producing Liturgical Resources, I do have some thoughts that are relevant, but I would prefer to use e-mail; Can you e-mail me so I will have your e-mail address.

  8. pick a policy change, build the evidence and launch a focused campaign. Just get on with it!! Don’t obsess with structures or laws or what other organisations have or have not done. That’s the past. It doesn’t have to be perfect and no matter what you do, never will be, so what’s stopping you.

    When it comes to abortion in the UK it’s numbers that matter, that is and always has been the important issue. But anti-abortion campaigners, have always, always focused on the law and have failed to win much public support in doing so. Most importantly of all, don’t feel like you have to ask permission to campaign in this area.

    here’s someone who has done just that on a slightly different subject – http://www.bringbackbritishrail.org/

    feel free to drop me a line by email.

  9. Talking is always good, provided people listen to one another with humility.

    There is a very important aspect that can only be done by those of faith. Sometimes these campaigns become driven around outcomes and all effort goes into techniques of persuading people. This is a very important aspect but there needs to be more.

    The Eco Thoeologian, Edward Echlin has said that on the environment the most important thing to do is to teach people to love Creation and to meditate on Christ’s life in relation to the natural world. His book are full of beautiful descriptions of the area around Nazareth and Gallilee. Working my allotment or contemplating Christ sitting in an olive grove motivate me to look closely at my relationship to Creation and my motivation becomes about my love of God and the gift of the World he has given.

    There needs to be something done about how we talk, as churches/ religious organisations about life. To speak about, meditate on and live out the fact that life is a gift from the God who loves us and is about bringing us into life in all its fullness is to combat the attitude that says “Life is what I make it. I can choose to do what I like to who I like.” Now it might already already be being done, but even the way Christians talk about their life and faith sometimes displays more of a western, consumer mentality than a Christian one of being aware of the sacredness of life and of life being a gift.

    What better time to start this contemplation than as Christmas moves into Epiphany when God Incarnate is seen for who he is.

  10. Interesting post. I honestly think 40days for life london has it right. We just need prayer and to take 30 mins out of our day to attend a vigil and peacefully campaign. We don’t need banners. We just need to show the world that we, as pro lifers, are broken to the core by what has been insidiously termed ‘a medical procedure’.

    1. Hi John G. Here are my thoughts on your comment. Starting with “We just need prayer” Firstly Jesus didn’t command us to pray when it came to issues of injustice he commanded us to act. This is why he commends the Good Samaritan for doing something. He could have told the parable having the Good Samaritan preach the gospel to the beating victim or sit and pray with him. I suspect the priest and the Levite may well have prayed as they hurried past but Jesus is after something more costly and he tells us to “go and do likewise.” Half an hour of praying outside an abortion clinic may make US feel better about the problem but it does nothing to make others feel bad about abortion. At the end of time we are going to have to stand before God and he is going to ask “What did you do?” Nowhere in that list he gives us is the option for praying for the hungry, he wants us to feed them, nowhere does it say pray for the prisoner, he says “Visit them.” If he is concerned with the hungry and the imprisoned I think it is safe to suppose he wants us to “hold back those staggering towards the slaughter.”
      You also say that we don’t need banners. Civil Rights activists regularly used public exhibitions including banners. I suspect that they would disagree with you on the value of such tools. When we have just a few seconds of someone’s time we need the clearest method of communicating a message. Pictures depicting the violence of abortion stop the pretending and the lies. We need them.
      Your last sentence “We just need to show the world that we, as pro lifers, are broken to the core by what has been insidiously termed ‘a medical procedure’” Is precisely why the pro-life movement is losing and saveable babies are dying. Those who support the killing of defenceless human beings say they think it is right and we who find it abhorrent say we think it is wrong. If we want to win this we are going to have to start showing WHY we think it is wrong rather than stating conclusions. We just cannot escape the uncomfortable truth that we need to expose evil for it to be properly responded to.
      I am not against 40 Days For Life, on the contrary. But I think we should go for a both/and approach rather than either/or. Praying whilst displaying the best evidence that abortion is an act of violence that kills an unborn child will turn things around.

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