Hard cases and political footballs

This excellent piece by Melanie McDonagh in the Spectator about the perceived BBC bias with regards to Northern Ireland’s abortion law, alerted me to the tragic case of Sarah Ewart, who discovered at her 20-week scan that her unborn baby had the severest form of spina bifida and was anencephalic as a result, namely the baby did not have any skull bones. This meant that her baby would die following a traumatic birth in which labour would need to be induced, the lack of skull would mean that there would be no pressure to cause natural labour.

Sincere sympathies to Ms Ewart. Any pro-lifer who rushes in to condemn her as a result of her decision to travel to England for an abortion should hang their head in shame and reconsider whether or not they ought to be a part of the pro-life movement.

This is one of those cases that stretches all of us to our limits where the pro-life lobby needs to be exceptionally cautious before throwing around cold, hard, legalistic definitions of moral theology, which can seem lacking in empathy, in order to justify the best course of action in such a terrible situation.

While Melanie McDonagh is right to identify the underlying agenda of Jim Naughtie, her point that “most people would accept that a baby without a head is, to all intents and purposes, not a baby” requires further analysis.

Firstly the definition of personhood is not dependent on the presence of any one part of the body. A person who is missing a limb is no less of a person than an able-bodied person. In this distressing case, it is not that there is no head whatsoever, but that no bones have formed in the head. Without wishing to dwell upon the gruesome detail, there will be a brain and presumably a face, but no bone to support the mass. So it isn’t accurate to say that the baby was not a person, or not alive or even lacked a head, but that he or she would not have been able to live outside of the womb.

Personhood is not defined by location, or the eight inches of the birth canal. A person does not suddenly become more human or more alive, by virtue of their passage down the birth canal, or through the walls of the abdomen, in the case of a cesarian.  Location does not determine a human’s worth or value. The process of birth does not render a baby any more human or alive. Neither does mental capacity. A six week old baby is not less of a person because they lack mental reasoning skills,  in the same way that someone suffering from Alzheimer’s is no less of a person, nor someone in a temporary coma for example.

The law in Northern Ireland  rightly does not allow foetal abnormality as grounds for abortion, which should not be controversial. A civilised society should not approve the principle that people should be terminated on the grounds that they are not able-bodied and therefore their lives of lesser value.

Awful situations such as these are precisely where we must carefully apply principles of moral theology . We cannot commit an intrinsically  evil action in order to bring about a good.

The problem is that the abstract often seems cold, hard, unfeeling and dogmatic when applied to real people and real situations. We cannot forget that there is a real person involved at the centre of such suffering. It’s a difficult balance between not allowing sentiment or empathy to determine what is the correct course of action and yet abandoning all empathy in the process of applying a general principle. Hard cases do make bad law, the heartbreaking situation faced by Sarah Ewart does not justify killing humans in utero en masse as a result of their disability.  Cases such as those of Sarah Ewart are thankfully exceptionally rare, which is another reason, why the law should not be changed, especially not when one considers that a similar law in the UK allows for babies with completely correctable and reversible conditions such as cleft palate, to be aborted up until birth.

I would like to think that were in Sarah Ewart’s position, I would carry the baby to term, the key part of that sentence being “I would like to think that”. It’s a huge ask, even as someone who counts themselves an absolutist in pro-life terms, one of those hardcore extremist nutters, I would be lying if I tried to claim that continuing a pregnancy in such circumstances would be easy. No doubt there would be times that I would scream, rage and rail about the injustice and cruelty of it all and hand on heart I cannot state in any certainty that if I were in Sarah Ewart’s position and carrying the baby til term, I would not have a physical and nervous collapse. And that’s speaking from the position of a pro-lifer who knows that to take the life of an unborn baby is innately wrong and unjustifiable.

I would have the comfort of my faith and unlike many people, the support of a religious community to sustain me, alongside the innate knowledge that morally, I was doing the right thing. But it would not be, by any means easy. When my  unborn baby passed away in utero, I only had to live with that knowledge for ten days, which felt like an interminable and unbearable period of time. I cannot begin to image what it must be like for someone in Sarah Ewart’s position, I have previously posted the joyful and courageous  witness of the parents of an anencephalic baby, but even Colin did not suffer from the condition with such severity. We cannot forget the nature of the condition of the baby, would mean that the birth would be infinitely more traumatic than in other circumstances of stillbirth or neo-natal death due to disability.

Even for a pro-lifer there is a dichotomy between not taking direct action to kill one’s own unborn child and taking action to save one’s own health and sanity, which would in my case have an impact on my existing children.

Knowing that I would struggle, is it therefore fair to impose my moral values upon Sarah Ewart and dictate what her course of action should be?

No-one could or should blame Sarah Ewart for her decision to travel to England for an abortion and neither should the law be so lacking in compassion that any doctors who assisted her in abortion in this terribly rare and upsetting case be prosecuted, for wanting to spare her a horrific ordeal. We should not be ordering or compelling her to be brave, insisting that there is no way that the termination of her pregnancy should be tolerated.  This is a far cry from the situation we have in the UK whereby doctors pre-sign batches of forms authorising the abortion of babies on the grounds that they are female.

This is one of those genuinely hard cases and limited circumstances in which doctors should be able to use their discretion in terms of treating a mother without fear of consequences. Was there  really no way that the process of double effect, whereby action could be taken to treat the mother which would indirectly result in the death of the child, could be applied?  I suspect an easier solution may have been to have performed a cesarian at the point of viability, say 24 weeks, so that the baby could pass away naturally and swiftly and to spare her the ordeal of late-stage abortion and a traumatic birth experience, a decision which could well in time, have rendered the process of grieving easier.

That’s only my personal opinion however in the absence of more detailed medical evidence about this  particular case. It seems to me that what was at fault here was not the abortion law in Northern Ireland, but rather its application. One has to wonder why the medics involved in this case, could not bring themselves to be a little more creative and more compassionate in their interpretation of the law? Why could no-one be brave enough to put their neck on the line for a woman in terrible and desperate circumstances, caring more for a rigid interpretation of the law, that could then be exploited for political purposes,  than the overall welfare of Mrs Ewart. Or was it that abortion was not the only option in this case?

In any event, surely she deserved better than to be used as a political football and unfortunate poster-girl for a law that could potentially cause the deaths of those with wholly treatable conditions? Or are pro-choicers guilty of projection when they accuse the pro-life lobby of putting dogmatic belief before the best interests of the individual?

Whatever the answer, our thoughts, prayers and sympathies should be with Sarah Ewart and her child.


Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship has written a compelling, sensitive and scientific piece on the realities of an anencephalic baby. It puts an entirely new spin on events, detailing what an anencephalic baby would look like. Though I thought I had understood the condition, the way Mrs Ewart’s case was reported was incredibly misleading.

Had I been in possession of this information, then the post would have been written along similar lines to that of Dr Saunders. I guess there’s a lesson for us all in there somewhere.

Disability dilemmas – what should the Catholic Church/pro-life movement ‘do’?

Abortion of unborn children diagnosed with abnormalities is back on the agenda with the publication of the abortion statistics for 2012, which showed a sharp rise in the number of children aborted due to disabilities, up 17% on 2011 figures. As I explain in this week’s Universe, this demonstrates a gulf between the national attitudes on display during the Paralympics and those on an individual basis. We are all delighted to cheer on our athletes in the spirit of patriotism, but fewer of us are prepared to actually get our hands dirty when it comes to the more difficult task of caring for a disabled child. A parliamentary commission has pointed out that the way the abortion laws are being applied amounts to little more than eugenics, and is ‘unfit for a civilised society’. If the rules surrounding abortion for babies diagnosed with disabilities are to be reformed or tightened up, the Catholic Church and pro-life movement can expect scrutiny in terms of what they actually do to help the disabled in society.

One of the regular tropes trotted out by pro-choicers is that Catholics only really care about the unborn baby; once the baby is born or saved from abortion we then wash our hands and absolve ourselves of all responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the case of the Good Counsel Network for example, they offer support for as long the mother requires it. Over the past few weeks, a few Catholics have been agitating on social media that the Catholic Church and/or pro-life organisations should do more for the disabled, such as paying for respite care for the mothers or carers of disabled children and adults, if they are going to campaign for an end to abortion on the grounds of foetal abnormality.

This concept needs a little unpacking before uncritical acceptance.

In the case of the Catholic Church, it does do an awful lot for disabled children and adults, but on a local level according to the Catholic tenet of subsidiarity. Whether one is referring to either the Catholic Church or the pro-life movement, we should steer away from the socialist notion that everything should be centrally controlled, whether that be by the state, the ‘Church’ or a pro-life organisation. The Catholic Church has several voluntary societies such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, to name just one, which does exactly the work of supporting and providing practical help to the vulnerable in society, such as struggling families, the elderly and disabled of all ages. Catholic parishes have rostas for visiting the sick and pull together in an informal way to help those in their community who are vulnerable or in need of support in times of crisis. I can give numerous examples of acts of generosity and I don’t mean in purely financial terms, actually far more difficult is to give of one’s time and yet I’ve seen members of a parish help a struggling mother with ad hoc free childcare or picking up children from school, cooking meals for an elderly infirm neighbour, volunteering to look after a disabled child for a few hours on a regular basis or help out an elderly couple where one has Altzheimers and so on. The fact that this is not centrally organised or formally recognised, does not mean that it doesn’t happen. Of course there does need to be some formal organisation, but usually it’s done at a local level.

Outside of parish level, Catholic schools, both in the independent and state sector strongly encourage their pupils to participate in voluntary work and there are schemes which see pupils run and participate in activities such as Riding for the Disabled, Swimming and sports clubs, residential weeks for disabled and underprivileged children, in order to foster mutually enriching relationships and a sense of responsibility and community. Catholic Children’s societies do much work in terms of providing respite care and helping families as well as advocating for the rights of the disabled in society. Individual dioceses have pastoral teams exactly for this purpose, including helping people to receive the most out of the sacraments and general specialised support groups.

So it’s rather unfair to claim that the Catholic Church doesn’t actually do anything for those with disabilities, anyone who has ever been on any sort of organised diocesan pilgrimage to a place such as Lourdes, will see exactly the sort of attitude that the Catholic Church adopts towards the disabled, the Catholic Church not simply consisting of ‘The Vatican’ but the members of all the faithful around the globe. Incidentally it’s inside a Catholic church that one is most likely to frequently encounter a large gathering of those with various physical or learning disabilities. Here’s the little boy who took his First Holy Communion with my daughter.

The HCPT Lourdes Pilgrimage

As a rule I’m generally reluctant to validate by engaging with the notion that the Catholic Church doesn’t care about the disabled once they are born, because this accusation is usually thrown about by those who have little knowledge or experience of what does go on and even if they did, would still find something to criticise. It is the kind of thinking that dictates that the Church should spend all its time engaged in voluntary and practical work (for certain approved politically correct causes) mopping up social problems such as poverty but should have absolutely no voice in terms of formulating the policies whose side-effects they are expected to resolve.

In any event should the Church pay for respite care for disabled children and adults, outside of what it does already, if it is serious about ending abortion on the grounds of disability?

The first question we have to ask is whether or not the Church or any pro-life organisation would actually have sufficient funds to provide for this? I suspect the answer would be no. The annual income of all the UK major pro-life organisations combined would not begin to cover respite care for every single disabled child or adult. We also know that contrary to Dawkins’ assertions that the Church is not actually awash with cash and does not have that much liquidity, especially at parish level. But perhaps both pro-life organisations and churches ought to campaign for more donations on this basis?

Perhaps, but the fundamental question here, is whether or not the Church or pro-life organisations ought to be doing this work for the government? It’s true that in medieval times the Church was fundamental in terms of setting up schools, hospitals, communities to care for the sick, the needy, the poor and so on, but this was in the days before taxes. We live in an entirely different, allegedly more civilised society under which we are obliged to give a significant proportion of our income to the government to order our society and therefore surely it is entirely encumbant upon the government to make such provision for respite care and look after the most vulnerable unless it wants to lift all taxation.

Would it really help if various Catholic institutions were to replicate what happens already? Besides which levels of respite care and assistance are entirely dependent on the nature of the disability which is why best practice enables families to be given a certain budget and determine their care plan themselves according to their own specific circumstances and needs.

Would the promise of paid respite care actually tempt women into keeping their unborn babies? Most women who decide to abort a baby with a foetal abnormality do not so lightly or because their baby is less than perfect, but out of fear. What the recent parliamentary commission on abortions on the grounds of disability heard, was countless tales of how women felt that medical professionals bounced them into a decision; that they really felt that they had little other choice, and no other options were put to them. So part of the solution has to be a more empathetic and open to real choice medical profession, especially in the areas of foetal medicine and gynaecology. When diagnosing foetal abnormalities, the baby is measured against a standard of perfection, when in reality none of us are physically perfect. We often hear terrible cases of young men and women dropping down dead because of an undiagnosed heart defect that they have had since birth. Tragic whilst those cases are (and more preventative measures should be taken), the parents of those individuals never lament the birth of their child or wish they had never been born, instead they celebrate lifetimes of joy and achievement. Would they have taken a different decision had they been informed that their baby could drop down dead at any minute during the 20 week scan?

The problem with many of these diagnoses is that they are invariably worst case scenarios, when the reality is that no-one really knows with much certainty until the baby is born. Many readers will be able to give anecdotes of diagnoses of severe physical abnormality and dire prognoses only to go on to deliver a perfectly healthy baby. Only yesterday I heard yet another such tale myself. Here’s a little girl who was diagnosed with a condition incompatible with life . Even when the diagnoses are correct, they only tell a one-sided story that involves only heartbreak and suffering with never any mention of love, joy, fulfilment, laughter or contentment. This is behind the screening for Downs Syndrome – the condition is deemed to be so unutterably dreadful and makes life so miserable and difficult, that parents need to be give the choice to abort. The pro-choicers have gone beserk over the case of Father Vander Woude, who was inundated with responses to an appeal for prospective adoptive parents of an unborn baby with Downs Syndrome, claiming that abortion is the better or only option for those babies with Down Syndrome. A sentiment which Francis Philips, whose daughter has Downs, would vociferously refute.

In many many cases, it’s not necessarily money, but fear, especially of the unknown. Perhaps if there is something the church or pro-life organisations could do is organise support groups for those diagnosed with these conditions (some already exist) or help in assisting local groups for mothers and fathers of babies and young toddlers with various conditions. Parents faced with this situation are currently forced to rely for remote internet help and support, as due to abortion, babies diagnosed with difficulties are few and far between.

Even if organisations were able to offer a limitless supply of cash for respite, it would still make no difference to some mothers. The barrier is not purely financial, it’s about having the confidence in one’s ability to parent a child with disabilities, especially if you already have children. Parenting a child is hard and time consuming as well as immeasurably rewarding, it requires graft and self-sacrifice. Unfortunately words and concepts such as those tend to be alien and almost taboo in today’s society, self sacrifice, duty and responsibility have a negative rather than heroic and aspirational quality. Which is one of the reasons why mothers abort healthy children too. They fear they don’t have the capacity or ability to mother and the ideal of self-sacrifice is seen as the enemy of the dominant narrative or zeitgeist of self autonomy. It might be judgemental but sadly true in some cases. Some women neither believe in, nor want to be self-sacrificial, a child should fulfil them and on their terms, not understanding the fulfilment that can be found in sacrifice. Some women simply don’t want the work, effort or responsibility that comes with having a child, no matter what any pro-life organisation does, they cannot and should not seek to entirely remove the responsibility from the woman’s shoulders, but rather help her to bear it.

Which feeds into the final point about handing out cash willy-nilly to mothers or provision of free childcare or respite care to pregnant women. Help that is offered should never ever be in the form of a bribe, but instead to help a woman overcome the barriers to saving her child’s life. These barriers will differ from person to person, money is not always the overriding issue. A Catholic solution is holistic, it’s joined up, it’s helping the mother to reach her potential as a mother, rather than treating the child as a barrier to personal fulfilment or individual success. Part of this should involve a spiritual element. By saying to a woman, ‘okay we’ll pay for all your respite care and/or all your childcare’ it treats the child as an object or problem. No single mothers of young children (or indeed any mothers of young children) should be forced, coerced or encouraged to work. Children should not be placed full-time in nurseries, which often lead to poorer outcomes for children, if they are to flourish.

Throwing money at people to put their children in childcare or to provide respite care, buys into the narrative that children, whether able-bodied or not, are a burden to be overcome. Encouraging women of young children to go out to work consolidates the feminist Marxist agenda that is profoundly anti-women and seeks to force women and mothers in the workplace against their wishes and is an attack on the family. (Studies show that an overwhelming majority of mothers wish to stay at home with their children). Pro-life is about so much more than cash or consolidating a culture of dependency or entitlement. No amount of cash will mitigate the personal responsibility or additional work involved in child-raising unless one pays for a full time carer, 24/7.

A blanket offer of respite care consolidates the idea that disabled children are just so unbearably difficult and demanding that parents will need to be able to escape at every possible opportunity. Propagating this physically unattainable ideal also implicitly validates abortion of disabled children, stating that because insufficient respite care is available, the decision to abort is justifiable because the woman has no other option. The decision may be understandable, but never morally valid, no matter how hard that may be for many to read. We also need to be extremely careful not to feed the abortionist’s mantra that pro-life is about quality of life as opposed to sanctity, whilst at the same time assisting parents and children to maximise the former.

The Catholic Church or pro-life organisations should not let the government off the hook in terms of its responsibilities to the disabled. We should not seek to replicate existing provision but to complement. If there are gaps in provision we should look to identify and see what we can do to rectify and be inspired by the documents of the Second Vatican Council which implored the laity to take on more responsibility in terms of lay apostolates of this nature. I mentioned the Good Counsel Network earlier, they are an excellent example of this, in that having identified a need, they have set up a wholly Catholic apostolate. Surely this is what we are called to do as Catholics, to tailor a solution that is holistic, not simply financial or practical but one that addresses spiritual needs and has a strongly Catholic flavour. Otherwise we become little more than social workers.

Ultimately we shouldn’t sit in our armchairs, with a ‘somebody should do something’ attitude, pontificating what the Catholic Church or pro-life organisations should do, but actually be pro-active in setting up whichever initiatives we feel are necessary.

Much is done already by many in terms of caring for the vulnerable in society, no doubt more can be done. But the first job has to be doing whatever we can, which includes political action and highlighting the unjust and appalling attitudes towards those with disabilities simply because they are in utero. There’s no point campaigning for better respite care, better facilities, fairer legislation or railing against unfair benefit cuts for the disabled, if we turn a blind eye to the despicable prejudice that seeks to deny people the opportunity to life, the most basic human right of all.

God willing, abortion on the basis of disability may soon be a thing of the past. When all are accorded the equal right to life, it will then be the opportune moment to review what can be done better in terms of supporting those with disabilities, which will naturally include relationships with other agencies and charities. If we allow everyone to be born, the government will be forced to up its game and provision. But at the rate we are going we will soon have a raft of legislative measures, buildings with wheelchair ramps and so forth and yet no-one to use them.

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

Too close for comfort


I have a confession to make. In tweeting up a storm about the media blackout surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who reportedly snipped the spines and cut the throats of babies born alive following late term abortions, I was actually being very hypocritical. I knew about this story some time ago, having seen it mentioned by US pro-lifers as well as reading about it last month in the Daily Mail and yet refrained from writing about it and raising awareness.

I’ll forgo the false modesty, I know that this blog is, on the whole, highly regarded in pro-life terms, I also know it is referred to by pro-choice advocates and activists and read by BPAS, Marie Stopes and, according to my stats, IP addresses that emanate from inside the Houses of Parliament. Over the last year, it’s become increasingly apparent that I do have a platform, which I need to remember to use wisely.

So why did I neglect to do my bit here?

1) I was scared. Last year when all the bullying nonsense was occurring, a certain tweeter was repeatedly (and falsely) claiming that I was a member of Abort 67, “an extremist, a bad egg, a fake pro-lifer who doesn’t care, who must be flushed out of the pro life movement”.

I’m not a member of Abort 67, but I’m not ashamed to state that I have enormous respect and admiration for their courage and what they are trying to achieve. Andy Stephenson doesn’t just sit about writing polemic on the Internet or chew the philosophical fat in smokey pubs, but he dedicates his entire life to trying to show people the horrors of abortion, at times risking his own personal safety and even his liberty, when he was subject to an illiberal and misguided prosecution.

Whilst I might have some reservations about the tactics of showing images outside an abortion clinic, actually I have no problem with the way Abort 67 try to reach University students on campus or lobby politically, such as outside the Houses of Parliament or at Speaker’s Corner. But I was worried that by talking about the grisly horrors of Gosnell, and the pickled human feet found in storage jars or dead babies in the freezer, I might be perceived as a sensationalist or extremist. The only coverage I’d seen was in the Daily Mail, a publication that garners much deserved disdain at times, I hadn’t read the Grand Jury report and was concerned that I would be accused of scare-mongering or spreading inaccuracies. A major tactic of pro-choicers (as I will demonstrate in a subsequent post) is to attempt to bamboozle with science and stats, nit-picking to the umpteenth degree and attempting to use semantics, in order that they can scream “liar”. I didn’t want to put my reputation on the line, or be seen to be posting graphic photos or perceived to be revelling in gore.

2) The other reason and perhaps most importantly, was that I didn’t want to think about what had gone on in Gosnell’s abattoir or engage with it. I’d read the reports and recoiled with horror. It was literally unbearable and had the capacity to drive me mad. No doubt the pop psychologists and misogynists will liberally apply the ‘hysterical’ label, but stories regarding the twisted and bloodied corpses of murdered babies, are too close to home for a woman who has had three babies in the space of as many years.

I saw the photograph of one of Gosnell’s victims which appeared without a prior warning, in yesterday’s Atlantic and had a meltdown. The photo depicted a beautiful baby girl, with a full head of black hair, all her features perfectly formed, bizarrely, her umbilical cord had been cut and clamped, and she bore a startling and uncanny resemblance to my youngest baby daughter, and in fact all of my children who were born with lustrous heads of hair and tiny delicate little features. Except she was lying there, lifeless, motionless, dead and cold, having been mercilessly killed by Grosnell, shortly after her cord was cut and clamped and she was breathing. She would never again twitch, her hands wouldn’t uncurl, her limbs wouldn’t fling out in the startle reflex, her mouth would never root around for the comfort of a nipple or teat, she would never have known the comfort of her mother’s, or any human arms, her life consisted of being prematurely forced out of her mother’s womb, then disorientated and distressed from birth, longing for warmth and food, she was brutally murdered and left like a piece of rubbish on the cold hard slab of the abortionist’s table.

It was like looking a photograph of my own babies, particularly my youngest who was born early, weighing 5lbs, less than one of the little boys who was killed, and whom Gosnell jokingly referred to as being big enough to walk to the bus stop. Like this baby, my own baby was tiny, with fragile spindly limbs and swamped by the smallest size nappy. Even the colour of the clip on the umbilicus was the same.

I broke down. There were no words. I usually grab snatches of Twitter or the net on my phone or tablet, often whilst cooking, and the initial response was like being hit in the stomach. I curled up in the foetal position on the floor by the fridge in floods of tears, completely unable to process either the image or my response to what had happened. There was a mixture of overwhelming grief, sadness, anger and despair. I wanted to kick the living daylights out of this man and anyone who may have aided or abetted him in any way. That feeling still hasn’t dissipated, nor have the questions – namely, how on earth could the people working in the clinic have brought themselves to do this, what made them so damaged as individuals that they were able to justify and disassociate themselves from their actions? How could they have become so desensitised to what was going on? What kind of society are we living in when we can allow this to happen and where most people are happy that the media do not report it?

Yesterday was a concrete manifestation of why I had deliberately avoided engaging with this and so writing about it. Because I didn’t have the courage, it was too close to home and I didn’t think I had the emotional resources to cope. I had a very disturbed night’s sleep last night and I still am struggling to rid my mind of those dreadful images as well as deal with the emotions they invoke, which make me want to do terrible things, tear my hair and clutch my head in horror. Whenever I read about dreadful cases of child abuse or murder which crop up depressingly frequently in our national press, it churns me up inside. I cannot envisage what might motivate a person to do such odious things to a little child, and it terrifies me that people can often lose control in such a way that they inflict and violate little children with acts of sickening violence and depravity. Any parent who denies having the odd flash of anger, is either a genuine saint, or lying to themselves, all of us occasionally, at the end of our tether, might speak a little more harshly to our children than we should, but what is that forces a person to cross that line and inflict acts of utter sadism? And the worst most harrowing thing, is imagining the terror and pain experienced by these little ones. Imagining their trusting little faces and lack of comprehension and fear as they are repeatedly battered or worse.

I can’t stop myself imagining the brief painful lives of these little babies, treated as human waste, what they must have gone through, and also the agonies endured by the women, many of whom suffered life changing injuries, permanent infertility, infections and two of whom died. No matter how opposed one is to abortion, we shouldn’t forget the ordeals suffered by the women, most of whom were vulnerable, either by virtue of age, or socio-economic circumstance. No woman would chose to give birth to a live baby to have him or her murdered in front of her eyes. Most women have no idea of what is entailed in a late-stage abortion until it is too late, and I would wager most women going for an abortion have no idea of what to expect, everything is couched in such vague clinical terminology involving ‘products of conception’.

I eschewed writing about Gosnell, because I didn’t want to have to process this emotionally, or deal with the horror, the images or the reaction that they would invoke. Much easier to stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and pretend that it doesn’t happen, or that this is simply an one-off aberration and not think about tiny bodies beheaded and contorted in pain, or women giving birth amongst animal faeces, with filthy tubing used for both inter uterine suction and breathing purposes and freezers and storage jars full of neonates or neonatal body parts.

I suspect that’s one of the reasons for the media blackout. Some things are just too repugnant to bear. We often read about sadistic crimes, such as those of cannibal killers, for example, or serial murders, with a sense of detachment, we can look at these monsters clinically and though be disturbed by their crimes, have a sense that these sorts of crimes are relatively rare and won’t happen to us. With Kermit Gosnell it’s different, in that he and his staff genuinely didn’t seem to have any awareness that what they were doing was in any way immoral and neither did anyone seem to wish to report it. These atrocities occurred at a state licensed abortion facility, which went un-inspected for 17 years due to the pro-choice policy of the Republican Governor of Philedelphia, Tom Ridge. This wasn’t something that just happened to people who had an unfortunate encounter or mixed with the wrong sort. This was something that happened to women who exercised their free and legal choice in one of the most developed and civilised countries in the world. This is what abortion entails. The wilful destruction of innocent human life, depriving babies of their basic right to life in an act of brutal violence, whether inside or outside of the womb. Every single member of humanity, every single person reading this post, has something in common with Gosnell’s victims, we all began the same way, we were all blastocysts, developing embryos and unborn babies too. We all went through those same stages of life, only we escaped the abortionist’s instruments because we were the lucky ones.

And like the media, and like those who knew but didn’t think to report, I sat on this story too, for my own selfish reasons, born out of fear. It once again proves Burke’s adage – all that requires for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.

Hijacking the Royal Society of Medicine

Royal Society of Medicine

BPAS are advertising a conference in June which they appear to be sponsoring, called ‘abortion, motherhood and the medical profession’. It seems a strange title for an organisation who is predominantly concerned with removing motherhood, but this conference needs to be called out for what it is. An attempt at co-opting the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM), in order to endorse abortion as being a matter of medical treatment when as a recent symposium on Excellent Maternal Healthcare noted in their press release, abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother. 

Abortion is a medical procedure, hence the involvement of the RSM, but this conference will obviously be incorporated by BPAS into their promotional material, with the RSM being used as leverage, in order to endorse any findings or conclusions as being those of a  professional body or allegedly evidence-based. The RSM describe this event as a joint meeting with BPAS, which raises questions about impartiality, as well as funding. Have BPAS subsidised this meeting in any way? It probably falls under costs of marketing and PR, in their Profit and Loss account.

In case of any doubt, I’ll run through the programme of events and outline the credentials of the speakers:

Introduction and Opening remarks:

  • Mrs Joanne Fletcher, Consultant Nurse, Gynaecology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 

An impartial consultant nurse? Actually Joanne Fletcher was the publication co-ordinator of this document about abortion care for the Royal College of Nurses in 2008. Interestingly the document was sponsored by Exelgyn, manufacturers of the abortion pill, RU486, Bayer Healthcare, who manufacture contraceptives and abortifacients. So, absolutely no vested interests there whatsoever then? Back to Mrs Fletcher, not only did she co-ordinate publication of this document but she is also a member of the RCN group – ‘Nurses working within termination of pregnancy Network’.  So it’s obvious where she stands on abortion.

  • Ms Jennie Bristow, Publications and Conference Manager, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Fairly straightforward who this lady is, she’s in charge of commissioning and publishing research and organising conferences that promote abortion such as this one.

Foetal imaging and imagining the foetus:

This session, is chaired by Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at BPAS. She used to tweet as @clare_bpas before deleting her account in favour of a more professional generic BPAS account. I remember her tweeting about the appearance of some of those on 40 days for life – if one can be bothered to search through the blog, I’m sure there’s a tweet somewhere about her deriding the colour of tights of a volunteer, but again, I think we all know where Ms Murphy stands when it comes to abortion.

What intrigues me is why she is chairing a session on foetal imaging and “imagining the foetus”? Is she some sort of leading expert in the field of foetal imaging and diagnostics? Is she a qualified sonographer? My understanding is that she’s been promoted up from her original role within PR at BPAS.

What is imagining the foetus? One has a scan and sees a foetus on the screen (well actually you don’t at BPAS, they won’t show you and will dissuade you if you ask, can’t begin to imagine why). What has imagination got to do with it? Either you see a foetus or you don’t, if one is present on screen, it’s certainly not a figment of imagination.

Which is really the entire point of this session. It’s nothing to do with medical science and more to do with helping the client conceptualise her unborn child as being as un-human as possible. It’s about understanding the psychology of a pregnant woman and manipulation, by using medical terminology such as ‘gestation sac’ and ‘the pregnancy’ instead of what’s actually there, a foetus. (Fetus: Latin “offspring”, “hatching of young” “bringing forth”)

So, who have we got discussing foetal imaging and imagining, conceptualising (or lack of) of the foetus?

  • Dr Stuart Derbyshire, Reader in Psychology, University of Birmingham

A psychologist, able to discuss ‘helpful’ ways of thinking about and describing the foetus to the mother. Not only is he a reader in psychology, but he is one of the medical experts who argues against the notion that foetuses may be able to feel any pain. So no doubt, his talk will have something to do with the fact that even though the baby might look human and fully developed, it probably won’t feel any pain (how can any of us know with any certainty and besides medical opinion is divided) and so it’s perfectly okay to kill it.

  • Professor Carol Sanger, Columbia Law School

Professor Sanger is also a fellow of St Anne’s college Oxford. She writes articles on family law and women’s ‘reproductive rights’. She’s an abortion advocate who last year delivered BPAS 2012 public lecture on abortion in the US. Sanger has fought against laws in the US requiring mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant mothers.

And our final ‘expert on this session regarding foetal imaging and imagining is:

  • Zoe Williams, columnist for the Guardian

Zoe Williams frequently churns out pro-choice feminist propaganda for the Guardian. She describes her views as left-wing and feminist and has written some amusing guides to pregnancy and motherhood. Not quite sure what she’s doing on a session which is ostensibly about foetal imaging. I’ve got 4 children to her 2, have had numerous scans and know quite a fair bit about embryology and foetal development, I’d wager that I’m every bit as qualified when it comes to discussing foetal imaging…

So anyway, then we come on to the next session

Information, counselling and the law

Chaired by:

  • Dr Ellie Lee, Reader in Social Policy, University of Kent

I’m actually rather an admirer of Dr Lee, despite being co-ordinator of the Pro-choice forum and a strong advocate of abortion. She’s often on Women’s Hour and other media, advocating for abortion. Always eloquent, she has written this paper which is essential reading for any pro-lifer, discussing how the issue of abortion must be ‘de-moralised’, i.e. stripped of any notion of morality. She argues that pro-choicers have not yet won the battle on abortion and discusses ways that the issue should be approached in Parliament. Notably for pro-lifers, Dr Lee has observed that failing to sustain arguments about the sanctity of life has derailed pro life groups in the past, but nonetheless, the idea that abortion should be outside of politics is one of concern. That abortion is  political, favours pro-choicers as they well know, despite their protestations about ‘politicising the issue’. It seems pro-life hasn’t done very well, when it has deviated too far from the idea that a baby has a right to life. Her research is invaluable for pro-lifers who wish to inform themselves and develop effective strategies.

  • Dr Patricia Lohr, Medical Director, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Needs no further comment

  • Ms Jane Fisher, Director, Antenatal Results and Choices

Despite their title, Antenatal Results and Choices, whilst not overtly partisan, certainly favour abortion, Jane Fisher has spoken about the improvements in first trimester ante-natal testing which means that women can access ‘abortions they need’ earlier – a good thing in her view.

  • Professor Sally Sheldon, Kent Law School

Another abortion advocate, who argued in favour of a woman’s right to have a sex-selective abortion and states that it should be women, not doctors who decide whether or not they need one. (Unlike every other medical treatment).

After lunch (if they can stomach it) we have the following session

Testing positive, negative and in between: How the semi-quantitative pregnancy test could transform the management of abortion, miscarriage, fertility treatment and ectopic pregnancy

A semi-quantitative pregnancy test is a self-administered urine test that one takes at home, following a medical abortion, that is once you’ve taken the abortion pill. At present, women require a clinic follow up if they have taken the abortion pill, in order for either a blood test or ultrasound to check whether or not uterine evacuation is complete. This obviously increases the clinics’ overheads and the cost of abortions. You’ve given the woman the pill, had her money, sent her home, it’s obviously a bit of a faff for all concerned that she needs to come back for any sort of check in person to see whether or not the pill has done its job or whether there might still be some bits floating about inside. Of course a pill could transform management of abortion and see a significant cost reduction (wonder if this will be passed on) enabling women to do the test at home before trekking back to the clinic where a person can actually check they are alright.

With the vast majority of abortions being performed under 12 weeks and clinics pushing the abortion pill which can be taken under 9 weeks, it’s no wonder they are excited about this option. More free time to see more new clients!

So which experts have we got on this panel then?


  • Ann Furedi Chief Executive BPAS

Say no more, Ann (kill all the unborn up until birth) Furedi

  • Professor Paul Blumenthal, Stanford University

The man who argued against the banning of partial-birth abortion in America. That’s when they deliver the baby and crush its head as its coming out. A particularly nasty and gruesome procedure which is fortunately now illegal both over there and over here.

  • Mrs Joanne Fletcher, Consultant Nurse, Gynaecology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

As discussed above. A pro-choice activist consultant nurse

  • Dr Roy Farquharson, Consultant Gynaecologist, Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Author of a book on abortion in the first trimester

The day finishes off with the following session

Discussion: A new generation of abortion doctors – challenges and opportunities

Or, how do we entice more doctors into performing abortions, given there is an acute shortage of suitably qualified doctors, with more and more opting out of abortion procedures and training on conscience grounds, something that is naturally very concerning for abortion providers, hence they are resorting to all sorts of measures, including campaigning for the removal of conscience grounds and offering paid interships in order to train medical students.

So who do we have in this session?

  • Katharine Elliot 

A medical student from the University of Newcastle. I’m guessing she’s pro-choice. Perhaps she’s been on one of their placements and can testify to the joys of learning how to be an efficient abortionist?

  • Dr Richard Lyus, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Again self-explanatory

  • Mr John Parsons, Consultant Gynaecologist

A doctor who believes that there are not enough abortions. 

In conclusion then, BPAS are hosting a wholly partisan conference, with a variety of pro-choice campaigners, activists and doctors and seeking to leverage the Royal Society of Medicine’s credentials in order to give the conference and any conclusions or press releases that may emanate from it, authority.

Whether you’ve read this in any depth, or simply scrolled through it to get the general gist, there can be no room for apathy. This is BPAS, this is what they do, it is extremely clever and slick manipulation, designed to fool the general public with medical terminology and assurances that their conclusions are following the deliberations and discussions of experts in the field, all highly scientific, evidence-based and neutral.

Nothing could be further from the case and no-one should be fooled. This is where some of the vast income from providing abortions for the NHS is diverted. Into promoting abortion as an option and finding ways of marketing and making it palatable to the general public, under the guise of science and using women’s rights campaigners as unofficial PR.

If SPUC or LIFE or Right-to-Life hold a conference on maternal care, this is immediately dismissed as being the work of loony nutjob fundies and therefore not worthwhile because their views on abortion are apparent in the name of the organisation. What BPAS are doing with conferences such as these, is a clever piece of PR, marketing and strategy, one that is not overtly political, but masquerades as some sort of scientific inquiry.

Pro-lifers need not only to disseminate this information, but also dispel the inevitable narratives that will pop up arising from this conference, as well as raise our game. We need to remember that there are equally well-informed experts who, on looking on the evidence available , take an opposing view, one that is peer-reviewed and evidence-based.

It is not surprising what is going on here, but anyone who feels apathy as opposed to anger, needs a wake-up call. This is life and death stuff, BPAS  are attempting the hijacking of the medical opinion to justify and disguise what is going on – the wholesale killing of the unborn, paid for by taxpayers’ money and wrapped up in important sounding conferences, which are nothing more than an echo chamber for abortionists and their supporters.

Mourning into dancing

Joanna, Brian and Colin Perry

The Perry family from the US, have not been far from my thoughts and prayers since I stumbled across their Facebook update this morning.

And, it’s GO TIME! Jo is fully dilated and we are going to start pushing in about an hour. Going to read to Colin one last time in the womb… “The Giving Tree”.

We are READY to meet him. Excited does not even come close to what we feel. Thank you all for making us feel so loved and thank you for filling us up with prayer!

All our love,

The Perry’s

What an exciting and beautiful update – one would have to have a heart of stone to fail to feel just a glimmer of happiness at such a joyful announcement. A friend had clicked the like button and so ever curious and always overjoyed to hear about the births of new babies, I decided to have a mosey at their Facebook page and blog, whilst experiencing some vicarious mounting excitement and nervousness on behalf of the family.

Their story does not have the conventional happy ending. Their baby son Colin Patrick Perry, was diagnosed with anencephaly at 11 weeks gestation, part of his brain and skull was missing, the likely prognosis was that he would not survive beyond a few minutes.

Anencephaly is a rare neural tube defect that occurs in 1 out of every 1000 pregnancies. The neural tube at the head fails to close as usually happens between days 23 and 26 gestation, resulting in the major portion of the brain, head and scalp being missing. Babies are born without a forebrain which is responsible for co-ordination and thinking. The outcome is extremely poor – less than 5% of children live beyond 5 days, 7% die in utero, 17% during birth, 26% between 1 and 60 minutes and 27% between 1 and 5 days.

It’s one of those tragic conditions which the Abortion Act had in mind, 90% of anencephalic babies are aborted before birth and it is often quoted by proponents of abortion. I have to confess that the condition is the one that has provided the greatest challenge for me in terms of thinking about the ethics of abortion and balancing the wellbeing of the child against that of a mother. No-one should blame or vilify a mother who decided to go through a termination in those circumstances.

As I read how Jo and Brian had gone shopping to choose an outfit for their son to be buried in, how they had made arrangements for their priest to be present for the birth so Colin could be baptised, how they had prayed that he might not die instantaneously at birth in order that they might have the opportunity to let him feel how loved he was, I could not begin to imagine how it would feel to be in that situation, and I could only weep tears of sadness for them, but also gratitude as I held my beautiful 9 week old baby close. Thank God it was not me who was tested in this way. Would I be able to face the same trial with such good grace, courage and determination? Would I be able to endure 40 tough weeks of pregnancy and the trauma of giving birth, knowing that my baby would die shortly afterwards?

And then I realised that I was actually being terribly self-indulgent. There I was crying tears of sadness over something that was not only not happening to me, but was also very powerful and positive. Instead of bemoaning their situation, this beautiful and devoted young couple were taking every moment that they could to cherish the relationship and time that they had with their son, whilst they still could. Here is what Jo said last week:

So today I woke up and thought, today is my last Wednesday with Colin. It made me so sad to think that it would be the LAST Wednesday Colin would be growing inside me. By this time next week I will have an empty belly. I pray so hard every single day that Colin lives through the birth. I pray that we get time with him alive. What I ultimately pray for is that he is able to live a long life. If everything happens as statistics show none of these things will happen. So, today I tried very hard to be thankful for this last Wednesday with Colin. I am feeling very pregnant now a days, but consciously try not to complain. Today I am grateful to be pregnant, today I am thankful to have Colin alive inside of me. I want to fully appreciate these last few days I have with him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in miracles. I believe Colin is capable of living a longer life than we expect. I believe God answers prayers and heals. I also don’t want to be naive and disregard all the information we have been given. I am as prepared as I can be to meet my son. I am also prepared (if anyone can really be prepared) to say goodbye. The love I have for Colin is beyond explanation. I’m sure any parent understands that. I will be forever thankful for him and how he changed me. Today I have my son! Today he is alive! Today Brian and I went shopping for an outfit to bury our son in. Today was HARD, but at least we had today with him and we tried to make the best out of today. I told Colin over and over again how much I love him. I told him how proud I am of him and how he is changing people. I told him how much I appreciate him and his love. No one knows if this was their last Wednesday with someone they love. Did you live today like it could be your last Wednesday? Did you appreciate the fact that you woke up and took a breath this Wednesday? Do the people you love know you love them today?

Now one can argue that Jo’s decision to carry Colin to term was her choice, one that should not be forced or imposed on others. Maybe so, but look at the joy and the positivity amongst the heartbreaking sadness. Abortion could not have been the right decision, even in this scenario, because Colin’s parents have taken the opportunity to really bond with their unborn son, to get to know him as best as they could, and to love him inside the uterus, no matter how brief his time outside would be. Ultimately they have the comfort of knowing that when he died, it was not a violent brutal death through their bidding at the cold hard steel of an abortionist’s instruments, but enveloped in his parents’ love, surrounded by love and prayer. Allowing Colin to be born and to die naturally, will have eased not only his suffering but theirs too, making the process of grief and healing so much gentler than the dissonance of knowing that one brought about one’s child’s death, even with the best of intentions.

The problem with moral theology in these testing situations, is that whilst it might provide us with the solution as to what should happen, it can seem lacking in compassion. If I had been in this situation and had someone parroting Aquinas at me, I think the Summa would have ended up where the sun don’t shine. Empathy must not lead us down morally dangerous paths, no matter how well intentioned, but it can go a long way to helping people to come to the right conclusions. If I were dealing with a woman in Jo’s situation, I would not be going all Magisterial on her, but helping her to see that carrying the baby to term, would be the best solution for her in the long-run, only dealing with the spiritual blessings and graces as appropriate.

Here are some more extracts from their diary. My usual loquaciousness fails me. I can’t comment beyond tears.

No ultrasound machine can show us how much love we share and we have to be very thankful the amount of time we have had together. We don’t know how much more time we have, but non of it should be wasted on what your head might look like. I know you are exactly how you’re supposed to be. I know you are beyond beautiful because you are a miracle. Your life has already touched so many. You’re only 35 weeks old and have touched more lives than Mommy and I’m 30! I love you so much Colin. Thank you for showing me what is important.

We would have never in a million years thought we would have to meet with a panel of people to talk about what organs we want to donate from our son. Our precious baby Colin. But, this is the hand we have been dealt. We don’t know exactly what God has in store for you but if he does decide to take you faster than we want we have to find a way to turn this crappy situation into something positive, something beyond ourselves. What better way to honor you? Daddy and Mommy are giving you a chance at life and now you will give others a chance at life! What an awesome dude you are! I am so proud to call you my son! I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to carry you!

Here’s their latest update from Facebook:

October 24th, 2012 at 1:13am, Colin Patrick Perry was born and went to be with God. We are so proud of our son and love him beyond comprehension.

Thank you Joanna and Brian for your brave witness and your courage. This encapsulates the essence of parenthood for me – loving your child so much that you willingly and gratefully put yourself on the line for them, without counting the personal cost. This is what saying “yes” is all about. Mary was told that a sword would pierce her soul, she had to endure the pain of witnessing her son dying an excruciating death, but never lost her faith and trust in God.

One can see that already Joanna and Brian have allowed their suffering to transform them, to bring them closer to God and that untold blessings will emerge out of this tragedy, physically manifested in the new hope and life given to others through Colin’s organs.

Please don’t comment here, go to the Perry’s Facebook page or blog, thank them and tell them how awesome they are. (Unless you are one of the trolls, in which case fill your boots below in the usual fashion).

Colin Patrick Perry Resquiat in pace.

Report BPAS to the ASA

BPAS have been accused of exploiting the recent abortion limit controversy by launching a new pro-choice campaign, to be featured on billboards and in bus shelters around the country, called No More Names. 

The campaign raises a number of issues, such as whether or not an organisation which receives £25 million a year, most of which is received from the taxpayer for providing abortions on the NHS (93% of its work is NHS funded) should in fact be advertising to normalise and promote as a good, what is for very many people, a last-ditch enormously tragic procedure.

Of primary concern is the dubious claim that one in three women will have an abortion in their reproductive lifetime, abortion is therefore a necessary medical procedure and women should not be stigmatised or called names for having one. No-one is arguing that women who have abortions should be stigmatised and neither is there any evidence to suggest that any marginalisation does take place; despite claims to the contrary, none of the groups who conduct clinic vigils in the UK, either 40 days for life or Abort 67 are in the business of shouting or name-calling of women entering the clinic. There are there to help and offer alternative solutions, not to alienate and abuse women who they recognise are often in a very difficult position. No Christian with a shred of spiritual conscience,  intellectual honesty or emotional intelligence would so abuse a post-abortive woman in such a way, the default position is always one of compassion and sympathy for all involved, we know that these situations are not always easy and for many their decision has come about for a variety of reasons.

So if there is no discernible name-calling, then the entire point of this campaign is to normalise and promote abortion, which is always an ethical choice, as a necessary medical procedure, which most women will need to undergo in their lifetime. This is demonstrably false. Last year no abortions were performed under grounds F and G, i.e. in the case of an emergency to save the life of the pregnant woman or to prevent grave permanent injury to her physical or mental health. 102 out of 189,931 abortions last year were performed under ground B, which is deemed necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. No abortions were performed solely to save the life of a woman – ground A. The 45 abortions that fell into this category, were combined with other grounds such as the most common one, ground C, which gives the most flexibility. If we then factor in the findings of a recent maternal health symposium in Dublin which ruled that direct abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother, this idea of abortion being necessary, looks increasingly shaky.

If abortion is a medical necessity, then why does it need to be advertised on billboards, hoardings and in bus-shelters alongside consumer products as if it is a lifestyle choice? It rather makes a mockery of the attempted perjorative “anti-choice” label? Are these adverts, which seek to promote abortion as well as brand awareness of a major abortion provider, suitable for children and teens, who are being sold a message that abortion is a necessary and desirable procedure?

The advert itself could be construed as pro-life, featuring a photo of a beautiful baby. The agency either missed the irony of putting a photograph of a baby on a clinic that provides abortions and suggests that we should call women who have had abortions, “mother”, or more disturbingly, wants to present an idealised stylised image of motherhood in the same way as any company wishing to sell you a product to make you buy into an image or vision. In this case we have a picture of a beautiful young model and her baby. The message is clear, unless you are in a position to have the perfect yummy mummy lifestyle with the beautiful blond haired blue eyed angelic looking baby, then abortion is the answer. Abortion advocates have switched to using worrying new tactics – unless you can live a sepia-toned, airbrushed vision of motherhood, the kind of lifestyle promoted by manufacturers of baby products and magazines, then you should not be having children. It is not life that matters, but presumed quality of life and nothing less than a sanitised, white teeth and baby-Boden vision will do. If you can’t live the yummy mummy dream, then you should not be having children.

The choice of models is equally telling, they are all middle-class, and bar one, all young and white. Abortion is obviously the choice of the young beautiful white people, whereas the statistics tell us a very different story. 49% of women who had repeat abortions in 2011, were Black or Black British, 45% were mixed race, 33% were Chinese or another group and 32% were Asian or Asian British. Statistically speaking it is not the white middle classes who are having to resort to abortion, which begs the question why the advert does not reflect this, unless of course they are seeking to extend their client base, hence the unrepresentative models.

The crux of the advert, is the claim that one in three women will have an abortion. I previously wrote about who the one in three women are, but I’ve been doing some digging as to the basis of this statistic, which has been provided by the Guttmacher Institute, the research body funded by Planned Parenthood, America’s biggest abortion provider. BPAS provide no breakdown or statistical analysis of how they have produced this figure, other than it has come from the Guttmacher Institute.

The Guttmacher’s figures relate solely to the American population, so is it statistically correct to extrapolate this to the situation to the UK? Secondly the figure appears to be some sort of straight averaging, which is again misleading. A woman who has had multiple abortions (36% of abortions carried out in the UK IN 2011 were repeats) is going to skew the figures. Furthermore it seems that abortion is defined in these statistics as a Dilatation and Curettage (D&C), which is not strictly used for abortion. Many women require a D&C post natural miscarriage, or in my case, following the birth of my first child, therefore it is inaccurate to include D&C procedures within abortion statistics. Perhaps a third of women will require a D&C at some point in their reproductive life, but that is not the same as a third of all women requiring abortion.

The Advertising Codes laid down by the ASA state that advertisements must not mislead or offend. The BPAS advert definitely falls into the former category and for a significant majority of the population, the latter. It misleads as to the number of people who have an abortion, the type of people who have an abortion, provides no statistics to back up any of it claims, either in terms of the amount of women who have abortions or the perceived stigmatising of post-abortive women. It is offensive in that it portrays an ethical decision which results in the destruction of an unborn child and often severe trauma to the mother, as being a medical necessity and/or a consumer choice. The complaint form is here. 

Women who have abortions are mothers, sisters, friends. They all deserve better.

Removing rights of conscience?

Thinking about the issue of the lack of doctors who are willing or able to work for the abortion clinics, this is not the first time that this issue has been raised by BPAS. I blogged on it last year.

It really wouldn’t surprise me if this was the start of a prolonged attempt to remove the rights of conscience for those who do not wish to participate in the abortion process, such as the Scottish midwives who recently lost their case.

If that is the case then an interesting clash with the ECHR seems on the cards. Article 9 is clear, but open to interpretation. Could abortion fall into the category of being “in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

Interesting and potentially troubling times ahead.

Another Beethoven

Steve Jobs’ legacy is not only that of the beautiful sleek shiny products that were to transform technology, not simply the hours of pleasure he brought to countless children and families by his innovations at Pixar, but what is also true is that he is undoubtedly the pro-life beacon, the Beethoven of our age.

Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian political science professor named Abdulfattah John Jandali and his biological mother was student Joanne Carole Shieble. They met at the University of Wisconsin but didn’t marry according to Jandali, because Joanne’s Jewish father forbade her from marrying a Syrian.

Jobs’ birth took place in 1956, 17 years before Roe v Wade legalised abortion in America and thus his mother clearly felt that she had no other choice. In another interesting twist, the original prospective adoptive parents had a change of heart, deciding not to adopt Steve as they really wanted a girl, hence he went to the second parents on the list, who received a late-night phone call to inform them that a baby was available.

Perhaps of more interest is the fact that Joanne almost called a halt to the adoption, refusing to sign the papers when she realised that the working-class Jobs’ family did not have college degrees, echoing some of the decisions made by today’s social workers when deciding upon issues of suitability of prospective couples. How would Jobs’ life turned out had he been adopted elsewhere? Imagine what we would have lost had he not been born? Like Beethoven Jobs was a creative visionary, the circumstances of his birth were hardly ideal and yet he brought pleasure and will continue to do so, to countless millions.

The pro-life vision extends from moment of conception to moment of natural death. Steve Jobs received his diagnosis of terminal cancer in 2004, being told he had 3-5 months left. No-one would have blamed him had he sought a painless swift death, instead of years of gruelling medical treatment, including reported transplants. And yet his impending death inspired him to go on to greater heights of achievement, including the iPhone and the IPad. He made his peace with the daughter whose existence he had denied for years and admitted his behaviour had been less than perfect. Death, he said, gave him focus and clarity.

He made his final public appearance, 2 days before his death, facing his illness with quiet courage and determination.

Not bad for an unplanned baby who dropped out of college.

Thanks for the shinys Steve. RIP.