SPUC conference addressed by head of Life and by UN pro life campaigner
10 September 2001
SPUC conference addressed by head of Life and by UN pro-life campaigner Newcastle upon Tyne, 10 September 2001--SPUC's 2001 national conference was addressed by Professor Jack Scarisbrick, chairman of Life, and by Miss Jeanne Head, the most experienced pro-life campaigner at the United Nations. Professor Scarisbrick described SPUC's invitation to speak at its conference as: "living evidence of the commitment of SPUC and Life to be working together ever more closely and ever more fruitfully." Professor Scarisbrick congratulated SPUC on its actions in the matter of Mrs Diane Pretty, the motor neurone disease sufferer who was seeking euthanasia. The case, he said, would have enormous significance for the culture of life in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. He also praised SPUC for its legal challenge to the supply of morning-after pills without a doctor's prescription, as well as for the society's work with Care and Life in resisting attempts to extend British abortion legislation to Northern Ireland. Professor Scarisbrick said that the pro-life movement needed to consider how it could take advantage of article 2 of the European convention on human rights. This article stipulated that legal protection should be given to each person's right to life. It was a weapon which had unwittingly been made available to the pro-life movement. The convention had been made part of UK law by act of parliament. Even if the pro-life movement was unsuccessful in using the article, it would have made an important historical point by challenging its opponents in an unprecedented way. The incoherence of the anti-life case would have been revealed. Professor Scarisbrick told the conference of the forthcoming opening of Life's second health center in Middlesbrough. The centre would have a hospice for severely ill children aged up to four and a fertility clinic. Life had developed a non-invasive treatment for female infertility which was a pro-life alternative to in vitro fertilization (IVF) which was more successful and cheaper than IVF. The treatment was only being offered to married couples. There is already a Life health centre in Liverpool. Initiatives by the pro-life movement were putting its opponents on the defensive, Professor Scarisbrick told the conference. In the early days of the pro-life movement, its workers had felt as though they were working within society. In 1967 the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had opposed abortion bill. In the early 1970s, it was simply a matter, Professor Scarisbrick said, of bringing society back to its senses. He said: "While a few wrong-headed people were in charge, society was still essentially pro-life." Three decades later, the situation was profoundly different. There had been a large-scale corruption of the medical profession. Pharmacists had recently come under attack and the legal profession had been corrupted. Teachers and other professions had become chiefly accepting of the prevailing culture of death. Professor Scarisbrick told SPUC delegates that a pro-life counter culture needed to be created, including an alternative health service. Medical staff in that service would have a career-structure which would enable them to be true to the fundamental ethical tenets of their professions. Women and their children-born and unborn-would be safe in such a health service, as would old people. The hospice movement was being corrupted so there also needed to be pro-life hospices. Life's baby hospice movement was the alternative to eugenic abortion and widespread neo-natal euthanasia. Many children were being sedated to death shortly after being born. Professor Scarisbrick wanted there to be a pro-life health centre in every major city. He yearned for the day when schools and universities, banks and businesses would proudly proclaim themselves as pro-life. Medical practices could declare a pro-life stance and, one day, political parties could take a similar stance. The environmentalist movement had begun as a voice in the wilderness but had subsequently converted the world. We were all green now, Professor Scarisbrick told the meeting. He looked for the day when being pro-life was equivalent to being truly civilised; something of which one would boast. Miss Head told delegates that the recent change in administration in the United States had made a big difference to the abortion issue at the UN. President Bush was committed to protecting unborn children. The liberal American press was committed to do him damage. She had welcomed President Bush's decision not to fund research on newly-created human embryos. She said that, if Tony Blair had made a decision like President Bush's on embryonic research, British pro-lifers would have rejoiced. Although Mr Bush's decision was not ideal, he should be applauded for the good aspects of his decision. Miss Head was a delivery-room nurse for 44 years and runs Manhattan Right to Life. She was first involved with the United Nations at the 1994 Cairo conference. There were a series of conferences on social issues in the 1990s including the 1995 conference on women in Beijing, China. There have been moves at these conferences to make abortion a fundamental right worldwide. Miss Head told the conference that, since the Cairo conference, there had been a broad pro-life, pro-family coalition at the UN. This included people of various religious persuasions. Ms Head believed that that coalition had stopped abortion's being made a fundamental right worldwide. At the UN, discussion of reproductive health was used as a pretext to raise the abortion issue. The matter was being introduced at meetings in preparation for the forthcoming summit on children. On one occasion, the Canadian delegation had conceded that reproductive health included abortion. The European Union appeared to have the Latin American countries in their pocket, Miss Head said. There was much bigotry among UN delegates against the pro-life lobby. Pro-lifers needed to pray hard for the summit on children which began on the 19th of the current month. The European Union was being driven by the Nordic countries. The EU intimidated countries such as Poland which were seeking EU membership by saying that they needed to adopt EU-style policies on reproductive health. SPUC's conference, which was held at Castle Leazes Halls, Newcastle University, last weekend, was also addressed by Rt Rev Ambrose Griffiths OSB, Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle.