by Prof. J. Scarisbrick, chairman of 'Life'
MR. ST. JOHN-STEVAS's comments in last week's CATHOLIC HERALD on the new anti-abortion society, LIFE, seem to make appropriate a brief summary of the Society's aims.
Its first purpose is to produce anti-abortion propaganda (pamphlets, leaflets, posters. advertisements, etc.). in order to expose the flimsiness of the pro abortionist arguments, challenge the largely unthinking public acceptance of abortion and put the other side of the case.
The present appalling situation has in part come about because many people are ignorant of what abortion involves. The abortion campaign trades on this ignorance. We believe that. by trying to inform the public conscience. we can do something to awaken it to the enormity of destroying life in the womb. In short, we want to stop people wanting abortions.
Secondly. LIFE intends to provide moral and material aid to women who are tempted to seek an abortion or who have had one. It is not enough to condemn; positive help is required. We hope that, once LIFE has adequate support. local groups will be able to provide a service of this kind.
The essential point is that no other organisation, as far as we are aware. has such a programme. This is the main reason why LIFE has come into being, although Mr. St. John-Stevas commented only on our absolutist position.
Yes, we are absolutist. Without going into the overworked mother versus child question (which is now something of an academic issue), let us simply record that we hold all abortion to be gravely wrong and that our objective is the repeal of the 1967 Act.
Of course, this will sound ridiculous to many. It will anger and draw abuse. Admittedly repeal of the Act is not practical politics at the moment. But many causes have not been practical politics in their early days. We know that the moral climate is strongly against us. That is precisely why we think LIFE is so necessary.
We believe that an absolutist position is the only really tenable one and that in the long run it is the only one which will win the day. That day is doubtless a distant one. The purpose of our propaganda is to hasten it. We are not trying to impose a minority view on anyone. We are working for the moment when the majority. awakened to the horror it has condoned, will want to repeal the Act and will once again include abortion in the catalogue of man's inhumanity to man.
We believe that the ideal has to be proclaimed—charitably and prudently, of course, but proclaimed nonetheless. The trouble with asking for half a loaf is that you may end up with merely a quarter. The trouble with tiptoeing is that you can easily find yourself pussyfooting.
I am very encouraged by Mr. St. John-Stevas's opinion that a motion to repeal the Act would not secure 'even SO supporters in the House. in the
sense that I would not have expected half that figure. We are prepared for a long slog; but perhaps the outlook is not as bleak as we had supposed.
Meanwhile. I recognise the importance of the immediate political campaign in the House to secure an improvement to the existing Act and the necessity of tactics appropriate to the circumstances. LIFE is not involved in this and its con• cern lies on a different level. I applaud. moreover. any action which reduces the volume of abortions. Our only fear is that, once the present Act has been "tidied up" and the abortion rate reduced from 92,000 per year to. say, 46.000, it will be even more difficult to arouse public repugnance towards what will still be a ghastly situation.
I thank heaven for Mr. Stevas's courageous campaign against abortion and for the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (of which I have been a member since the early days).
We have been careful to tell SPUC of our intentions from the start and have had friendly discussions with them. We are not a breakaway movement. We want to do things which are outside SPUC's purview. We are not going to squabble with anyone fighting the good fight. There is surely plenty of room in this all-too-large field for a variety of organisations. There is no reason why we should divide the forces of righteousness. We believe we can swell them.
The response to our first announcements has been most encouraging. For this reason alone we could not draw back now. Please, may Mr. Stevas's criticism of us, by allowing us an opportunity to explain ourselves further and (I hope) to allay disquiet about us which he may have aroused, have the effect of eliciting further support.
If there are any more who wish to help LIFE, I ask them to contact the secretary, Mr. Martin Mears (171 High Street, Gorleston, Norfolk)— or myself (at 35 Kenilworth Road, Leamington Spa, Warwicks).