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Pro-women, pro-life groups unite to criticise 'Women Deliver' conference's promotion of abortion

30 October 2007

A coalition of women's organisations and pro-life groups has jointly written a letter criticising the use of the 'Women Deliver' conference to promote abortion at the expense of concern for basic healthcare. The letter, to which SPUC is a co-signatory, expresses "profound disappointment and dismay that the Women Deliver conference has failed to meet its stated objective of addressing Millennium Development Goal 5, which is to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity" and calls on the conference partners "to focus on basic health care, skilled attendants and emergency obstetrics, which have been the key to decreasing maternal mortality in the developed world, instead of exploiting the tragedy of maternal mortality to promote abortion rights". The letter also criticises the involvement in organising the conference of groups such as IPPF and Marie Stopes International, which have a financial interest in the provision of abortion, and of the use of unreliable statistics regarding maternal deaths from illegal abortion to promote the legalisation of abortion. [SPUC, 20 October]

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Rowan Williams, recently wrote an article in the Observer newspaper suggesting that the intentions of the 1967 Abortion Act, to permit abortion in exceptional cases, have been lost as the assumption that abortion is "profoundly undesirable" has altered. Archbishop Williams highlights the "tension" in the fact that: "The pregnant woman who smokes or drinks heavily is widely regarded as guilty of infringing the rights of her unborn child; yet at the same time, with no apparent sense of incongruity, there is discussion of the possibility of the liberty of the pregnant woman herself to perform the actions that will terminate a pregnancy". He concludes: "This is not an argument for unalterable prohibitions in law against abortion in every circumstance... But it is an argument for keeping our eyes open for the unintended consequences." [The Observer, 21 October]

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and leader of England and Wales's Catholics, recently wrote an opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph calling for various approaches to reduce the numbers of abortions, including "achievable and incremental" amendments to the law.[Telegraph, 29th October] John Smeaton of SPUC expressed caution, noting the danger that attempts to reform the upper limit could backfire and make the law worse. [Telegraph, 29 October] The Daily Telegraph reported on a poll of members of the UK parliament regarding abortion legislation. More than 100 MPs responded. The questions were not cited, nor was there any reference to a professional polling agency. The Telegraph claimed that two-thirds of MPs responding would vote to reduce the current 24-week threshold applying to some abortions. The study also found that just over half of MPs opposed permitting nurses to perform abortions. Changes to the law could be made by the government's Human Tissue and Embryos bill if it is passed. [Telegraph, 29 October] Current legislation allows abortion up to 24 weeks for general health considerations, and up to birth for disability in the baby or 'serious risk' to the mother's physical or mental health. There are no current proposals to impose any time limit on these later abortions.

Pro-life protestors held a series of events around Westminster on Saturday (the 27th) to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act. [BBC, 27 October] An image with "6.7 million" on it had been projected on to the parliament building to highlight the number of abortions in England and Wales since legalisation. [Sky, 27 October] Some protestors reportedly called for a government review of the law. [Christian Today, 28 October] The demonstrations included a "Silent No More Campaign" act of witness - in which people affected by abortion described their difficult experiences and explained the help available to others.

A conference reportedly focused on achieving the 'Millennium Development Goal' on maternal heath has been used to promote the legalisation of abortion across the developing world. The conference, called Women Deliver, was held recently in London and included abortion providers International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International on its organising committee. Gill Greer of IPPF told delegates that "The right to control one's own fertility is the foundation of all other rights", while Kate Gilmore of Amnesty International - which now promotes abortion as part of 'sexual and reproductive health' - agreed, saying "A woman's sexual and reproductive health are legal rights and freedoms" [SPUC, 19 October]. Another Amnesty International delegate, Stephanie Schlitt, said that AI would work for the repeal of laws against abortion, while Luisa Cabal of the Center for Reproductive Rights stated that "Litigation in national and international fora" were to be used "to change national policies" and "to force the creation of regulation of reproductive health care". [SPUC, 18 October]

New joint guidance has been issued by the Royal College of Nurses, the Resuscitation Council and the British Medical Association (BMA), a doctors' representative body, saying that nurses may decide whether or not to resuscitate a patient whose heartbeat or breathing has stopped. Supporters of the guidance say that only experienced nurses will be allowed to make such decisions. The Patients' Association expressed concern. [Reuters, 27 October] The policy appears to be guidance from the BMA and other bodies which only have advisory, and not a statutory, authority.

The British government has been expected to announce plans to ensure that people in nursing homes and hospitals are adequately fed. There have been complaints of failures to feed yet a lot of food is also wasted. [Sunday Mirror, 28 October]

A woman who killed a mother and cut her unborn child from the womb faces the death penalty. The judge in Missouri agreed with the jury's recommended sentence in the case of Ms Lisa Montgomery who murdered Mrs Bobby Jo Stinnett and removed the latter's daughter from the corpse. [BBC, 27 October]

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