What we've achieved
SPUC has campaigned strongly in support of the Glasgow Midwives, Connie Wood and Mary Doogan
Whilst we are deep in our pro-life work, it is sometimes difficult to stand back and see just what we have done and what has been achieved. This page is a chance to do just that and the details are impressive: a great tribute to all who have given their time and their love to this pro-life cause over the past five decades. We amaze ourselves with at the sheer volume of what has been done.
In a time when membership of campaigning and charitable organisations is in decline, we've managed to attract 45,000 supporters. We have over 100 active branches across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland run by SPUC members who spread the pro-life message in their local communities.
Many of our members have been personally affected by abortion in the past, or know someone who has been. That's why in 1987, we formed a support network for British Victims of Abortion (now known as the Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline). Just as no woman should ever have to undergo an abortion, nor should any woman have to suffer after one either.
Throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s, SPUC helped raise awareness of the ongoing tragedy of abortion by organising landmark pro-life rallies in central London and other major British city centres. These have now given way to more widely witnessed pro-life chains in 50 or 60 towns and cities throughout Britain. In recent years an annual March for Life UK has been re-established in Birmingham by pro-life volunteers, and we've been proud to support this at SPUC.
SPUC’s educational outreach in schools reaches tens of thousands of young people annually. Our presentation, which has been carefully developed over several decades, has recently been completely reviewed so that it’s both technologically up-to-date in its presentation and first-class in its educational content.
In November 2014, SPUC supported two pro-life midwives from Glasgow, Connie Wood and Mary Doogan, as they went to the Supreme Court in London to defend their right to refuse to be involved in abortions.
Connie and Mary are both senior midwives of over twenty years’ experience in the labour ward. They have always refused to supervise abortions. They have helped to deliver around ten thousand babies to Glasgow mothers. However, today it is common for late abortions to be performed in hospital labour wards. These wards, which are designed to look after mothers giving birth, are also used to provide abortions late in pregnancy, usually for a disability.
On the 17th of December 2014, the Supreme Court issued a ruling which left Connie, Mary, and their friends and supporters shocked and deeply saddened. The court rejected Connie and Mary’s case and severely restricted the legal protection of conscientious objection.
In its ruling, the court said that midwives can still refuse to perform abortions themselves, but senior midwives must assign junior midwives to conduct the process, and be ready to oversee abortions. Connie and Mary believe that as abortion itself is wrong, it is also wrong to ask a junior midwife to do an abortion. The impact of their unequivocal witness on the right to life of every unborn child cannot be measured and is an example to all health professionals and to everyone in society about the way forward in opposing abortion.
Legal success against BPAS
In February, 2011, the high court rejected a demand by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) in a case which has been described as “the bedroom abortion case”.
BPAS, one of the two main abortion chains in the UK, went to court to seek a formal declaration that it was lawful to give a woman drugs to take away adminster to herself in the second stage of an RU486 abortion.
SPUC intervened in the case and arguments submitted by SPUC played a prominent part in Mr Justice Supperstone’s judgment in which he firmly rejected BPAS’s application.
In 2008, we were successful in opposing pro-abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act which would have made the Abortion Act hugely worse - extending it to Northern Ireland, loosening still further the grounds for abortion and removing the requirement for abortion to be approved by two doctors, weakening the right to conscientious objection to abortion.
However, while this was an important victory, it must be seen in light of the larger fact that we were unable to stop the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. As a consequence, it gave the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority the right to authorise, in a wider range of circumstances, destructive research on human embryos and the creation, for destructive experimentation purposes, of human-animal hybrids.
Most recently, SPUC played a prominent role in briefing tens of thousands of supporters to lobby and campaign against Assisted Suicide legislation, introduced by Rob Marris MP. The second reading of this bill was defeated by 300 to 118, which is more than half of all MPs voting against the bill in a truly stunning victory. The pro-life campaign was also a wonderful example of a united effort amongst a number of pro-life groups including Distant Voices, Alert, Christian Concern, Care not Killing, Care, Not Dead Yet UK, the Catholic Bishops, and the Anscombe Bioethics Centre.
John Smeaton is presented with the Legatus award for his contribution to the pro-life movement
SPUC's work is well-known throughout Europe. Our international youth conferences (see below) attract delegates from several European countries.
In recent years SPUC representatives have been invited to speak on many occasions at national and international conferences and other meetings in Poland, Spain, Italy, Hungary, the Faroe Islands, Russian Federation, Austria, Portugal, the Philippines, India, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, the US, Canada, Australia, and many other countries. By means of these meetings, and through SPUC's political action alerts on matters arising in the European institutions, an informal coalition of pro-life groups and leaders is gradually emerging.
We have a long-term, good working relationship with leading pro-life groups in the US and in Canada including National Right to Life, whom John Smeaton visited during his short trip to the US in 2012, Life Issues Institute, Americans United for Life, Human Life International, Population Research Institute, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Campaign Life Coalition and LifeSite in Canada and many other state-wide and federal groups throughout North America. Over the years, SPUC has also collaborated effectively with Priests for Life.
SPUC also has particularly close links with pro-life groups, pro-life leaders and politicians in Australia, New Zealand, South America - as well as many contacts in Africa, particularly Nigeria and Kenya.
During the past year SPUC has co-founded Voice of the Family, a coalition of 26 pro-life and pro-family groups, formed to offer our expertise and resources before, during and after the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family 2014-15
At the UN
Our leadership and tireless lobbying at the very highest international levels has prevented the abortion industry from spreading worldwide. There is no such right as a right to abortion in any United Nations Treaty or Convention. On the contrary, all UN foundational documents uphold the dignity of every human life from conception (fertilisation) to natural death.
And thanks to our work, there is still no such thing as an international 'right to abortion'. Read more about what we do on our UN page.
Arguably our greatest achievement over the past 45 years has been the prevention of the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland, which forms part of the United Kingdom, has successfully resisted Britain's pro-abortion legislation for the past 44 years. Quite possibly it has been SPUC's and the pro-life movement's biggest success story. In recent years there have been renewed attempts to introduce liberal abortion through the back door, and SPUC has successfully taken the British government to court over this. The battle continues ... but 44 years on, the British Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland, and from 12th April 2010 the power to legislate on the issue was devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly which has for several decades been overwhelmingly pro-life.
In 2012, we held a Youth Conference open to all young people interested in learning about abortion and other pro-life issues. Since then, our annual Youth Conference has become one of the established highlights of the pro-life calendar. The 2015 conference was the highest attended ever, which shows that demand amongst the youth to hear the pro-life case is continuing to grow.