Tragedy in El Salvador


(The above photograph is taken from the website of Amnesty International who claim they have no official position upon when life begins. A Human Rights organisation that is unable to decide upon who is a human being. Interesting)

Sometimes a truly hard case will hit the headlines which will test the conviction of every seasoned pro-lifer such as the one in El Salvador, which will be seized upon with a ruthless and determined glee by abortion advocates, especially I suspect, the Irish hardcore contingent who seem to populate Twitter, pouncing, hounding, persecuting and generally attempting to bully and intimidate any pro-lifers with campaigns of harassment, such as the recent one which saw a Catholic pro-life GP delete his Twitter account under threats of having been reported to the GMC for having the temerity to express his views. These are the same people who will tell non-Irish to keep their noses out Ireland’s business, but are happy to report a UK GP to relevant authorities, including his employers because they are unable to accept that he should be able to express his views, alongside his identity. A country which has pro-life laws is the concern of every right-thinking global citizen, whereas one which is proposing liberal abortion laws is only the concern of its inhabitants, according to this logic.

The facts as reported by the BBC, is that a young woman (Beatriz) who is suffering from the chronic immune system disorder lupus and kidney failure has been denied permission to abort her baby which has been diagnosed as suffering from anencephaly, which means that either part or all of its brain is missing and he or she is likely to die shortly after birth. The Supreme Court has rejected her appeal to be allowed to abort, stating this:

“This court determines that the rights of the mother cannot take precedence over those of the unborn child or vice versa, and that there is an absolute bar to authorising an abortion as contrary to the constitutional protection accorded to human persons ‘from the moment of conception’.”

This is a tragic and shocking case, one cannot fail to feel sympathy for the poor woman, who must, with some justification, feel as though her country is totally lacking in care and compassion for her physical and mental wellbeing. It highlights the problem of using legal and technical language which is very precise and conveys a total lack of empathy, feelings matter, this young woman is important, her plight is desperate and some acknowledgement of that, along with reassurance is necessary. The judge may well of course have added some words to that effect in their statement, which have not been reported, but this to me highlights the importance of women, especially those hurt by abortion, those who have been in crisis pregnancies and mothers, speaking out in defence of the unborn. Whilst the legal terms and the moral theology is important, when delivered by a man, they can leave the impression of coldness, sterility and a total lack of empathy. Women and mothers intuitively understand what’s at stake in these situations.

Make no mistake, Beatriz must be going through hell and needs support. Pregnancy does put an additional strain on the body, especially in terms of the immune system and kidney function and there can be no doubt that her physical health is being severely compromised. She will probably be experiencing a great deal of physical pain and trauma, compounded by emotional distress, feeling as though she is being forced to put her life on the line or even die for a baby who is going to die anyway.

But what we see here, as in so many awful cases, is the conflation of two conditions, which go to demonstrate that hard cases make bad law. The baby’s long-term prospects should not affect the decision of whether or not one should be able to kill him or her. We do not euthanise people on the basis of a poor long-term prognosis. Anencephaly is an undeniably terrible condition, one that every pregnant mother lives in fear of, prior to scans. I know that if I had a baby diagnosed with it, I too would struggle and need a lot of support. But being one of those ‘extremists’, I treat all my children equally regardless of whether they have yet to make the journey out of the womb. I would chose for my child to have a chance of life outside of the womb, no matter how brief, and die surrounded by the warmth and love of my arms instead of being dissected by the cold hard steel of the abortionist’s instruments or poisoned in utero, because that would be no less than they deserve. It would also aid in the grieving process, so many parents who feel compelled to abort their children on the grounds of disability struggle as a result, especially as they are encouraged to hold a funeral service for the child whose life they put an end to. I’m not knocking the practice, treating remains with respect and praying for the dead is the right thing to do, but it causes severe cognitive dissonance and distress. Healing in these cases is much harder. The parents of Colin Perry are beacons of hope to parents of anencephalic children.

In many ways El Salvador is a model of equality, not allowing for the elimination of those with disabilities. The really pressing issue here is maternal health and this is what matters for Ireland and other pro-life countries. In Ireland, if the mother’s health were at severe risk, the medical code already in existence would allow for an abortion to take place in these circumstances.

It seems that Beatriz’s case is being used by various activists in an attempt to push open the door to abortion, exploiting the plight of a sick woman in an unsavoury fashion.

Beatriz is now 26 weeks pregnant, doctors are concerned that as her pregnancy progresses further, too much strain will be put upon her body and they will be unable to treat her. That is a wholly justifiable concern. Beatriz does however, already have a toddler, it’s not clear when she was diagnosed with Lupus, but her body has already been able to tolerate giving birth at, or near to, term.

What I don’t understand about this case is why Beatriz has needed to be dragged through the courts in this fashion which can only add to her distress. Surely the most sensible, compassionate and morally licit option would have been to induce the baby at 24 weeks, the point of viability and do all that they can to provide palliative care for the child? The intention not being to abort the baby but to relieve the pressure being put upon Beatriz’s kidneys and immune system, particularly if they are showing signs of strain. Isn’t this what any conscientious doctor would do, regardless of where they stood on abortion?

Beatriz seems to have been used as a political football here, an early induction post viability is not the same as the deliberate and wilful destruction of life. This has to be the most medically and ethically astute option. Why can she not be monitored and an early induction take place at the first sign of strain upon her body? This option would not be incompatible with the ruling of the judges, and is good clinical practice. Why is this option not on the table and why is an abortion being pushed in this scenario, which would not be the most compassionate outcome, for mother and baby alike. Love them both. Let the baby be born and die in dignity, he or she and Beatriz deserve no less.


According to a report in LifeSite News on 9 May, Beatriz’s condition has not required hospitalisation, she is being treated at home. This casts a wholly different complexion on claims that her life is in imminent danger.

Abolition and Abortion Part 2: Incrementalism

Having established that the tactics of fetishisation employed by the abolition movement needs updating for the twenty-first century pro-life cause, it’s worth once again revisiting the thorny issue of incrementalism and seeing how this tactic was successfully employed by the eighteen and nineteenth century reformers.

Talk of incrementalism and abortion tends to provoke the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy amongst various contingents of Catholics and pro-lifers. The difficulty with adopting an incrementalist strategy that aims to take a series of gradual steps to tighten the laws surrounding abortion, is that it could be argued to be inadvertently sanctioning and supporting the deaths of some of the unborn. By supporting a reduction in time-limits for example, one could be said to be ignoring the plight of all the unborn who have yet to reach the cut-off limit. A period of time does not add value to a life, a 24-week-old foetus does not possess any more dignity or worth than a 12-week-old foetus. The only difference being that one is more likely to survive than another outside of the uterus. The viability may add an extra dimension to the tragedy, not least as its likely that the infant would experience pain at this stage in an abortion procedure and is capable of being nursed to health, but it does not render the baby any more deserving of the basic right to life.

My attitude to incrementalism has always been pragmatic. Consider a sinking ship which does not possess enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew. If a rescue vessel turned up with only enough capacity to rescue half of the remaining passengers without endangering its own stability, should it refuse to save them on the grounds that it is unable to to help everyone?

Pragmatism is no substitute for moral theology, however Evangelium Vitae (73) lays out very clearly the circumstances in which incrementalism can be acceptable:

when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.

Without re-hashing the previously rehearsed arguments about incrementalism, it’s worth noting that the current political climate does not seem amenable to discussing a total ban, Nadine Dorries’ proposed counselling amendment, which would in no way have altered the legality of or access to abortion, was bitterly fought against tooth and nail with the former MP Louise Mensch attempting to cobble together some sort of weak-kneed compromise and resulting in yet another hand-wringing committee being set up to consider the issue, so it’s fair to observe that tighter legislation is at the current time, unlikely. Britain is in a unique position of having experienced forty years of increasingly liberal abortion, despite the law being framed in such a way that makes it clear that abortion is still technically illegal, it seems an impossible task attempting to slam the door firmly shut, without first taking a series of gradual measures.

What makes many wary is that British political history does not have a very good record in terms of incrementalism and abortion. In 1990 when the HFE Act, amended the 1967 Abortion Act, the previous limit which had been based upon the baby’s ability to survive outside of the uterus, and set a limit of 24 weeks, but this was accompanied by a disastrous amendment which removed the right to life for every baby capable of being born alive, and allowed for abortions of disabled children, right up until the moment of birth. It might be possible to support a reduction in time-limits, it is right to campaign for and support equal rights for disabled unborn children, but not if it comes with a price tag of liberalisation elsewhere, such as with early stage abortion. Bargaining over human life is unacceptable and unjustifiable.

But if politics is about the art of the possible, it’s worth looking at the history and the success of the abolition movement and how they used incrementalism to achieve their aims.

In 1537, Pope Paul III issued a papal bull Sublimus Dei, which stated that indigenous people of newly discovered lands were fully human, rational beings with souls who had rights to personal freedom, liberty and property and called for their evangelisation. The bull generated a lot of controversy, it was later rescinded by Paul III, his record on slavery seems to be rather flaky, but nonetheless its principles contributed to a debate at Valladolid and was the position adopted by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain.

What intrigues me, is had the Catholic commentariat been around in the UK in these days, is whether or not they would have resisted every single gain made by the abolitionist movement by shouting “nothing short of full abolition is unjust, un-Catholic and must be avoided”?!

Slavery like abortion is an unjust violation of human rights, but instead of a wholesale sweeping away of the practice, the abolition movement went for achievable small steps. The UK movement was launched by the Somersett’s case in 1772, which held that no slave could be forcibly removed from Britain. It was however interpreted to have ruled that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law and as a result ten to fourteen thousand slaves in England and Wales were emancipated. It made no judgement upon the morality of slavery.

In 1787 the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded in the UK and in 1788, William Dolben’s Act which regulated the the conditions on board British slave ships was enacted. Slavery was not yet abolished, indeed the amelioration of conditions could have been used as a justification for slavery. It wasn’t until 25th March (note the significance of that date, Our Lady is always involved) 1807, that the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act abolished slave trading in the British Empire. Note – abolished slave-trading, not slavery per se. Captains found to be slave-trading were fined £120 per slave – a huge sum.

This is a tactic that the US pro-life movement is employing to great success. They are not seeking a direct abolition, but instead imposing swingeing fines on abortion clinics for disobeying stringent health and safety regulations. Licences to operate are being removed left, right and centre and clinics are going out of business because they cannot afford either to upgrade their facility to meet with sanitation laws, nor can they afford the fines. Tim Stanley wrote about the success of this tactic back in 2011, and it’s still having a tremendous effect all over the USA. Operation Rescue have been at the forefront of exposing malpractice of abortion clinics and as a result Delaware is currently a surgically abortion free state, Planned Parenthood has been forced to suspend their services. For those who might vociferously complain, surely anyone who cares about the health of women would support such measures?

North Dakota has not gone for an outright ban on abortion, instead the Governor has signed a bill that bans the procedure once a heartbeat can be detected, in many cases as early as six weeks. Furthermore the only state abortion clinic is in danger of shutting due to laws that require doctors working there to have hospital admission privileges. Whilst for the purists nothing short of a ban that will include the contraceptive pill, the coil and the morning-after pill is acceptable, a society that is putting huge restrictions on abortion, is significantly further along the road than the UK in terms of recognising and accepting the sanctity of life and the gravity of the procedure and certainly having a lot more success in curtailing and containing the scourge of abortion that hurts so many women and children.

An examination of the incrementalist tactics used by the abolition movement, demonstrates how sticking to morality but taking tiny steps to tackle an embedded cultural issue bears fruit. It wasn’t until 1811 that slave trading was made an actual felony in the British Empire punishable by transportation. It took until 1814 and 1818, for various treaties to be enacted with other countries to halt the trade. A treaty between Britain and Sweden wasn’t signed until 1827 and finally in 1834 the Slavery Abolition Act came into force which abolished slavery throughout most of the British Empire. Further treaties followed with France and Denmark in 1835 and in 1838 enslaved men, women and children in the Empire finally became free following a period of forced apprenticeship after the 1833 act. Britain continued to make treaties with other countries banning the slave-trade right up until the end of the nineteenth century.

For slavery to end over Europe, the new worlds of the Americas and Africa, a system of compensated emancipation had to be brought in, which was something of a compromise deal. Instead of taking the morally licit position of insisting that the slave-owner had no right to their slaves and ought to immediately free them, they were instead financially compensated or by the slave completing a period of apprenticeship for a set period of time. The latter proved unpopular because it amounted to forced labour on minimum wage and put a new financial burden on the slave-owner. But slavery was phased out gradually, not on an all-or-nothing basis, with laws passed that granted freedom to children of slaves born after a certain date.

Perhaps a mirrored tactic would be for the NHS to set a cap on funding for private abortion clinics and gradually reduce this? Abortion is not healthcare and contravenes basic medical ethics to ‘do no harm’. If people wish to abort their children, it should not be funded by the public purse. If people had to be responsible for the financial cost of their choices, it would put a whole new complexion on attitudes to risky sexual behaviour.

In the aftermath of the horrific Kermit Gosnell case, a clarion call has gone out for a modern-day Wilberforce, a Parliamentarian with the courage and bravery to fight for the plight of the unborn. There are already such individuals in the Commons and the House of Lords. We have Lord David Alton, Jim Dobbin, Joe Benton and Fiona Bruce, but more are needed. Great as Wilberforce was, he was not a lone ranger but instead the voice of the grassroots, which consisted of an alliance of Quakers and Anglicans. The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade had many influential polemicists and speakers who travelled up and down the length of the country and who formed several local branches or chapters, and its a structure that SPUC appear to be emulating.

Wilberforce was aided by Thomas Clarkson, one of the founders of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, who spent twenty years collecting a large body of evidence against the slave trade. The other lessons we can therefore draw from the abolitionist movement, aside from fetishisation and incrementalism is that of the importance of unity, forming local communities to reinforce and encourage each other as well as convince others and using all the tools at our disposal.

Without back-up or overwhelming public support, Wilberforce would not have been successful. There is no doubt that he was concerned, as was Clarkson, to put an end to slavery all over the globe, but took a shrewd approach, being prepared to listen to evidence and change tactics as necessary instead of dogmatic adherence to principle. The principle itself never changed but the strategy for achieving it did, without once using bad means to an end. It was the maritime lawyer James Stephen who suggested the theme of the 1807 Bill, which banned British subjects from aiding or participating in the slave trade to French colonies, ostensibly because the Empire was at war with France, meaning that as a result most British ships involved in the slave trade were flying under American flags. This new bill put responsibility on the individual, effectively banning the trade and the abolitionists in Parliament decided not to speak on this in order to avoid drawing attention to its effects.

In the global information age, wildly inaccurate speculation is inevitable. But there is much we can learn from replicating and modifying the tactics of our forebears. Abortion is wrong, slavery is wrong, but as the abolitionists showed, injustice can be tackled morally and in small stages. Incrementalism is being used very effectively to change mindsets in all kinds of ways, one only needs to look at the success of LGBT lobbyists with same-sex marriage. It’s why any tiny amendment to abortion laws is angrily shouted down by abortion activists who cannot allow any sort of mindset that may accept the tragedy of abortion.

A dogmatic absolutist approach brings to mind the chicken and the egg scenario. Which do we need first? Legislation against abortion or a more welcoming pro-life society? An incrementalist approach forces the latter to organically evolve.

But before we can think about Wilberforce we need to get our own house in order, which includes unity and an ability to dialogue, be open-minded, listen and change approach where necessary. Essential to this is good local leadership. Which is where our clergy, priests and bishops need to take a much more pro-active role, as do those within other Christian and other sympathetic communities. Hand-wringing and tiny cliques aren’t going to cut it. We need clear leadership and direction to build that platform upon which the modern-day Wilberforce can stand, which includes voting more pro-life MPs into the Commons.

There are some encouraging green shoots. The future clearly lies in the young (and I’m thinking of a specific group of young women), we should all be working to support them if we want progress in our lifetime.

Abolition and abortion: Part 1 – fetishisation and blazons

Unsurprisingly a natural sympathy exists between the Abolition Movement and pro-life politics, both being concerned with gross violations of the most basic of human rights and the barbaric treatment meted out to our fellow humans. Much of the rhetoric employed by the pro-life lobby overtly draws parallels between the two movements. In this interview Andy Stephenson of Abort 67, describes how many women don’t like the analogy of the slave-trade with abortion, as they don’t like to be compared with slave-owners, but as Andy explains, it is not the individual woman who is being compared with the slave-masters, but the abortion industry as a whole, which seeks to overpower and exploit vulnerable human beings as commodities to be extinguished at will. Even Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS admits that a young embryo is a human life.

Not only is the analogy correct, but there are also similarities in terms of the tactics of the two lobbies. The abolition movement fetishised the black body in order to emphasise the common humanity between people of all nationalities in way that appears racist and bordering on the obscene to postmodern eyes.

White perceptions associated sexuality with the uncivilised woman, as William Blake’s engraving for John Stedman’s 1795 polemic demonstrates.

Blake's anti-slavery engraving
William Blake’s anti-slavery engraving

Whilst the engraving was meant to highlight the barbarity and look of pain as the woman was severely punished, it also did much to whet appetites and reinforce negative racial stereotypes back in Blighty.

Josiah Wedgewood’s evocative anti-slavery icon made a blazon out of the enchained black male form, which soon became de-rigeur on pendants or brooches of the upper and middle-classes, no self-respecting salon or gathering was complete without a symbol of awareness of what was the burning issue of the day.


The same fetishisation is apparent in the pro-life movement. We too are not averse to making a blazon of the human form.

The iconic baby in the womb
The iconic baby in the womb

A quick click on Abort67’s website will display painful and distressing images similar to Blake’s portrayals of man’s inhumanity to man. SPUC’s tiny feet badges, an essential addition to the lapels of all Catholic clergy and laity, are today’s equivalent of Wedgewood’s medallions.


This fetishisation is not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps the lesson we can learn from the abolitionists is that of thoughtfulness. Whilst Wedgewood and Blake could not predict how future generations would interpret their portrayals, a note of caution needs to be struck. Visual reminders of the humanity of the unborn child are useful, but fetishisation is a form of objectification, we need to remember that though the portrayals of the unborn child in utero are always breathtakingly beautiful, the reason why is because this is human life in all its inspirational and awesome majesty. Christians will be reminded of the Incarnation, of how Christ humbled himself to become like us, this is the state that He once took, but we need to be wary of falling into the saccharine, ‘cute ickle baby’ trap, no matter how undeniably gorgeous the image. We don’t love each other or our children on looks alone, but because of who we are, because of that bond of common humanity, which we should nurture, respect and cherish regardless of whether one is a babbling newborn. And it is precisely this humanity, this solidarity that we have with all other human beings, that transcends barriers of age, social class, gender, race and creed that makes fetishisation so dangerous. The blastocyst is no less worthy of respect and yet it doesn’t easily lend itself to the pro-life cause, public imagination is not caught by the image of a cluster of mistreated and sometimes experimental cells, even though every single human being alive on this planet once had the identical physical form. We are not mere objects to be used in a utilitarian way, but people with our own unique destiny.

This is just what I looked like when I was 3 days old. Such a looker!
This is just what I looked like when I was 3 days old. Such a looker!

And of course, this is one of the difficulties of using images of aborted babies, although they can prove extremely useful. (This thoughtful non graphic article on the priests4life website that deals with graphic images is one of the best I’ve seen and closely reflects my own position). It takes wilful ignorance, sophistry and blindness to declare that the horrific photographs of the 24 week aborted baby was merely a lump of tissue. It’s also been extremely illuminating watching a friend attempt to pin down various hardcore Irish abortion activists who admit that even they are not happy with the concept of late-stage abortion, as to what stage they feel abortion would be acceptable. An answer has not yet been forthcoming.

Abort 67 are following in the footsteps of the abolitionists by trying to visually demonstrate the truth that is abortion. It’s a tactic that many have misgivings over, but the parallels are demonstrable.

This image was in no way scientifically accurate or precise in its depiction, but its shock value was seminal in terms of changing the hearts and minds of the public and highlighting the cramped conditions on board a slave transportation ship.


So why are today’s sharply precise medical images not having the same impact? One answer is de-sensitisation. We are bombarded with increasingly graphic images on a daily basis, perhaps we are becoming inured? If that were really the case, then the graphic images would not cause so much fury, although I do believe that due to advances in ultrasound technology, there is an increasing widespread awareness and acceptance of the humanity of the unborn. For all the talk about science, abortion remains an issue of ethics or rights for its defenders. Abortion is centred solely around a woman’s rights to choose, any thing else is obsfucation. Images of early-stage humanity cut no ice with those who are determined that the unborn must not get in the way of a woman’s chosen path. Which is why we see so much pent-up anger, rage and aggression, because so many of them know that their position is ethically, not to mention scientifically, dubious.

But I can’t help but wonder, given how entrenched abortion is, whether it’s time for a new tactic or slogan especially for those involved in ministry outside the abortion clinics? The medical and sometimes gruesome images should not always be avoided, (especially when lobbying politicians) but instead used with discretion. What are we in pro-life all about trying to achieve? A pro-life society that welcomes, accepts and embraces motherhood as being positive and a gift, for mother and child and society as a whole. I wonder whether or not it’s time for more carrot and less stick? Something that sends the right message, but is also overwhelmingly upbeat, bright and cheerful, showing precisely what is a stake, as well as presenting a positive and aspirational vision.

It certainly seems to have worked well in Ireland. Accusations of fetishisation can be levelled at any photo. But in this case we are envisaging the future, the potential, the joy instead of worshiping and making a blazon of a very specific bodily stage in all of our human journey.

Love them Both

Part 2 to follow

Solely a female issue?

I logged into Twitter yesterday to change some of my settings (never a good idea) and instantaneously the following came up on my timeline:

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I instinctively re-tweeted it and Jill kept us updated:

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Somewhat predictably Jill was then attacked by some angry pro-choicers, but as her avatar indicates, she doesn’t take any prisoners.

A few thoughts. Firstly, thank God for people like this who give care and support to those who may be grieving. No doubt she will be accused of lying or interfering but they saw a man sat in his car crying over the imminent loss of his child and went to comfort him. Note there’s no ‘judgemental’ attitude towards the mother but support for a grieving man in his hour of need.

What would the feminists say to this man? ‘It’s not really a baby? Her body, her choice. It’s between her and her doctor’? Or would they eschew their ideal of a man in touch with his emotions and tell him to ‘man up and be strong’.

There can be no better illustration of the fallacy that abortion is solely a woman’s issue, centred around the bodily autonomy of an individual. The unborn child is not a part of the woman’s body, the baby and the placenta have a unique DNA wholly separate to that of the mother. Does this man not have a right to grieve? Is it really fair not only to deny him the chance of fatherhood but also the baby the chance of life? How can one person take a decision that will decimate the lives of at least two others?

The notion that abortion is solely a woman’s choice is even undermined by the abortion lobby themselves. Consider the following from the Education for Choice ‘Abortion education toolkit’. 

If a young man has or goes on to have experience of unplanned pregnancy with a partner, it is important that he knows who he can talk to and where he can go for help and support, as well as being able to signpost his partner to appropriate agencies. This is especially important when a couple are not agreed about what the outcome of a pregnancy should be, which can be a very difficult situation for a young man to face. Signposting to young men’s services is an important part of abortion education. 

So it isn’t solely a woman’s issue after all then? If Education for Choice are concerned about how to support young men whose partners decide to keep a baby against their will, presumably they wouldn’t have any objection to them being referred to pro-life organisations? One can only imagine the outcry.

If men are allowed to moot abortion as a solution to women and should be encouraged to support, encourage and facilitate otherwise reluctant women in their decision to abort, then there should be no problem with them doing all their power to persuade and facilitate women who may be considering abortion, to change their minds?

But this is where the angry and often facile slogans about a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body come in to play, the baby’s inability to give consent to having their bodily autonomy violated is now  irrelevant and unimportant. As is the man’s right to decide what happens to 50% of his DNA. Rhetoric evoking violence, about a woman being ‘forced’ to be pregnant and give birth, is employed.

But how many women really are ‘forced’ to give birth against their will, compared to the amount of women who are forced to abort? It’s a bizarre concept, that the absence of an invasive surgical procedure amounts to physical force. The reality is that most women feel forced to abort through a combination of personal and economic circumstances. Most women testify that they did not feel able to mother a child due to a lack of support. That’s a very different prospect to ‘choosing not to be a mother’. Upon seeing the two blue lines on the pregnancy test, the first reaction of  a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy  is not a ‘shall I/shan’t I keep it’. She doesn’t toss a coin or choose an abortion as a ‘lifestyle choice’ because motherhood is currently in or out of vogue. Women who end up outside the abortion clinics are there because they see it as their only option, and frequently because its very existence enables others to put pressure on them to take a ‘responsible’ option. 64% of women having abortions said they had felt pressure to abort.

It is a known fact that domestic abuse either commences or escalates during pregnancy. Are these really the actions of men who are forcing their partners to give birth, or more likely, immature and resentful men lashing out because they will no longer be the focus of attention? Whilst its clear that domestic abuse in pregnancy is due to a bully picking on someone at a time that they are vulnerable, a woman who is having a baby against the will of her partner is at far more risk of domestic violence, than one whose partner wants to nurture and support the pair of them.

If abortion was not just another ‘choice’ open to pregnant women, I wonder how many women really would feel that they were being ‘forced’ into pregnancy and childbirth against their will? If abortion was not an option then surely men would begin to see the duty of care that they owe to their sexual partners as potential mothers of their children?  If abortion was not an option then how much more pro-life, child-friendly and family-centric would we be as a society? If women were genuinely terrified about the consequences of pregnancy then we would see far fewer unplanned or crisis pregnancies. If men knew that sex could land them with a lifetime of moral responsibility towards the women they casually chose to sleep with, not to mention eighteen years of financial responsibility, then they would be a lot more circumspect in their attitudes.

By deeming abortion a woman’s issue the entire responsibility for the consequences of mutual sexual activity is dumped on her doorstep, regardless of her decision. The only time she should have to pull the bodily autonomy card is when it comes to resisting the pressure from others to abort.

I’d love to know what the response of radical feminists would be to the tears of the poor man above who faces a journey of healing. His comfort must lie in the metaphysical and entrusting his baby to the Lord’s gentle and severe mercy.

www. run a healing ministry for fathers who have lost their children to abortion.

Technical problems

Apologies to blog subscribers who may have just received a post. I was working on a draft on my phone and accidentally published it. 

I have since deleted, as I am not sure whether or not to publish the post and it was in working format only. I often work on drafts on my phone, and sometimes disregard so please accept my apologies for having received a rambling piece of text. 

Choice, consent and right to life. Love them Both

Writing on Archbishop Crammer’s site, Sister Tiberia has commented on the appalling case where a court has overruled a consultant psychiatrist and allowed a suicidal woman to abort her 23 week old baby.

Though I don’t suffer from bi-polar, I have experienced the hell of ante-natal depression, particularly in my last pregnancy.

I know all too well what it is to be pregnant, physically ill, to once again feel the debilitating effects of morning sickness, anemia and other symptoms a mere 9 months after delivering a previous child, who had also been conceived 8 months post-partem.

I know how it feels to be terrified, not only about whether or not one will be able to cope with yet another newborn, but actually not to want to have to endure another grueling pregnancy or birth.

One thing that only became clear the day before I gave birth, was that I had been suffering from birth-related PTSD, which had been causing a not inconsiderable amount of anxiety. Even my husband hadn’t realised how severe it was, until I had a meltdown in pre-op and refused to sign the consent form for the cesarian section I needed.

After I had rationalised my fears to the anesthetist it transpired that they were more than valid. Due to a known sensitivity to the spinal block given as anesthesia during my previous section, requiring frequent adrenalin top-ups, not enough had been administered, upon looking at the notes. Therefore whilst the sensation had not been painful, I had felt every single cut and stitch towards the end of my previous birth and it had been indescribably unpleasant, like a form of torture. Like someone sewing and tugging and stapling your innards whilst you lie paralysed, not knowing whether this was normal, trying not to vomit or kick up a fuss.

Fortunately I received excellent care to ensure this did not happen again, but I’d been carrying the fear, dread and anxiety for 9 months, together with the worry that I wouldn’t be able to look after any of my children properly. Which is why some of the revolting trolling and spite that came my way from strangers telling me that I was a dreadful person and terrible mother touched such a raw nerve. Perhaps they were right, all this crowd of people telling me and anyone who would listen that I was so despicable? Perhaps I should have the baby adopted or fostered and maybe I should get the children taken into care after all?

I came through it, as my husband and friends knew I would, I received the right medical and spiritual support and am, on the whole, in a healthier place, but the point is, I understand pregnancy -related depression and anxiety only too well.

During this time, it was tweeted that I secretly wished that my baby was dead, because I had stated that I didn’t want to be pregnant or to have another baby.

Whilst not wanting to be in the situation I found myself in, I knew that the baby had the same right to life that I did. I knew that I had a duty to look after her and protect her, even though I hadn’t actively chosen to conceive her. By considering options about adoption or fostering (which in hindsight were more a cry for help) it was for me about doing what was best for her.

Every unborn child has a right-to-life. Pro-life has to acknowledge (and for the most part it does) that care of the pregnant mother is synonymous with care of the unborn child. The mother is as important as her unborn baby.

But here’s the elephant in the room. Sometimes there will inevitably be a clash between the wishes of the mother and the right-to-life of a baby. Which is where the sophistry of the feminist movement comes in and the dubious attempts to use science instead of ethics. Whether or not the baby may stand a chance outside of the womb, or whether he or she will experience a painful death are all side-issues as to whether or not it should be acceptable to kill them. In the case of babies such as the 23 week old, the fact that they may well be viable outside the womb adds an extra tragic dimension, but it still amounts to the mother’s wishes (even if well-intentioned) superceding a baby’s right-to-life.

I effectively had no choice when it came to whether or not to abort my baby and it never crossed my mind as an option, though it was mooted as a solution several times by medical professionals. Perhaps if it wasn’t available I would have had better care. I stopped going to the community midwife and got behind with medical care because I was fed up with being constantly hectored and, I felt, being looked down upon by the smart middle-class, double-barreled lady for being an irresponsible breeder. She tutted through every appointment that I attended with two small children and kept trying to refer me/my husband for counseling to discuss sterilization. I was too scared to discuss depression with her.

Sometimes I wonder whether invading my own personal space when blogging is wise, as not only does it open one up for hurt and abuse, but more importantly will it affect my children if they one day learn that most of my pregnancies have been traumatic? That like many mothers I have struggled to bond with them in pregnancy?

The response has to be that actions speak louder than words. There can be no doubt how loved they are or how much mummy loves the baby that she struggled so much with when she was pregnant.

This is where Christ’s commandment to love comes in. Loving is not an automatic sloppy sentimental feeling but takes an act of will. In the case of a crisis pregnancy, the act of choosing to protect the child’s life, is in itself an act of love, regardless of a woman’s personal feelings.

I share what happened to me because it is a testament of hope. In my case, as always happens, once the baby was delivered and I had her to hold in my arms, I never wanted to let her go. Many mothers in crisis pregnancies relate similar post-birth experiences.

In those cases where bonding is delayed, this is more often than not, attributed to post-natal depression which can be overcome with the right help. Advocates of abortion for mental health reasons claim that a woman’s right to choose applies even if a woman’s ability to consent is impaired by her condition and furiously reject the notion that a pregnant woman may be affected by the onslaught of mood-altering hormones sloshing around her pituitary system.

That’s not to dismiss those who feel that they ‘need’ an abortion as being incapable of rational thought, but I as a staunch pro-lifer, have experienced the draining and mood altering effects of pregnancy hormones, combined with feeling physically awful.

If we know that post-natal depression exists, if we accept that conditions such as pre-menstrual syndrome exist, then why are feminists so keen to dismiss the notion that a pregnant woman in crisis may not have the clearest perspective? I certainly didn’t.

Let’s phrase it another way? Would the court have allowed a woman who is exhibiting signs of mental illness to consent to an amputation to cure body dysmorphia? It’s highly unlikely. A limb is more important than the life of another. Someone who is suffering from severe depression is unlikely to be able to make a valid will or consent to any major financial decisions, but they are ruled capable of being able to take the life of their unborn child.

Ante-natal depression is a serious condition affecting as many as 15% of mothers. Women often become suicidal, believe they are unfit to mother even much-wanted children and are terrified that social services will take their children away. The stigma surrounding mental health as a whole, means that people don’t get the help they need.

Loving the mother does not mean co-opting into her mental condition. Loving the mother does not entail validating her belief that her baby would be better off dead. Loving the mother does not mean allowing her mental illness or hormonal imbalance to dictate the fate of her baby.

Loving a mother means giving her the proper care and support that she needs to get through pregnancy and beyond to ensure that she becomes the mother that the baby needs and deserves. Loving a mother means trusting that she does have the ability to overcome adversity and actively helping to empower her.

I don’t dismiss the fears of those with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy. My AND was severe enough to make us decide that there is very good reason to consider delaying another child in the near future.

But abortion solves nothing in terms of mental health. It won’t cure the underlying factors behind depression or suicidal tendencies, it only validates them. It leaves a woman bereft and empty and with a dead child. What if she subsequently comes to recognise that she was incapable of taking that decision?

Keeping a child, against one’s intuition or rationale is an act of hope and of love, the first flicker of light shining in a tunnel of darkness. Abortion is a betrayal and negation of the care owed to the vulnerable pregnant woman and her unborn child.

We need to keep this woman and others like her in our prayers.

A beacon of bravery

As Madeleine Teahan reports, the whole of the Grand Committee Room, rose to its feet and gave human rights campaigner Chen Guacheng a standing ovation upon his entrance last night.

Introduced as a ‘beacon of bravery’ by Fiona Bruce MP, vice-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life group, upon accepting the inaugural Westminster Award for the Promotion of Human Life, Human Rights and Human Dignity, Chen said that the award was given ‘not to me but to the hundreds of thousands of human rights activists who are suffering in China’.

Speaking through an interpreter, the blind activist told of the harrowing consequences of the enforcement of China’s one-child policy and explained that the root cause of China’s problems was that its dictatorship had not been removed. Every aspect of government in China is controlled by the communist party who are not held accountable to anyone.

Despite having told the story many times, Chen’s voice cracked as he recounted the story of how a three year old girl was starved to death in her own home following the arrest of her mother, who pleaded with the police to allow her back home in order to ensure her little girl was fed and adequately cared for whilst she was in custody. Passing by the door of her home, the police refused to let her enter and she was taken directly to a detention centre with her starving child locked in the house. Twenty one days later, a neighbour broke into the woman’s house in order to investigate a stench and found the body of a little child, together with bloody footprints and scratch marks at the windows and doors where the little girl had been frantically attempting to get out. The child had been crying so hard, there were tears still imprinted on her face.

This, said Chen, is the nature of dictatorship, it cares nothing for the loss of human life. The consequences of resistance under a dictatorship means that you are persecuted and regarded as an enemy of the state. Not only can the state take your home and possessions and strip you of a living, but they can also take your life and your body.

Though in China there is no legal instrument that forces or compels officials to implement the one-child policy, any party or government official not recognised as doing a good job in enforcing the policy will be denied any sort of promotion, so party officials will do anything possible to be seen to be implementing these draconian measures. In 2005, in one city alone, there were 120-130,000 forced abortions and sterilisations. Some women were even dragged to hospital and forced to have abortions when 9 months pregnant and at the point of giving birth. Many pregnant women went into hiding, at which point all of their friends and family members were dragged to Family Planning offices and severely tortured for several weeks. According to Chen’s investigation in 6 months in 2005, 600,000 family members were tortured, with the women who had been forced into hiding being too frightened to ever return home.

This is a policy which still continues today, as we saw last year, when the photograph of the case of a Chinese woman who was forcibly given a late stage abortion with the body of her dead child placed next to her as a warning, made global headlines. In recent years there have been two cases in one province of bulldozers crushing women’s heads as they lay on the ground in protest. All over China, citizens are being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and sent to labour centres. News of the frequent protests never reach the outside world.

Drawing on the UK’s illustrious history as defenders of human rights, from Wilberforce to the fight against the Nazis, Chen told of how the UK has left a deep positive imprint on the history of humankind. He urged the UK to continue its tradition of intolerance against human rights abuses and not to be indifferent to the plight of the ordinary Chinese citizen who is enslaved by the Communist Party. He spoke with sadness at how trade interests seem to be being put above human rights by Western democracies, who do not seek to challenge China, with human rights negotiations being held behind closed doors. Lord Alton noted that it was telling that despite his tenacious pursuit of human rights and his being awarded asylum in the USA upon his escape, not one single Government minister agreed or found time to meet him. What sort of message does that send to those in Beijing who put trade deals before human rights?

Not once did Chen refer to his own ordeal and there was no hint of self-pity in his words, but his message was one of profound sadness and concern for his still beloved country, to which he hopes to one day return, intermingled with optimism. He believes that Chinese citizens are rapidly waking up and establishing a foundation for the future. This is, he said, the Information Age – anything can happen! We should no longer have dialogue with dictators but instead with human people and invoked the means of technology by which to achieve this. The reason I can sit with you today, he said, ‘is proof that everything you have done is bearing fruit, stick together, persevere and together anything can happen. The regime is losing moral legitimacy, so let’s work together to end dictatorship so we can have global democracy”.

Summing up the evening, Lord Alton noted that one day Chen Guacheng will be regarded as a national hero in his own country, for having stood up for human rights, in particular those of women and children.

In terms of what we in the UK should do, Lord Alton stressed that the UK have aided and abetted this inhumane one-child policy via the UNFPA who have channelled funds from the DFID into Chinese communist policy and agencies. China is a great country home to great people, but the one-child policy violates most basic human rights. This is a war against women and girls, 1,468 abortions the equivalent of a Tianeman Square massacre, take place every hour in China, most of whom are girls. China’s birth rate is currently 100 girls for every 137 boys, which is fuelling human trafficking and slavery in Asia. In addition China faces an aging population with insufficient young people to support them, an anomaly expected to hit in twenty years time.

Various groups need to hold screenings of the film Itsagirlmovie. We also need to defund UNFPA and the IPPF. We need to be inspired and make sure Chen’s story is known, Lord Alton emphasised that each of us must heed Chen’s words and actions and pray for an end to abortion and gendercide.

At the end of the evening, in the Q&A session, Chen told of how he had learnt only that morning that Chinese officials had expressed frustration that they had not beaten him to death when they had the chance. In response to the fact that no government official had agreed to meet him he defiantly repeated “UK government officials are scared of Chinese officials’ anger – I am not scared of Chinese officials!”. He told of how one of his family members is in hospital with appendicitis and is not being allowed to be properly treated and hoped how anyone who cared about issues of justice and conscience would help his family and anyone who was faced with similar persecution. This cowardly bullying, brutalising, intimidation and threats to his friends and family must stop.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak to Chen and his wife and thank them for their witness, courage and bravery and to assure them that there were many in the UK who were praying for them and who would do all we could to help the plight of the Chinese citizen.

Here is a man who has been beaten, tortured and imprisoned and whose family is still severely suffering as a result of his courage and advocacy of the poor, women, children and most vulnerable in society. Here’s his response when I told him that as the mother of four girls, I am heavily emotionally invested in the issue of gendercide. This is the power of the human spirit, undaunted, uncrushed, full of joy, optimism and hope. “Four girls, that’s so wonderful, so incredible” he laughed, before adding “not in China, but the day will come”.