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)
[2] http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20375
[3] http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18809
[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/ann-furedi-a-womans-right-to-choose-is-also-her-right-to-be-human-1021691.html

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.”

[1] http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17378
[2] http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/argentina-abortion-delays-rape-survivor-amount-torture-2012-10-12
[3] http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18681
[4] ‘The Total Abortion Ban in Nicaragua’, Amnesty International (London, 2009)

Oxford - SPUC Pro-Life universities tour

SPUC is over half way through its universities tour 2012. Last week SPUC travelled up and down the country speaking to student societies at universities. We invited Joseph Meaney, director of international coordination with Human Life International, to speak about "the global pro-life battle and what you can do".

Our first stop-off was the University of Oxford pro-life society, recently started by a group of students headed by Amy Owens.

After a brief tour of Oxford which turned into an unexpected detour, we finally arrived at the venue and were welcomed by the students with tea. 

Joseph talked about the history of abortion and the motivations behind the practise of abortion throughout history. Joseph drew attention to Soviet Russian and 1930s Germany. Then we moved onto the debate about women's rights, radical pro-abortion feminism, and abortion, and concluded with examples and ideas for students to put the pro-life message into action. Starting a pro-life society at university is often not an easy thing to do (Oxford students have already faced opposition). Hosting educational talks, pro-life film screenings, street stalls, and leafleting are practical things that students can do at university and in the towns and cities where they live. 

It is always a pleasure to meet the growing number of pro-life students, and SPUC will continue to support Oxford pro-life students in the coming academic year. There were several good questions afterwards and the discussion continued long after the talk was finished. It's fair to say that Oxford is a place where you want to students to be pro-life and bring that message to other students - we know that so many of our parliamentarians and members of the legal profession and media have studied at Oxford.

Oxford itself is home to Dr. Julian Savulescu, the now notorious academic and editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, who allowed the paper "After birth abortion: why should the baby live" and then went on to defend his decision to allow its publication and even tried to give it some respectability by citing "eminent" academics like Peter Singer, John Harris, and Michael Tooley. Sevulescu more recently advocated genetic screening of human embryos to select personality traits. Savulescu's wild claims were swiftly challenged by Dr. James Sherley.

We also used the Q&A to draw attention to SPUC youth and student newsletter. It's aim is to help students become campaigners and students who are campaign-focused and know how to get the message out to the large majority who do not share the radical and fundamentalist pro-abortion mentality of a tiny minority. These are the masses that will only hear the real pro-life message if pro-lifers go out there and give it to them.

Next stop: Bristol

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Marriage & protection of children in the womb: prophetic words from 20 years ago

Below is an article written 20 years ago, by solicitor Michael Bell, who was a member of the Association of Lawyers for the defence of the Unborn (ALDU). It's longer than our usual posts, but please do make the effort to read the whole thing. What Michael has to say is more urgent and relevant than ever before.

Abortion and Marriage
by Michael Bell, Solicitor


The purpose of this article is to suggest that if the pro-life movement wishes to reduce the number of abortions, it may be overlooking one effective way of doing so. It is generally accepted that, in the present climate of opinion, any legislation which has any chance of being enacted will have only a minimal effect on the overall number of abortions. Pro-life education, counselling and propaganda along present lines have been able to do little more than slow the rate of increase in the number of abortions. And this despite the fact that this country probably has the best organised pro- life propaganda, counselling and education of any developed country, and as a consequence has one of the lowest abortion rates in the developed world.

Nevertheless, there is one significant factor to which little attention has been given by the pro-life movement. This is the relationship between the rise in the number of abortions and the decline in the upholding of chastity and marriage. The permissive society of the sixties produced two changes of attitude in society which may not at first sight seem to be related. These were the change in people's attitudes towards their own sexuality, and the change in attitudes towards the sanctity of life. It is suggested that the first of these changes has contributed far more towards the rise in the number of abortions than has the second.

If this is true, it is curious that all the effort of the pro-life movement has been directed towards reversing the fall in respect for the sanctity of human life. The movement has made little or no effort to change people's attitudes towards their own sexuality and towards marriage, preferring to regard these issues as outside the scope of pro-life work. This is not to say, of course, that many people who are pro-life are unconcerned about these issues.

There is, however, no pro-chastity and pro-marriage lobby comparable to the pro-life lobby. There is no organisation with groups or branches in almost every town working to uphold chastity and marriage, which is in any way comparable in scale to the pro-life organisations with their numerous groups and branches. The latter have strong centralised structures which can effectively mobilise within days hundreds of branches or groups to support pro-life initiatives. No comparable organisations exist to mobilise pro-chastity and pro-marriage opinion, even if initiatives existed which required such a mobilisation, which on the whole they do not. This is in no way a criticism of the several excellent organisations which are concerned about these issues among others, including the Christian churches.

And yet, if marriage and chastity are in fact the key to reducing abortion, as will be argued here, it would seem reasonable that as great a proportion of the effort and expenditure of the pro-life movement should be devoted to promoting them as is currently devoted to promoting the concept of the sanctity of life. If promoting these ideas will lead directly and swiftly to a fall in the number of abortions, for how much longer can the pro-life movement continue to ignore them?

The background facts

Let us begin by considering some statistics. We must do this with caution, but when these figures are looked at in the light of fact-gathering which has been done to ascertain the reasons why women seek abortions, certain indications of what is actually taking place within our society seem fairly clear.

The first point we can look at is the comparative rates of abortion for single women and married women. Table I below shows the situation in 1975 and 1985, and in fact the trends shown are continuous, both back to the Abortion Act 1967 and on to the present day. Clearly the proportion of single adult women to married adult women is steadily increasing. This is due to the continuing decline in the number of first-time marriages. In 1966, the year before the passing of the Abortion Act, the marriage rate for single women was 89 per 1000, but by 1986 this had dropped to 55 per 1000. This is a fall of nearly 40% in the marriage rate for single women. (The "marriage rate" is the number of single women getting married per 1000 single persons aged 16 and over).

The second point which we may note from the table is that in 1985 there was a much higher probability of a single woman becoming pregnant than of a married woman becoming pregnant.

The third point to note is that more than 30% of the pregnancies of single women were terminated by abortion as compared with around 7% of the pregnancies of married women. The figures show that the increase in abortions over the period was entirely among single women, and that in fact abortions on married women actually fell in numbers. We also see that the proportion of conceptions ending in abortion was much the same in both years as regards unmarried women, and that the big increase in the number of abortions on unmarried women was a direct consequence of the big increase in the number of single women becoming pregnant.

If single women are much more likely to have abortions than are married women, and if the proportion of single women in the population increases, then one would expect the number of abortions to increase, and indeed this is exactly what happens.  Furthermore we can see that the number of conceptions among single women has increased at a considerably faster rate than has the number of single women, so that the increase in abortions is even greater than one would expect from merely looking at the increase in the number of single women.  In other words, not only are women remaining single in ever-increasing numbers, but (contraceptives and their availability notwithstanding) also those who do remain single are getting pregnant more frequently.  Many of these women will, of course, be living in what are sometimes called "stable relationships" with men.  In such situations there is a much greater probability of frequent sexual intercourse, and less social stigma and fewer practical problems attached to pregnancy.  Nevertheless the inescapable conclusion from the figures is that an 'illegitimate' baby is five times more likely to be aborted than is a 'legitimate' baby.
Table 1
England and Wales - numbers in thousands
Single women age 16-and over              
Married women age 16 and over            
Conceptions among single women        
Conceptions among married women        
Abortions among single women             
Abortions among married women          
[Statistics taken from publications of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys "Population Trends" 48 and 51 and "Trends in Conceptions" FM1 - 87/2]
The introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1958 undoubtedly changed attitudes to sexuality and marriage; and so did the National Health Service (Family Planning) Act and the Abortion Act, both passed in 1967.  These Acts not only gave women "control over their fertility", as the saying is, but also gave them a way out when the control failed, or was not attempted.

Among women born since 1967 one would expect to find the same trends as one sees in the population as a whole, but to a much greater degree.  Women who grew up in the pre-1967 era attached much greater importance to chastity and marriage, and of course many of them would have passed their child-bearing years by the time that the sexual revolution began to wreak its havoc.  Let us therefore look at the figures for young people between 1975 and 1985.  These are shown in Table 2.

The rejection of the institution of marriage by the children of the permissive generation is even more pronounced when one looks at the situation regarding teenage men.  In 1971 the marriage rate for teenage men (i.e., the number of men aged 16 to 19 who got married in that year per 1000 of the single teenage male population) was 26.  The comparable figure for 1986 was 6.  So, by 1986, the marriage rate had fallen to less than a quarter of what it was 15 vears earlier.  It is true that teenage marriages were less common in the first half of the 20th century than they were after 1950, but even in the early 1900s the majority of men got married between 20 and 25.   This is no longer happening.
Table 2
England and Wales: teenage girls 15 - 19
Single girls
Married girls
Single girls —conceptions
Married girls- conceptions
Single girls -abortions
Married girls- abortions
There are economic factors in this, but undoubtedly one factor which has influenced young people is that, as a result of the changes in the divorce laws since 1967, an ever- increasing proportion of teenagers come from broken homes.  They do not want to go through the trauma of divorce which they have seen in their parents.  Now the members of the community who have suffered most from this change in the attitude of young people towards marriage have undoubtedly been the unborn children.  Less than 4% of the children of married teenage girls are aborted, while for single girls, the figure is no less than 40%.

If we want to be even more precise and see where the greatest threat to the unborn child lies, we must make a distinction between children conceived where the couple ari. living together, and those conceived where they are not.  Although the abortion rate is undoubtedly higher among couples living together than among married couples, it is even higher where the young people have not set up home together and probably have no intention of doing so.
Table 3
England and Wales - numbers in thousands
IIllegitimate conceptions
These can be divided into
Legitimised (by marriage in 
Born illegitimate  
Of those born illegitimate, births were 
registered by:
                both parents  
                one parent
We can see from Table 3 that the percentage of illegitimate conceptions which were subsequently legitimised by marriage declined over the period.  However, if we lump together the percentages legitimised by marriage and those registered by both parents we see that there was in fact a slight increase.  At the same time we can see that the percentage of illegitimate conceptions, registered by one parent only, declined sharply over the period.

We know that the abortion rate among married people is around 8%.  If for the purposes of discussion we assume a similar rate among co-habiting couples, then out of the 283,500 illegitimate conceptions in 1985 about 90,000 occurred where the couple were co-habiting, of which 81,800 would have been registered by both parents and 8,200 would have been aborted.  Deducting these from the 105,000 abortions following illegitimate conceptions we are left with 96,800 abortions on single women w ho are not co-habiting.  This can be compared with the 44,400 babies who were registered by one parent.  The figures obviously must be very approximate, but they do give an indication that among single women who are not co-habiting two out of three pregnancies are terminated.

We may also note that 40% of abortions performed on single women are performed on teenagers, although teenagers make up less than 20% of women in the fertile years 15-44.  Nearly all these abortions take place in the four years 16-19, and nearly all of them are provided to girls who are not married.


These figures point to three clear and simple conclusions.   First, that faced with the prospect of bringing up a baby on their own, two out of three women nowadays opt for an abortion.  Secondly, exactly as one would expect from the first conclusion,  as the marriage rate has fallen so the abortion rate has risen.  Thirdly, the unborn child is at greatest risk where his or her mother is a teenager.  The figures leave no room for doubt that the abortion rate in this country could be halved, at the very least, if marriage could be restored to the position it held in 1967 and before.

It is also clear that the place to begin is with teenagers.   If the Government were prepared to spend as much money on promoting chastity and marriage among young people as it has spent on promoting condoms, we would not only save most of the hundreds of lives of men and women lost to sexually transmitted diseases, but also perhaps as many as 80,000 lives of unborn children now lost each year through abortions.

In the present climate of sexual permissiveness, however, it seems that the last thing any Government is likely to promote is chastity before marriage.  It is up to ordinary people to tackle the problem.  We must start to educate our M.P.s about what is at the root of the abortion problem, as well as of the AIDS problem and the divorce problem.  We must find ways of getting the message into schools and of teaching our young people the truth about the meaning and purpose and the beauty of their own sexuality.  They will not get the truth from the media, nor from the Department of Education nor from the Department of Health.   

Promoting pro-life legislation can be a valuable propaganda exercise, but we must face the fact that if we really want to save lives then we must tackle things in a different way.  The abortion rate will be most effectively reduced not by "gradualist" legislation, but when and only when extra-marital pregnancies are reduced, especially among the very young;  and that in turn awaits a new awareness of the value and meaning of chastity and marriage.

Action Point: Read SPUC literature on marriage, leaflet your area, and write/visit your MP. Thanks. 
Order materials: 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

40 days for life - 9 campaigns around the UK

40 Days for Life has now begun. This time around there are a total of 9 campaigns happening around the country:


London / Bedford Square

London / Brixton

London / Whitfield Street


Milton Keynes



40 days for Life consists of 40 days of prayer, fasting, public prayer vigil outside of an abortion facility, and community outreach. 40 Days for Life in the UK has been running since September 2010. Its methods and aims are peaceful, prayerful, public, and compassionate. Numerous mothers and children have been spared abortion thanks to the prayer and practical support made available to them. 

Last year’s 40 Day for life at Bedford Sq, London, ended on a high note with Catholic bishop Alan Hopes leading several hundred people in prayer. We wrote a report on this, including photos. Several SPUC staff and volunteers were present, as well as throughout the 40 days.

The motive for attending the prayer vigil is of course to pray for parents and children in the womb who are close to being aborted. Supporters are also asked to pray for those who work for the abortion organisation.

Additionally, the presence of opposition groups has proven to be an impetus for people to attend the prayer vigil, ensuring a good turnout and supporting one another in the face of counter demonstrations. This has become a particular and recent feature of pro-life activity generally – whether that is pro-life chains of witness, school talks, prayer vigils, acts of witness outside of abortion facilities, or university student events. Various pro-abortion organisations regularly hold public meetings, study days, and demonstration events in support of abortion, so we should also be active in our support and presence at pro-life events.

Please have a read or re-read the report about the end of the last 40 Days for Life campaign in London, as an encouragement for you to make a commitment to support 40 Days for Life in the area where you live. 

 Remember this?
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