DEFENDING HUMAN LIFE BY JOHN SMEATON
THERE’S a dangerous division between Catholic authorities in England and Wales and faithful lay Catholics on the right and duty to oppose abortion by conscientious objection. This division threatens the unity and strength of the political pro-life battle in Britain. Healing the division is in Rome’s hands, and until Rome acts it will grow wider.
The division is reflected in the growing number of parents I meet in well-attended public meetings who complain (on one occasion in the presence of a Catholic bishop) about the scandal of secret access to abortion and abortifacient birth control for children under the age of 16, without parental knowledge or consent, being promoted in Catholic schools.
SPUC’s response to such scandals is to provide practical support to parents and to health professionals, of all faiths and none, to oppose abortion by conscientious objection.
Hundreds of doctors have ordered the Society’s literature addressing mothers-tobe who may be considering an abortion. SPUC’s carefully researched information flyer Abortion – Your Right to Know describes the risks of abortion clearly and accurately, spells out other practi cal options, and describes the development of the unborn baby from conception until birth.
Parents are contacting SPUC’s Safe at School Helpline, finding out what questions to put to school authorities, including faith schools, where children are exposed to anti-life classroom materials and to agencies through which they can get abortion referrals and abortifacient birth control drugs and devices.
The situation could not be more serious. When Catholic authorities in this country undermine the right and duty of faithful Catholics – and nonCatholics – to oppose abortion by conscientious objection (and to protect their own children and grandchildren from abortion) we go back nearly 500 years to when faithful Christians were persecuted by fellow Christians for sticking to the teachings of their faith. Pro-lifers may not be called upon to die at Tyburn, but they need the moral courage of the martyrs to resist the evils they are facing.
The pro-life movement must build a powerful, peaceful resistance movement – insisting on our right to oppose abortion and other anti-life evils by conscientious objection; this is our first challenge in the year ahead.
By meeting this first challenge we can tackle the second: changing the hearts and minds of our fellow-citizens on abortion, euthanasia, IVF and destructive human embryo research.
The third challenge is linked to the first two. Prolife groups must spread the truth of Humanae Vitae’s teaching about the consequences of the separation of the unitive and the procreative in sexual intercourse. I say this as the leader of SPUC, a human rights group, not a religious organisation. Pope Paul VI predicted that governments would impose on countries birth control measures which are considered lawful by couples in pursuit of a solution to particular family difficulties. “Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone,” he wrote. This prophecy is fulfilled today in England and Wales, with the complicity of Catholic authorities, through the secret provision of abortion and abortifacient birth control to children under 16.
The fourth challenge is making MPs answerable for how they voted on the creation and abuse of human embryos, including humananimal hybrid embryos, at the next General Election. We must resist the objection that pro-life issues should not be prioritised. If the Government introduced legislation to kill Catholic nuns or clergy, would Church leaders argue that voters should not prioritise this issue at the General Election? What’s the difference in God’s eyes between the right to life of an unborn child and a consecrated man or woman? As Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilisation of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life.” John Smeaton is director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children