Thursday, 13 December 2012

Auschwitz-Birkenau: Personal Reflections

In recent months this blog has been tracing the development of the ideology of eugenics. We have now reached the 1930s and the rise of Nazi Germany and the most concerted implementation of eugenic theories yet attempted . Over the next few weeks we will examine the most important elements of the Nazi ‘eugenic state’ in more detail; however before we do so I would like to share some personal reflections on my recent visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The famous entrance gate at Auschwitz I
A concentration camp was established at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1940 to hold Polish political prisoners but it became a central component of the Nazi eugenic programme especially after the Third Reich committed itself to the extermination of the Jews in 1942. It is estimated that at least one million people, mainly Jews, Poles, and Roma and Sinti gypsies, were murdered at the camp between 1940 and 1944. Nazi ideology, basing itself closely on the ‘science’ of eugenics (which I have previously discussed here and here and here), regarded all three groups as ‘untermenschen’ or subhuman.

Auschwitz-Birkenau consists of two main sites. The original camp, Auschwitz I, is now a museum while at Auschwitz II - Birkenau there are no exhibits or information boards and visitors are simply invited to walk around the complex which covers a total area of 140 hectares. The roads lead through rows and rows of barracks and other structures, of which for the most part only the foundations now remain. In two corners of the site are the ruins of the gas chambers in which so many innocent men, women, and children, lost their lives, being, for the most part, guilty only of possessing the wrong genes. After spending the morning at the museum at Auschwitz I we arrived at Auschwitz II at about four o’clock in the afternoon, just as it was beginning to get dark and as the evening mist began to form. There were not many other visitors and so we walked the ‘streets’ of Auschwitz almost alone. Despite these ‘atmospheric’ conditions it was still very difficult to comprehend the horror of what had taken place on the very ground on which we were standing. For myself I was most forcibly struck by the tragedy while waiting for the bus that would take us back to Krakow and thinking of the hundreds of thousands of my fellow human beings who must have longed to make the same journey but who were never able to do so.

'Subhumans' or human beings?
There were many other moments of unease as I explored the museum and site at Auschwitz. I felt unable to share in the common assumption that the 'Holocaust' is an event past and gone, which we can mourn over while comforting ourselves that we will never allow such things to happen again. As I walked through the galleries I became increasingly aware that the arguments used by the Nazis to justify their extermination of 'subhumans' were to a large extent indistinguishable both from the ideology of eugenics that I have been exploring on this blog and the arguments used to justify abortion and euthanasia in the present. The 'Holocaust' was simply one rotten fruit of the eugenics movement and the present mass-slaughter of the unborn is merely a modern manifestation of the same. There is even some degree of institutional continuity; we have already seen how a eugenicist involved in the Nazi sterilisation programme was head of the German affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation until 1984. We will be exploring Nazi eugenics in more detail over the next few weeks. I would like to conclude this post by simply stating a few of the parallels that struck me most closely as I walked through the museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

-         Both the Nazis and the modern abortion industry use dehumanising language and pseudo-science in order to deny the humanity of their victims. Advocates of abortion refer to the unborn child merely as a ‘foetus’ or ‘a clump of cells’ in the same way that the Nazis developed a ‘racial science’ purporting to prove that Jews, Gypsies and Slavs were ‘subhuman.’ In recent years the abortion lobby has even redefined pregnancy, contrary to all established scientific understanding, in order to deny that certain forms of contraceptive drugs have an abortifacient effect.

-         Auschwitz has become notorious for the experiments carried out on prisoners by Dr Joseph Mengele and his team. The justification for such crimes was that they would lead to medical advances and that it was legitimate to experiment on ‘subhumans’ if it brought medical benefits. This is exactly the justification used by those who carry out experiments on human beings at the embryonic stage of development. They relegate these human beings to a ‘subhuman’ status and then argue that it is necessary to experiment on them in order to find cures for medical conditions. In both cases it is human beings who are the subject of the experiments.There is no moral difference between the experiments carried out by Dr Mengele in Auschwitz and those conducted by scientists in modern labs.[1]

-         In the museum at Auschwitz one can see punishment forms filled in by German guards seeking permission to punish prisoners. These forms had to be signed and approved by senior officers. This is just one of the ways in which the horrors of Auschwitz were legitimised by formal procedures. Auschwitz and other extermination camps were extremely well run, with clearly defined goals, and conducted with the full support of the national governent. In the same way the abortion industry also hides behind its fa├žade of legality and state support. By obtaining two signatures the taking of a human life suddenly becomes a legitimate and respectable procedure.

-         Legal formalities cannot however stifle the voice of conscience. There is always a secret fear of crimes being recognised for what they are. This secret guilt is clearly in evidence among the Nazis in their panicked liquidation of prisoners and destruction of the gas chambers as Allied forces approached the camps. It was also common for those involved in the ‘final solution’ to destroy any documents that implicated them. Despite their inward and outward self-justification they knew that they were guilty of an offence against the moral law and that this would be recognised once the full facts were known and freely discussed. The abortion industry receives enormous sums of money from national governments; they are given almost total support in the mainstream media and the abortion ideology reigns unchallenged in most of our institutions. Yet the smallest success by the pro-life movement, the smallest number of people holding peaceful vigil outside a modern day death-chamber, is enough to bring forth extraordinary expressions of fear and anxiety on their part. They live in fear that those actions for which their conscience now condemns them in secret will one day be condemned before the whole world just as the crimes committed secretly at Auschwitz were exposed openly at Nuremberg.
'Subhuman' or human being?

There may be some readers who remain unconvinced by the parallel that I have drawn in this post. I would like to end by reminding such readers that the Nazis also would have had no difficulty in responding to my post with a barrage of 'facts' and arguments that purported to justify their identification of certain races as 'subhuman'. Yet today we can see that this distinction is arbitary and their 'science' worthless. All those who support abortion, or any form of research or 'medical' procedure that leads to the destruction of embryos, are also making arbritary distinctions between human beings reducing certain categories to a subhuman status which leads to their deaths. I would urge you to consider upon what grounds you make these distinctions and whether your division of humanity has any more justification than that of the Nazis. 

Please help us to defeat abortion:

-         Join SPUC today

[1] It is also interesting to note that after Mengele escaped justice and fled to Argentina he practiced medicine for a couple of years, during which time he reputedly ‘had a reputation as a specialist in abortions.’ (

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Life and Crimes of Margaret Sanger Part V: Birth Control and Abortion

Margaret Sanger in her later years
Margaret Sanger’s most concrete legacy is surely the International Planned Parenthood Federation which consists of 150 affiliated organisations working in 172 countries. Together they form the largest organisation in the world dedicated to the promotion of contraception and abortion.

Margaret Sanger’s name is therefore inextricably associated with abortion, yet during her lifetime the practice was illegal in most American states and in almost every country in the world. It will be of interest then to consider Sanger’s views on abortion and ask why the birth control organisations she led were to become the major abortion providers wherever abortion was legalised, and the major advocates for its legalisation in those nations where it was not. 

Sanger was in favour of abortion from an early stage in her career despite her reluctantance to support it publicly. In her 1920 book Women and the New Race she claimed that throughout history societies have feared overpopulation and therefore practiced abortion and infanticide. Accordingly she argued that only the widespread availability of artificial birth control could bring an end to such 'horrors'. Sanger gives examples of women who have been ‘forced’ into abortion because they could not afford any more children. She used the natural abhorrence of abortion to try to overcome the equally natural abhorrence of contraception. If she was sincere in her profession that abortion was something to be regretted she was nonetheless prepared to support it. In her book Family Limitation she stated baldly that ‘no one can doubt that there are times when an abortion is justifiable.’ According to Angela Franks there is evidence that her Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau referred at least seventy-five women for abortions.[1] Indeed Sanger’s criticisms of abortion seem to focus on the danger abortion procedures pose to the health of the mother rather than on the rights of the unborn child.
One of the major questions Sanger poses in Women and New Race is ‘Contraceptives or Abortion—which shall it be?’ Sanger’s commitment to radical sexual liberation, which admits no possibility of sexual abstinence or self-restraint, combined with her conviction that overpopulation is the cause of poverty, renders her unable to accept the possibility of any other solutions to the problems that she raises. This refusal to acknowledge that rational human beings can exercise self-control in sexual matters is very prevalent today. Young people are taught to consider themselves as subject to uncontrollable desires which will result either in ‘unwanted pregnancy’ or sexually transmitted diseases unless they allow themselves to be subjected to a variety of contraceptive methods.  Modern sex education therefore strips from young people any sense of self-respect or true understanding of their sexuality.
Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service), has argued that we must either view abortion as a ‘problem’ or we must ‘allow people their moments of intimacy, we allow them to enjoy sex, and we allow them to make use of abortion as a back-up to contraception.’[2] In other words, as no limit can reasonably be placed on the pursuit of sexual pleasure (because the right to such pleasure is so fundamental and the desire for it so overwhelming) it is permissible to destroy the ‘unwanted’ results of such actions, even though they be unique and innocent human beings.

If we have learnt anything in this series of posts about Margaret Sanger it is surely that the origins of abortion lie in an erroneous ideology of sexual liberation which separates sexual pleasure from the procreative and unitive ends of the sexual act. Once this isolation of pleasure has taken place then it becomes ‘necessary’ for birth control to be used to allow for the maximum pursuit of this pleasure. The failure of birth control to prevent all ‘unwanted pregnancy’ then renders abortion equally ‘necessary’.  This is why the birth control movement was brought forth by the movement for ‘sexual liberation’ and why it has seamlessly developed into the abortion industry that we confront today.
Only by working tirelessly to restore a true understanding of human sexuality can the pro-life movement ensure that all human life will once more be loved, protected and welcomed.

You may be interested in reading the other posts in this series:

The Life and Crimes of Margaret Sanger: Part I

The Life and Crimes of Margaret Sanger II: From Marx to Malthus

The Life and Crimes of Margaret Sanger III: Eugenics and Birth Control

The Life and Crimes of Margaret Sanger IV: Eugenics and Race

[1] Angela Franks, Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility, p11
[2] Ann Furedi, ‘Why rising abortion rates are not a problem?’, Spiked Online, (31/3/2008)

Marie Stopes employee in the UK turns whistleblower

Below is a hard hitting report by Dennis Rice and Rachel Ellis and published in The Daily Mail 7 years ago 2005. It's rare that a nurse, doctor, or administrator working for an abortion organisation turns whistleblower and reveals the workings of an abortion unit or an abortion organisation.

Powerful examples include Dr. Bernard Nathanson who was an abortionist and founded NARAL (known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, when first founded). Nathanson abandoned the pro-abortion organisation, in large part following the routine use of ultrasound which became a window into the womb and the life of the child before birth, and circles he moved in. He became a pro-life advocate for the unborn and helped produce two well know films "The Silent Scream" and "Eclipse of Reason" which highlighted the humanity of the unborn child and the wickedness of abortion. 

Carol Everett owned a chain of abortion centres in America during the 80s. By her own admission she is responsible for the deaths of 35,000 unborn babies, 1 mother, and the injuring of at least 19 mothers who required serious surgery following an abortion. Carol's descent into the abortion industry began when she had her third child aborted following pressure from her then husband and doctor. We've written about Carol before on the blog, which includes a shocking video interview, where she explains the the plan to sell abortion to teenage girls and young women had and its relevance today.

Dr. Anthony Levantino MD JD is an American obstetrician gynaecologist. From June 1993 until September 2000, he was associate professor of OB-GYN at the Albany Medical College, and has served in private practises all of his career. From 1981 through February 1985, he performed approximately 1200 abortions. Over 100 of them were second-trimester Suction D&E procedures up to 24 weeks gestation, a procedure so terrible in its killing of the child that very few were willing to do it. However, Dr. Levantino is now a pro-life doctor and advocate. This year he gave a powerful testimony about his life and the true nature of abortion procedures.

Abbey Johnson is probably the most well known person to leave the abortion industry and become an effective pro-life voice. Abbey worked for planned parenthood in America, eventually becoming a director of Planned Parenthood in Texas. Her personal involvement in an abortion, and the image on the ultrasound screen, was a turning point. Abby's rejection of abortion was also influenced by 40 Days for Life, which held peaceful prayer vigils outside the centre where Abby worked. She has since given numerous interviews and written several books. People who have worked in the abortion industry, together with mothers who have sadly had abortions, and then become pro-life, can make powerful spokespersons and defenders of the unborn, yet largely ignored by the mainstream media and pro-abortion groups they once inhabited. Other recent examples can be found, just do a simple word search on LifeSite News.

You'll notice all of these come from America. It seems even more difficult to find such examples in the UK, but there are examples of whistleblowers.

One example that people may not know about is from 2005, when an employee of abortionists Marie Stopes in Brixton South London left her job and revealed that staff were being given or withheld pay bonus incentives based on the number of "clients" (mothers) having NHS-paid abortions. The employee, Ms. Georgiou reported that staff were told to hit targets of 50 abortions a day, rather than 20-30. According to the report, Marie Stopes 
"concedes that staff do receive performance-related awards and agrees that employees at the South London clinic were told to increase their 'efficiency and capacity' if they wanted to receive the full amount".

This is truly shocking. So, please read the article below. Turn this into action - order pro-life leaflets from SPUC and put them through letterboxes. Read and put into action the Youth & Student Newsletter, Join the Helpers of God's Precious Infants and the Good Counsel Network vigils, join or start a local SPUC branch in your area, so there will be an effective grass roots pro-life team where you live, for the sake of those in need and the most vulnerable - the children in the womb in danger of being killed. MSI Brixton Whistleblower report

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The fight continues in East London

The pro-life fight in East London continues. Last Saturday (10th November) the Helpers of God's Precious Infants held their second vigil outside the Bpas abortuary in Stratford. The campaign against Bpas in Stratford has been going since August 2011 (see the links at the bottom of this post). It has involved several pro-life groups, local residents, Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims, and people of no religious affiliation, consultant doctors, paediatricians, GPs, nurses, medical students, barristers, the retired, retail assistants, tradesmen, office professionals, mums, dads, grandparents - people coming from every walk of life. It has received wide coverage in the Guardian, the Newham Recorder, Islamic news outlets, blogs, websites, and Christian Radio.

We learnt a week before that a pro-abortion counter protest had been organised by a casual group under the name "Newham: Abortion, a woman's choice". This group began with a Stratford street stall in support of the Bpas centre, and was later advertised at an Abortion Rights meeting in Westminster. Emails were sent by pro-lifers encouraging people to make a special effort to come to the vigil for the unborn and their parents. It was short notice but the turnout was good.

I set off early on Saturday morning, and headed to Stratford via the DLR and tube. I learnt by the end that one woman had travelled all the way from Southampton! The day started with Mass (the Helpers group is a Catholic pro-life apostolate). After Mass we set off. We processed through the street, praying the rosary. The procession was headed by a very large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

We were about 50 in total. When we arrived at the Bpas abortion facility, the pro-abortion demo was already there outside the Bpas, which was closed that day. However, a handful of pro-abortion demonstrators were standing behind a police van in the location agreed for our vigil, so we had to stand further away down the road.

One of the pro-life vigil organisers informed the police that a counter-demo had been organised. On the day, the police were asked whether the pro-abortion demonstrators had applied and received an official permit to hold the demo. The policeman replied "that's none of your business". Make of that what you will. If the pro-abortion group didn't ask for a permit, it wouldn't surprise me, as we witnessed a whole series of very unprofessional and ill mannered displays by them on the day. The prayer vigil was conducted peacefully, calmly, and without fuss. The footpaths were always kept clear for passersby. The police didn't stand anywhere near us the whole time. Instead, they stood by and around the pro-abortion demonstrators for the entire time, and even parked their police van in front of them. There was 25-30 of them in total, so we managed to outnumber, and certainly out-pray, them.

Head of the procession with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Side photo of the prayer vigil. Well ordered, polite, prayerful, focused. 

About 5 pro-abortion protesters surrounded by 3 police and a police van.

The main pro-abortion group outside Bpas, about 25 in total.

They had to be told several times to stop blocking the footpath. They had placards, a large blue banner saying "Tower Hamlets: British Medical Association", and a megaphone.

It was appalling that they spent several hours from 9.30am - 11.30am screaming and shouting through the megaphone, chanting, swearing, and being obnoxious. They were right under the windows of the homes of people who live in the block. These are people with "complex needs" like mental ill health, disability, addictions. Moreover, some of the people have small children. What utter lack of consideration

The irony of a mother and father with their small child in a pram passing by people who have taken the time to protest in favour of killing children. 

One of the organisers of the pro-life prayer vigil kneels down to pray, which is done while the group meditates on the death of Jesus on the cross. Not content with spewing profanities against people across the road praying, not content with complete disregard for the people living in nearby homes, not content with defending the wicked killing of innocent unborn children, they decide to turn their noise against an elderly man praying.
 Here he is, praying. Who knows what went through the minds and hearts of those people demonstrating for abortion? It must have been a powerful contrast for them and the police to witness

Side view of the prayer vigil. You can see the police and the police van surrounding the pro-abortion demonstrators. That was the agreed location for the pro-life prayer vigil, but they got there first. The pro-lifers sang a few hymns - no disturbance to the local residents as we were across the road and largely drowned out by the constant passing of cars, buses, and lorries.

After the prayers had finished we processed back.

I was at the back of the procession. I turned to take a few more snaps, and was not surprised to see the pro-abortion demonstrators carrying on their lack of consideration for others. They completely blocked the footpath, so people had to walk in the street as cars and buses passed.

I had to switch the camera off as the battery was running low, so I missed this poor chap on crutches having to walk in the street as no one moved to let him pass.

Yet more people having to walk in the street. Maybe the demonstrators were too busy congratulating themselves to give a stuff about others. "Our footpath, our right to decide what we do with our footpath" "keep your feet off our street"? 

Group photo at the end. the organisers kindly provided lots of refreshments for us all in the hall. Well done and thanks to those who came and supporting the vigil on the day. You can find out all about what's been happening in east London by clicking on the links below.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Life and Crimes of Margaret Sanger IV: Eugenics and Race

A Ku Klux Klan rally (1922) 
Margaret Sanger addressed a KKK group in 1926
In 1939 the Birth Control Federation of America launched a new initiative called the ‘Negro Project’ to spread the ideology and practice of birth control among African Americans.

One of Margaret Sanger’s chief allies was Clarence Gamble, of the Proctor & Gamble dynasty, who was an ardent eugenicist and advocate of forced sterilisation. In a letter to Gamble she wrote:   

“It seems to me from my experience where I have been in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, that while the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors they can get closer to their own members and more or less lay their cards on the table which means their ignorance, superstitions and doubts... The ministers [sic] work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man to straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

This has often been seen as evidence that Sanger wished to eliminate the black race through eugenic birth control. However the truth is probably more complicated. There is no compelling evidence that Sanger was necessarily motivated by racism. As we have seen in previous posts, it was the physically and mentally disabled that she most desired to eliminate through contraception, segregation and sterilisation.  However it is not surprising that her work was open to such interpretations as throughout her career she was happy to collaborate with white supremacists at home and Nazis abroad.

Sanger appointed Lothrop Stoddard, author of The Rising Tide of Color Against White Supremacy, as a member of the board of directors of the American Birth Control League. Stoddard believed that the growth of non-white populations was putting western civilisation at risk. The book was based in large part on the racial theories of Madison Grant, whose book The Passing of the Great Race, was described by Adolf Hitler as his ‘Bible.’ At the Nuremberg Trials a defence lawyer for Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician and head of the Nazi euthanasia programme, used Grant’s book to help prove that the many of the ideas and practices implemented by the Nazis originated in the United States of America.

There were many connections between Sanger’s circle and the Nazi regime in Germany. Her friend Harry Laughlin drafted the model sterilisation law that was largely adopted by the Third Reich and he praised the Nazi regime during the 1930s. The Rockefeller Foundation supported both Sanger and Nazi eugenic programmes. Advocates of Nazi eugenics played a leading role in the international birth control movement, speaking at international conferences such as the 1927 Geneva conference which was organised by Sanger and was attended by future Nazis Edwin Baur and Eugen Fischer. Sanger's conference helped inspire the founding of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. The 1935 IUSSP conference was held in Berlin where American eugenicist Clarence G. Campbell toasted "that great leader, Adolf Hitler."

Hans Harmsen - worked with both Hitler and Sanger

The American Birth Control League changed its name to The Planned Parenthood Federation of America after the United States entered the Second World War in 1942 in order to hide from its former association with Nazi policies. However despite the change of name there were continuing links between Nazis and the modern eugenic and abortion movements. Hans Harmsen, a leading German eugenicist who took part in the implementation of the Nazi forced sterilisation programme in East Frisia, was head of the German affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation during Sanger’s presidency. In fact, he remained in the latter office as late as 1984.

Racist attitudes, or indifference to such attitudes, have always been commonplace within the abortion and birth control movement. Beatrice Blair, a leading abortion advocate, accepted money to build an abortion facility in a black area of Rochester, New York fully aware that ‘many people, in their minds, made the connection, well, we’re going to keep the blacks down.’[1] In Chicago Lonny Myers accepted the support of racist donors arguing ‘any cause has strange bedfellows.’[2] In a 2008 sting operation a Planned Parenthood clinic showed itself willing to accept donations specifically intended to be used to kill black infants and earlier this year abortionist Ashutosh Virmani spoke of killing ‘ugly black babies’ who nobody would want to adopt.[3] The eugenic nature of Britain’s abortion laws is seen by the distinction in law between disabled and non-disabled infants. The latter may be aborted up to 24 weeks but the former at any time up till birth. 90% of all those conceived with Down’s Syndrome are killed in their mother’s wombs. It is clear then that much of the movement is still motivated by eugenic principles. Hitler’s ‘Aryan race’, Stopes’ ‘irradiated race’ or Sanger’s ‘racial efficiency’ are all manifestations of the desire of the eugenicist to force the human race, no matter by what cruel or destructive means, to conform to their own ideal of perfection.

Earlier posts in this series:

[1] Angela Franks, Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility, p45
[2] Ibid

Monday, 5 November 2012

Plymouth - SPUC Pro-Life Universities Tour

Following our stop off at Bristol we returned to London, only to head back to the south west the following day for a pro-life talk at Plymouth University. The train journey was particularly scenic between Exeter and Plymouth - beautiful views of the countryside, coasts, beaches, and the sea. 

We were greeted by Fr. Ian Hellyer, a recent Catholic priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and Catholic chaplain at Plymouth University. Upon arrival we were fed authentic Cornish pasties, tea, and scones with strawberry jam. Fr Ian told us how he met his wife whilst they were both students at university. Fr. Ian's wife was a Catholic, he an Anglican. She started the pro-life society and he dutifully joined. They were married and are now parents to 9 children. Fr. Ian entered the Anglican ministry for 20 years, and 18 months ago converted to Catholicism through the Ordinariate. 

The talk, given by Joseph Meaney, went well. Having a mixture of UK and overseas students certainly added a good element to discussions afterwards. Members of the SPUC Plymouth branch also joined us for the talk. Christine Hudson of SPUC Plymouth spoke afterwards about the work of the local group, SPUC campaigns, and the youth and student newsletter. The SPUC Plymouth group have been active in supporting students at Plymouth and Exeter, inviting them to events, and sponsoring students to attend the SPUC international youth conference. We stayed for a long time talking afterwards, then were offered a very nice dinner and bed for the night by Christine and her family.

Whilst we were at Plymouth, SPUC's communications and media manager Anthony Ozimic was speaking to Exeter Univeristy's newly founded pro-life society. 

Up next: Exeter

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bristol - SPUC Pro-Life Universities Tour

During the third and fourth week of October Joseph Meaney, of Human Life International, was speaking at universities around the UK. Our second stop on the tour took us to the pro-life society at the university of Bristol. The society is now in it's third year. Eve Farren and Annie Howard founded the society after attending an annual SPUC youth conference. Annie and Eve were the first and second presidents. The society committee, with Phil as the current president, has organised lots of talks, campaigned against a pro-abortion motion at their student union, joined in with various public acts of pro-life witness, joined the SPUC internship over the summer, and been out in full force at the SPUC international youth conference year after year. Joseph and I had a bit of a delay at Paddington but were on our way and arrived in good time to join the students for a very nice dinner of homemade chicken and leek pie courtesy of Jenny, who is also on the pro-life society committee.

The talk was preceded by a brief overview of the abortion problem in Bristol (abortion statistics, where abortions are being done in local centres and hospitals, the need to raise public awareness about the problem and the help available etc), and students were urged to be the active pro-life presence not only at the university but also in the city of Bristol itself.

Below are the photos from the evening (we changed venue halfway through). As ever, the students had some interesting questions to ask - use of graphic images, the ideology behind abortion, and student activism to name a few. Each student received a pro-life pack and the newsletter to put pro-life campaigning into action. They have lots more events planned for the year and we look forward to helping the society to grow.

Group photo at the end, then we made a swift departure to catch our return train. 

Next stop: Plymouth.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Amnesty International Part IV: International Law

Part IV: Amnesty International, Abortion and International Law

“Amnesty International bases its policies on international law, which is silent on the point of when life begins.”

This is one of the central arguments used by Amnesty International in their attempt to portray their ideological commitment to abortion as a reasoned and moderate approach to a difficult moral question.

In reality, Amnesty International’s position here is not correct. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (1959), which since 1990 has been a binding treaty in international law, clearly states:
“The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” This is a clear statement that, according to international law, life begins before birth. 

This interpretation of international law is confirmed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) which forbids the carrying out of the death penalty on pregnant women i.e the Covenant recognises that the unborn child is an innocent human being who cannot legitimately be put to death for the crime of the mother.

In promoting the decriminalisation of abortion Amnesty International are acting contrary to the very principles of international human rights legislation that they profess to uphold.


The letter that we have been considering is sent by Amnesty International to those potential donors who have expressed opposition to their current position on abortion. They seek to hide their ideological commitment to abortion behind a facade of moderation and a misuse of scientific and legal arguments.

In fact Amnesty International’s position as stated in the letter

-          Is contrary to all accepted scientific evidence

-          Is contrary to the foundational principles of international law

-          Is inconsistent with the real nature of Amnesty’s advocacy of abortion on the ground 

This letter contains nothing that should convince anyone who upholds the value and dignity of human life to resume support of a ‘human rights’ organisation that cannot even uphold the most basic of those rights, namely, the right to life itself.

Amnesty International Parts II & III: Is abortion moral?

Part II: Amnesty International and the morality of abortion 

We saw above that Amnesty International, when corresponding with prospective donors who are pro-life, seem to downplay their ideological commitment to abortion.

Is it for similar motives that in their letter to lost supporters they claim that they do not ‘take a position on whether or not abortion is right or wrong’?

This is a very surprising statement in light of the statements contained both in this letter and on their website which suggest that they regard abortion as morally legitimate. I quote a selection below:

“therapeutic abortion is a matter of common sense and humanity.”[1]

“The denial of abortion… [is] a form of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.”[2]

It is appalling that the Nicaraguan authorities... reject these recommendations to work for a change in law [i.e to permit abortion]. Yet again it’s missed another opportunity to right this terrible wrong [i.e the prohibition of abortion is a moral wrong].”[3]

It is quite clear from even a cursory examination of Amnesty International's materials that they speak and act as if abortion is not only morally acceptable but that its provision is a moral duty. So why do they tell pro-lifers that they do not ‘take a position on whether or not abortion is right or wrong’?

Part III: Amnesty International and the development of human life

In the letter under examination Amnesty International claims that it “takes no position as to when life begins.”

This statement places Amnesty International in opposition to the universally recognised and scientifically verified fact that the human embryo is, from the moment of conception, a living being. There are no grounds for asserting that an embryo is not alive. This is acknowledged by leading advocates of abortion whose justification of the practice revolves not around the question of when life begins but rather around debates on the nature of personhood. Consider for example the words of Ann Furedi, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service; ‘I think we can accept the embryo is a human life of sorts. For me the question is: "When does human life really begin to matter?"’[4]  

Why then does Amnesty International resort to such an absurd statement, which is the biological equivalent of claiming that the earth is flat or that the moon is made out of cheese?

The two statements discussed above, namely, that Amnesty International has no position ‘as to when life begins’ or ‘on whether or not abortion is right or wrong’ must be considered in conjunction with each other.

The use of these statements allows them to retreat to the ideology of ‘choice’ when faced with the reality of abortion by their former pro-life supporters. They can argue that as they don’t know the answers to these questions they simply support the right of women to choose for themselves. However this runs contrary to the sound reasoning that we generally employ in our decisions on moral questions.

For example, imagine that a demolition team are contracted to destroy a condemned block of flats. However the flats have in recent months often been inhabited by squatters and a concern is raised on the morning of the demolition that there might still be people inside. Would we consider it morally licit for them to go ahead anyway on the grounds that they were doubtful as to whether any human beings would be killed? Or would we consider them to be guilty of a callous disregard for human life?

If Amnesty International, in defiance of all the scientific evidence, are still not able to reach certain knowledge that life begins at conception then opposing abortion would be the only logical moral position that they could take for as long as they were doubtful about the humanity of the unborn child. To act otherwise would be to knowingly and willingly take the risk of advocating for the killing of an innocent human being. This is, in fact, exactly what Amnesty International do.

[1] From a document produced by the Pan-American Health Organisation and used by Amnesty International to support their position in ‘The Total Abortion Ban in Nicaragua’, Amnesty International (London, 2009)

Amnesty International Part I: Is Abortion a human right?

In 2007 the ‘human-rights’ organisation Amnesty International adopted a pro-abortion stance, proclaiming on the 14th June that:

“Amnesty International today firmly stood by the rights of women and girls to be free from threat, force or coercion as they exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.”[1]

There was an immediate outcry among pro-life supporters of the group, such as the Rt Rev. Michael Evans, Bishop of East Anglia, who resigned his membership after thirty-one years of active involvement in the organisation.

Amnesty International is clearly anxious to try and regain lost support. SPUC has been forwarded a letter sent to one our supporters which expresses Amnesty’s desire to “allow us to open up communication channels with you once again” and seeks to allay their concerns about their abortion policy. This letter, under the name of Imran Uppal of the Supporter Care Team of Amnesty International UK, seems to be a standard response which is sent to former supporters who have expressed opposition to their policy.

In this post I will examine both this letter and the general consistency of their policy.

Part I: Does Amnesty International consider abortion to be a human right?

In the first paragraph of the letter Mr Uppal states:

“Our policies in this area do not seek to promote abortion as a human right.”

In making this statement they seek to persuade potential supporters that in donating to Amnesty International they will not be supporting a ‘pro-abortion’ organisation that is as firmly committed to promoting abortion as it is other ‘human rights.’ 

However this position is contradicted within the very same document in the following statement:

“The purpose of the policy (adopted in 2007) in this area of rights is to make a difference in the lives of women and girls who have suffered egregious human rights violations, or are at risk of such violations, and who are deeply affected by their lack of access to appropriate sexual and reproductive information and services, and by their criminalisation for the crime of abortion.”

It  goes on to say that their policy on abortion was 

“incorporated into the broader sexual and reproductive rights policy in April 2007”

Amnesty International ‘calls on states’ to:

-          Provide women and men with full information on sexual and reproductive health

-          Repeal laws criminalizing abortion

And also to

-          Ensure access to abortion services to any woman who becomes pregnant as the result of rape, sexual assault or incest, or where a pregnancy poses a risk to a woman's life or a grave risk to her health.

In other words AI demands:

-          The right to information about how to get an abortion
-          The right to legal abortion
-          The right to ensured access to abortion in a wide range of circumstances

Commenting on a recent case in Argentina Guadalupe Marengo, the Deputy Americas Programme Director, stated that:
“The Argentinian authorities must... respect this woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion.”[2]

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, has said:

“Amnesty International believes that any denial of safe, legal abortion in rape cases constitutes a violation of human rights.”[3]

In a document they produced on the prohibition of abortion in Nicaragua they state:

Amnesty International believes that where women’s access to safe and legal abortion services and information is restricted, their fundamental human rights may be at grave risk.”[4]

If this is the case then Amnesty International has to explain why they continue to tell prospective pro-life donors that:

“Our policies in this area to do not seek to promote abortion as a human right.”

[4] ‘The Total Abortion Ban in Nicaragua’, Amnesty International (London, 2009)
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