Anthony Bell finds SPUC in good heart at its Newcastle Conference

More than two hundred supporters gathered at Newcastle University over a weekend to take stock and plan for the future. With the prospect of further imminent anti-life legislation after a General Election which entrenched the large Labour majority, one would have expected low expectations and an uncertain future, but the mood and the outlook proved on the contrary to be determined, hopeful and realistic.

The conference opened with the presentation of a video, entitled …and still they weep, by Stephen Foster, of SPUC Evangelicals. This carefully produced teaching aid, addressed the stressful after-effects of abortion through interviews with four victims in different personal circumstances. It is hoped that the video will be used widely in branches and in church and house groups throughout the country.

The medical and legal implications of the ‘morning-after pill’ – Levellon 2 – were described in detail by Philip Howard, a consultant, and James Bogle, barrister, both closely involved in the application granted to SPUC to challenge the Department of Health directive extending to pharmacists permission to dispense this abortifacient drug across the counter without prescription to children over sixteen. The directive also permits the issue of this drug by school nurses in certain circumstances to children as young as eleven years. There is no certainty of success, but the controversial nature of a statutory instrument authorizing such an invasion of parental responsibility and medical supervision will receive widespread publicity. This pill is many times more powerful than the usual contraceptive, and its long term effects are unknown; it is surely scandalous that immature girls should be exposed to the actions of such a drug even when they are not known to be pregnant.

Teresa Lynch, a nurse experienced in geriatric care, explained the need for professional support for nurses worried by the encroaching culture of euthanasia by omission of sustenance through the withdrawal of food and drink from patients in the terminal stage of illness. She has formed ‘Nurses Opposed to Euthanasia’ to defend the integrity of the profession. She emphasized that in the carrying out of controversial clinical decisions, it falls to the lot of nurses to fulfil the physician’s order. She had been contacted by many nurses anxious about their job security and already worried by the ambivalent attitude apparent in treating some patients in the final stages of terminal illness.

There were a number of workshops which addressed a range of issues; prominent among these was an excellent insight into Parliamentary lobbying, and an outline of the approach to schools and the involvement of young people in Branch activities. Alison Davies vigorously defended the rights of those born with disabilities and the explained how the humanity of the embryo was disregarded in ‘therapeutic’ cloning.

The final morning was given over to political and social issues. Jeanne Head, a midwife of many years experience, who heads a pro-life group in Manhattan, New York, spoke on the vigilant campaign in the United Nations to resist the constant thrust of Western Governments to extend the right to abortion on demand to women throughout the world under the euphemistic guise of ‘reproductive health’. The election of a Pro-Life administration in the United States has thrown the abortion lobby onto the defensive.

Andrew Pollard, a business consultant, shared the conclusions of a careful enquiry into the statistics of population decline in the United Kingdom and other industrialized nations. Contrary to the official forecasts of government-sourced statistics, the downward drift of births in relation to deaths was far further advanced that is admitted.

It would be true to say that Britain is dying. Deaths outnumber births; labour shortages are widespread and increasing; nearly half our nurses are recruited from Spain, Philippines. India, and many other countries; we are short of doctors, policemen, military personnel (according to the Guardian); and there are shortfalls in many other trades; Newcastle City Council has admitted the population of the city is falling.

The major collapse in the UK birthrate took place in the years 1971–78. The cause which no-one dares to mention is contraception and abortion. Fewer babies means fewer new workers, a higher proportion of retiring workers; this will lead inevitably to higher taxes, a large shortfall in pension provision, and thus a later retirement age, perhaps not until 72! We should ask whether Britain is suffering from the ‘Iron Law of Population’, which is an objective moral law. In 1960 there were one million births in Britain every year. The official figures give the projection of live births in 2006 as 679,000. The more probable figure in 2006 will be nearer 440,000.

Immigration from poorer countries is hardly a moral way of making up the labour shortage. The collapse in births can be clearly traced to prevalent attitudes formed by deadly ideas. Bad attitudes lead to behaviour which inhibits new births.. Fornication, sterilization, abortion leading to homosexuality and adultery; all this initiated by contraception. Such behaviour, in turn, leads to the consequences we have observed: a population in decline. The remedy is to inculcate good ideas and thus change behaviour.

In his address concluding the conference, John Smeaton, National Director, called the society to renewed effort. He instanced the directive allowing free access to the ‘morning-after pill’ as the most scandalous assault on unborn life he had ever encountered, and despite the heavy financial cost SPUC was in duty bound to challenge it. He felt that there were grounds for sensing that a change of heart on the issue of unborn life was taking place in the hearts of the people, and he called upon all who had supported SPUC through so many difficult times to continue the fight in good heart.

Antony Bell is a retired priest living in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.