Anthony Bell reports on a key conference on the right to life
On 26th and 27th March the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children hosted a major Eurpopean conference in London. SPUC was moved to convene this meeting to alert the general public across Europe to the challenge that the subversive movement, promoted by the population control lobby, poses to the whole tradition of which we are the inheritors, and which we know as the ‘sanctity of life’. The key message given during these packed two days was undoubtedly the encouraging account by Dana Rosemary Scallon, MEP for Ulster/Connaught, Ireland, of the growing pro-life network across the European Union.
Following her election to the EU Parliament in May 2001 she raised the alert to the true aims and intentions of the secular feminists and realized that their partisan use of language has to be exposed and resisted. Two phrases drew attention to the unseemly argument which engaged women MEPs in confrontation: ‘Abortion hurts women’, and ‘Women are at war with women.’
Hearts and Minds
Dana Scallon came from success in show business to stand for election as an MEP in 2001. She had won wide popular acclaim as a singer of talent and magnetic personality in the 1980s, and her well-known commitment to the right to life of the unborn took her to success in the election; from the first she made her mark in Strasbourg; through her integrity and refusal to compromise, and she has won adherents to her position and gained the respect other opponents. To win over hearts and minds it is essential for a genuine dialogue to take place with the feminist lobby which until recently held total sway within the European Union on policy towards women. This has now changed since Dana and her supporters challenged the assumption that EU funds could only be used to support women’s organizations in favour of the feminist stance towards Life. In controversy Dana had concluded that Mrs Sandbaek, the Danish MEP who leads the Feminist group, genuinely desired what was best for women but had to be persuaded by argument in dialogue that her position was founded on false premises. Thus Dana urges the Life movement ‘to work with the people who normally oppose the Pro-Life position – get to know them.’ It is the way to change hearts and minds.
Jonathan Evans, MEP for Wales, and leader of the Conservative Group, explained the strategy being used by our opponents to secure universal access to abortion. They sought the undermining of values, through the subtle misuse of language; they spoke of ‘delayed child bearing’, and ‘interrupted pregnancy’ referring to abortion. They were using ‘semantic gymnastics’; the key phrase in the publicity of Marie Stopes International and the International Federation for Planned Parenthood (IFPP) is ‘Reproductive Health’, a portmanteau word which always indicates access to contraception, family planning and abortion. The Parliament has voted money our taxpayers have contributed to fund ‘Reproductive Health’ in the developing countries of the world. It is this abuse of public funds that has to be resisted and reversed.
Lord Brennan, a prominent Labour peer and lawyer, spoke with authority on the provisions of the draft Mental Incapacity Bill. Personal autonomy, a dangerously imprecise term, is now considered by a majority of legal opinion to overrule basic moral imperatives, such as the ‘sanctity of life’, and the ground rules of the Hippocratic tradition in medicine.
This puts doctors and nurses in an invidious position. On what scale of value is a person’s life to be judged as ‘worthwhile’? The right of personal autonomy will require doctors and nurses to do what we cannot do ourselves. When suicide was decriminalized in the Act of 1961 it did not imply any change in the judgement that self-harm is wrong.
The recent case of the late Diane Pretty upheld the judicial view that it remains a criminal act to assist a person to commit suicide. Archbishop Rowan Williams has recently affirmed that ‘private killing is inadmissible.’
This venture of SPUC to gather together activists in defence of the Christian tradition, universal across Europe until recent years, that life should be protected from conception until natural death, was the first of its kind. The eager response, which saw representatives from twenty-two nations across Europe present at the conference, was proof of a common resolve to resist the defeatist utilitarian aims of the insidious world-view which sees the moral norms of religion and all appeals to a common and universal protection for vulnerable human beings as oppressive and a denial of the rights of the individual. It provided good evidence that there is still a strong will to ensure the continued provision of unconditional respect for life.
There was no greater cause for hope than the testimony of the supporters of the Pro-Life movement in Poland, who told us how from 1956 to 1993 the law in Poland permitted abortion on demand. After a long struggle it was changed, and the Act ‘on Family Planning, Protection of the Human Foetus and conditions for the permissibility of Abortion’ was passed. Strenuous efforts were made by activists to retain abortion on social grounds, but in 1997 this amendment was declared unconstitutional. The dire warnings of widespread defiance of the act have not been vindicated. There has not been an explosion of illegal abortions, there has been improvement in the health of new-born babies, and also in ante-natal care. Why should not the experience of Poland be repeated in other countries?
The limitations of the venue, a working headquarters of the Salvation Army, itself a powerful social resource for the vulnerable across the capital, were overcome with skill and sensitivity by the organizing team. John Smeaton and his team deserve high praise for a successful enterprise. Thanks are due to the Salvation Army for their generous hospitality.
Those who look for further information about the conference and who are keen to assist in creating a European Network, need to access EURO-FAM, a non-partisan organization to enable citizens of Europe to inform themselves accurately about issues and to challenge their MEPs. Euro-Fam’s website can be found at www.euro-fam.org.
For advice on Euro elections in June, contact Fiorella Sultana De Maria at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Bell attended the SPUC Conference at the Salvation Army Centre in Oxford Street