Is all charity equal?
Posted by Alithea Williams on 16 November 2016
These days, charity seems to be all around us. We walk down the street, and see people shaking collection tins, or are stopped by people wanting to "have a quick word" about their particular cause. We go to work and there'll be bakesales or other activities for the office's chosen charity. At school, our children will be excitedly getting involved in fundraising or dressing up for charity. Take a look at Facebook, and half our friends will be running marathons, climbing mountains, giving up wine, growing a moustache - all in the name of charity.
Of course, much of this is a wonderful thing. It speaks to something good in society that people are so concerned to help others and give something back, and it's nice that this is now often done in a way which in itself brings people together as a community.
Charity = good?
All that said, there does also seem to be an unfortunate attitude prevailing that because an organisation is a charity, it must be good. People can look at you rather oddly if you ask what exactly a charity does, and if you say outright that you don't support a particular charity...well, what kind of a monster are you?!
Sadly, it's not as simple as charity=good. For a start, many charities are striving for opposite ends, so that it would be impossible to consistently support both. It wouldn't make much sense to give money to both the British Humanist Society and religious charities. Even when differences aren't that stark, there are complications. One might agree with the aims of a charity, but not their tactics. Or one might feel that a charity does good work, but isn't very efficient. Or that most of what they do is good, but not everything.
For pro-lifers, charitable giving can be a bit of a minefield. Sometimes it is very obvious - one can't, as a pro-lifer, give money to charities that directly provide or promote abortion, such as Marie Stopes and BPAS. However, most of the time, the issue is working out whether charities with generally good aims also support abortion and other anti-life practices.
For instance, a SPUC supporter recently contacted us about his experience with ActionAid. He saw adverts on television for their new campaign to protect children from human trafficking and exploitation, and thought that this sounded like a really good cause to support. However, he researched their policies, and found that ActionAid is pro-abortion. He wrote to them saying:
"Well done with your campaign to help protect children that I have seen on TV. I was moved by it and wish you every success. Unfortunately I cannot support you financially since having researched your policies I see your organisation is pro abortion. If children are truly to be protected, indeed if life is to be truly valued, this is demonstrated by the protection of the most defenceless and vulnerable in the womb."
An ActionAid representative wrote back to our supporter, saying "ActionAid believes that every woman has a right to make safe, informed reproductive health choices. This includes access to safe and legal abortion services....We believe all women everywhere have the right to manage their own fertility and be fully informed of their options when making decisions about their reproductive health. This includes access to safe and legal abortion to terminate an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy."
This pro-abortion policy was confirmed when a SPUC staff member rang ActionAid, and was told that the organisation is "by default pro-choice". It turned out that the woman she spoke to was Ann Quesney, who has worked for both Marie Stopes and Abortion Rights.
What's a pro-lifer to do?
There are several things we can take away from this. Firstly, just because an organisation does good work (and protecting children from trafficking is definitely good work!) it doesn't mean that everything it does is good, or that it's safe to support. The letter our supporter sent back to ActionAid is so good that it's worth quoting at length:
"I find myself in that awkward position of admiring everything you do as an organisation except your position on Abortion. I firmly believe in supporting women's issues. As an Executive in a FTSE 100 organisation I was a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee and was instrumental in smashing glass ceilings for women. Any organisation I ran had balanced male and female teams and equal pay. My own daughter is an accomplished senior Barrister and I would describe her as a true feminist. I have nieces and nephews who practice human rights law. We all firmly believe in standing up for women and protecting the rights of women - but not at the expense of innocent babies in the womb... Thankfully there are other Charities that will receive donations without being deluded by the cruel and warped individualistic doctrine of abortion."
Our supporter is very much in favour of women's rights - but not at the expense of the unborn. We can all choose to support charities which work towards goals we agree with, without fearing that some of our money will go towards promoting abortion.
The importance of research
Another point this example illustrates is the importance of researching the charities we give to. Our supporter could have just given money to the attractive campaign he saw on TV, but he took the trouble to research where exactly that money would go, and the policies the organisation supports. He also - and this is very important - told ActionAid why he would no longer support them. It can be tempting just to boycott particular charities - but a boycott is only effective if they know you're doing it! ActionAid clearly didn't change their policies in response to the letter, but they did take time to respond, and they now know why they have lost a supporter. For charities who have perhaps only recently moved into supporting abortion, or for whom it's a very incidental part of what they do, having a number of people tell them that they will not support an organisation that promotes the killing of children could make a great difference.
We’re not out to attack charities, or to devalue the good work they do, but we owe it to them to tell them politely and respectfully why we cannot support them financially. If a charity does change its position, and stops promoting anti-life practices, we should highlight that and praise them for it. Let's try and work towards a situation where there are more and more charities that pro-lifers can in good conscience support.
Help us out!
SPUC aims to help supporters make decisions about their charitable giving through the charities bulletin. We are always working to update this, so please send any information you obtain about charities to us.