Friday, 5 April 2013

There is no right way to carry out abortions ... in Ireland or elsewhere

Recent news from Ireland surrounding the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar urgently requires deeper reflection on the part of pro-life leaders.

Pregnant women who are ill should be protected by good and ethical means. A woman should not be denied life-saving treatment which targets her own body and does not target her baby’s body, even if her baby dies as a result.

In this connection it must, however, be noted that, whilst deliberately choosing to 'remove a baby' before he or she is viable may have the good further motive of protecting the mother, the immediate intention and procedure is sadly identical to that involved in other abortions.

All abortions involve, at the very least, the intention to end the pregnancy. They target the baby and the baby's own tissues, unlike legitimate life-saving operations on the woman where harmful effects on her baby and on the baby's presence in her body are mere side-effects of treatment. Deliberate induction of pre-viable babies is abortion and is acceptable neither in medical ethics nor in Catholic Church teaching - which is an important fact for pro-life Catholics, and indeed for some pro-lifers from other faiths (or of no religious faith).

The statement put out this week by the Pro Life Campaign (PLC), a pro-life organization in Ireland, does not appear to rule out abortion in certain cases and is part of a worrying trend. Some have gone further in their defence of inducing pre-viable babies: thus one Irish pro-lifer has said of Savita's case:
“hospital staff should have considered accelerating delivery once miscarriage was inevitable in an attempt to pre-empt any infections that might be caused by Savita’s cervix being open”
In other words, induction of the pre-viable baby is now to be encouraged even in cases where the mother is in no immediate danger of death. It is easy to see how this could then be extended by pro-abortionists to allow induction for suicidal pregnant women if it is wrongly claimed that this will help them (of course, abortion does not help suicidal women in any way). This is how we get liberalised abortion: by neglecting to analyse 'hard cases' in detail, which in practice means neglecting the most vulnerable babies and letting down the most vulnerable mothers, who instead need life-affirming health care.

Some defenders of pre-viability induction have gone on to defend D&Cs and D&Es – and it is hard to see why these two options should not also be allowed in principle once we start advocating abortion by induction, albeit with a good further motive.

The baby's own bodily integrity and its physical presence should always be respected, even as we treat illness or infection in the woman's own body as vigorously as we can. Doctors who respect the lives and bodies of both patients, in a way reflecting age-old principles of medical ethics, should be affirmed in this and should not be condemned by any guidelines, medical or otherwise, which are not truly pro-life. Nor should pro-lifers become involved in drawing up guidelines which instruct doctors in the ‘right way’ to carry out abortions. There is no right way to carry out abortions.

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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Russian pro-family campaigners issue major legal document in defence of children

Leading pro-family campaigners in Russia last week released a major legal document defending laws in Russia which protect children from being indoctrinated with homosexual propaganda. I am very grateful to Fr John Fleming, SPUC's bioethical consultant, who has sent me his synopsis (below) of the document. The document's arguments are valuable tools against those who would seek to misuse the European Convention on Human Rights to stop the legal protection of children, which is both a prime duty of the state and a fundamental right of parents.

Synopsis by Dr John I Fleming

On the 21st of October 2010 The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in the case of Alekseyev v Russia, found that the banning of “Gay Pride marches” by Moscow authorities contravened Article 11 (and Articles 13 and 14 in reference to Article 11) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

It is the role of the Committee of Ministers (CM) to supervise the implementation of the findings of the ECtHR.  In subsequent meetings of the CM, questions were raised about other laws in various parts of the Russian Federation which prohibited the propaganda on homosexuality being distributed to minors.  The CM sought clarification from the Russian authorities as to how such laws could be compatible with the implementation of the Court’s decision in Alekseyev v Russia.

A response to the concerns of the CM has been prepared by two bodies, The Family and Demography Foundation and the Interregional Public Organization “For Family Rights”.  Both “are Russian non-governmental organizations working to support the family, the “natural and fundamental group unit of society” entitled to “protection by society and the State” (Article 16(3) of UDHR), which includes protecting the relevant fundamental human rights. Both are independent NGOs and receive no public funding.”  The response is titled “Communication to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe concerning Alekseyev v. Russia (application no. 4916/07” (“the document”).

In this response the two NGOs argue that the laws prohibiting the propaganda of homosexuality to minors (propaganda to minors) are, in fact, compatible with Alekseyev v Russia.  Moreover, they also call into question the findings in Alekseyev v Russia, suggest that the ECtHR is influenced by ideology rather than law, does not pay sufficient respect to differing moral views in the different societies which constitute the EU, and place little importance on the need to protect children from being influenced to enter into immoral and unnatural relationships with all of the physical and mental health impairments that that might bring.

Russian laws against propaganda to minors in ten regional legislatures, with similar laws under consideration in other Russian regions.  As well there is a draft federal bill which has already passed the first reading stage in the Russian State Duma.

The purpose of these laws:
This legislation is aimed at protecting the children from information posing threat to their health and development. It is being introduced in accordance with the federal laws aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children, specifically Article 14(1) (“Protecting the child from information threatening his health, moral and spiritual growth, its promotion and propaganda”) of the 1998 Federal Law On Fundamental Safeguards of the Rights of the Child (no. 124-FZ of 24 June 1998) which charges Russian authorities with taking “action to protect the child from information threatening his health, moral and spiritual growth, its promotion and propaganda”. It should be noted that among types of information threatening health and/or development of children Article 5(4) of the law lists information undermining family values.
“The document” shows that the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has found that these laws in no way violate the constitutional rights and freedom of its citizens.  The Supreme Court reached similar conclusions.  The courts have made it clear that these laws do not prevent the public discussion of homosexuality or dissemination of information on the subject or debates about the social status of sexual minorities.  It simply prohibits the propagating of these ideas to minors who, because of their immaturity, are not yet ready to critically evaluate such information.

“The document” also admits that the Russian laws in question somewhat restricts the freedom of expression protected in Article 10(1) of the ECHR.  But this is legitimate since the ECHR itself places restrictions on the freedom of expression in Article 10(2) of the ECHR:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. [Emphasis added by JIF]
“The document” then goes to specify just how the Russian laws protect the health of children, the family, and public morality.  In its next three sections the authors outline their reasoning:
1. The health risks inherent in the homosexual lifestyle as objectively identified in the academic literature.  This includes greatly increased risks of STIs including HIV, as well as anal and rectal cancer.  Reference is also made to far greater incidences of serious mental conditions and substance abuse among practising homosexuals.  All of this means that propagating the homosexual lifestyle to children constitutes a serious risk to their future health status.

2. Where the family is concerned, the Russian Constitutional Court said that the Russian laws were “aimed at protecting the family in its traditional meaning”.  The laws prohibiting the propagation of homosexuality to minors are enacted “to prohibit deliberate attempts to make children form ‘perverted notions of traditional and non-traditional conjugal relations being socially equivalent’.  In other words, one of the aims of this law is to protect the family in its child care and upbringing aspect.”

In addition “the document” refers to the idea of the protection of “public order” or, to use the terms of Article 10(2) of the ECHR, “the prevention of disorder”.  “The document” remarks that it is “nearly universally acknowledged that the term encompasses fundamental principles enabling the continuous existence of a society” and provides evidence for that.  Tellingly, “the document” then reminds the CM that the ECtHR’s own case law reflects the idea that the protection of the family “must certainly be viewed as an integral part of the protection of public order (ordre public).  “The document” then specifically refers to Karner v Austriain where the ECtHR noted that, considering whether there are indications of discrimination in a treatment, it “can accept that protection of the family in the traditional sense is, in principle, a weighty and legitimate reason which might justify a difference in treatment” (Karner v. Austria, application no. 40016/98, 24.07.2003, para. 40)

3. An impressive range of authorities allow for the protection of public morals referred to in Article 10 (2) of the ECHR.  A number of universally recognized international human rights norms recognize the protection of morals as a legitimate justification for restricting the right to freedom of expression.

In particular, Article 29(2) of UDHR acknowledges that in the exercise of his rights and freedoms a person can be “subject . . . to such limitations as are determined by law . . . for the purpose of . . . meeting the just requirements of morality”.

Article 19(3)(b) of ICCPR accepts that the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to impart information and ideas, can be subject to restrictions provided by the law necessary for, among other things, “the protection . . . of public . . . morals”.

Article 13(2)(b) of CRC recognizes that the right of the child to freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas can be subject  to certain restrictions provided by the law necessary for, in particular, the “protection . . . of public morals”.

Finally, Article 10 of UCHR explicitly acknowledges that the exercise of freedoms provided therein “may be subject to …. restrictions …. prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society …. for the protection of … morals”.

Said principle can therefore be regarded as universally recognized by international law.
“The document” goes on to show that public morality in Russia disapproves of the homosexual lifestyle seeing it as a perversion of human nature, that these views are held by atheists as well as religious believers, and that 87% of Russians oppose ‘Gay Pride marches’.

“The document” points out that the ECtHR has form when it comes to imposing private ideological beliefs through some of its judgments (eg Christine Goodwin v. United Kingdom).

It concludes by saying this:
"Were the Court to deliver judgements in such important spheres as protection of family and marriage, rights of parents and children, and public order and morals under the influence of controversial ideological concepts, this potentially might delegitimize its judgements in the eyes of at least some of sovereign European states."
This important document contains a wealth of detailed argumentation to support its response to the CM’s concerns about Russian laws designed to protect children from homosexual propaganda, to protect the family, and to protect public morality.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Must-read pro-life news-stories, 2 Apr

Top story:

Be a leader in the campaign to save marriage
It seems likely that the next major vote in the House of Commons – the third reading – on the government's bill to allow same-sex marriage will take place towards the end of May. SPUC is looking for leaders to volunteer to co-ordinate local leafleting teams against this legislation. Please email if you can help. [John Smeaton, 28 March]

Other stories:

Sexual ethics
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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Lord Carey's trumpet call to Britons

Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, sounded a trumpet call yesterday which must resound in all sections of society, throughout Britain. He wrote in the Daily Mail:
"As David Cameron knows, I am very suspicious that behind the [legislative] plans to change the nature of marriage, which come before the House of Lords soon, there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together for time immemorial."
Lord Carey went on to say that the Government threatens:
" ... to empty marriage of its fundamental religious and civic meaning as an institution orientated towards the upbringing of children.

"If this is not enough, the legislation fails to provide any protection for religious believers in employment who cannot subscribe to the new meaning of marriage. There will be no exemptions for believers who are registrars. They can expect to be sacked if they cannot, in all conscience, support same-sex marriage.

"Strong legal opinion also suggests that Christian teachers, who are required to teach about marriage, may face disciplinary action if they cannot express agreement with the new politically-correct orthodoxy ... "
May Lord Carey's trumpet sound in the hearts of fellow bishops, Anglican and Catholic, to whom we look to lead Christians and the people of Britain against same-sex legislation which discriminates against children by institutionalising motherless and fatherless families.

May Lord Carey's trumpet sound in the hearts of teachers, headteachers, school governors, and parents who must fight for their fundamental right to teach children about the unchanging nature of marriage as the permanent exclusive union of one man and one woman, a right that threatens to be destroyed by Cameron's legislation.

May Lord Carey's trumpet sound in the hearts of time-serving "Catholic" politicians who are prepared to betray families and children for generations to come for their short-term political advantage - and to betray the founder of their faith, Jesus Christ, who said: ""Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife and the two shall become one ... "

May Lord Carey's trumpet sound, above all, in the hearts of the ordinary citizens of this country. There is one thing which can beat Cameron and his plan to destroy the family: and that's local leadership. The fundamental group unit of society is not the State; it's not Her Majesty's Government - which has no right to redefine marriage. . The fundamental group unit is the family based upon the marriage of a man and a woman. The State has a duty to serve and protect natural marriage and recognise its primacy, not redefine it.

SPUC and the Coalition for Marriage can beat their drums; we can win the arguments in our briefings, in our public meetings, and in the growing scholarly evidence that same-sex marriage destabilises marriage and family life. But what we need now is local leadership in the towns and villages and cities of Britain, local leaders who will take the message about the terrible threat to marriage and the family to their fellow citizens. Without such local leadership we are wasting our sweetness on the desert air.

SPUC needs leaders to organize leafleting in 120 targeted constituencies. Please pass this message on, sound Lord Carey's trumpet, and let us know if you will help - by leafleting homes, door-to-door, in targeted areas close to you.

For some reason, this Easter weekend, my SPUC email isn't working - so please write to me at

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