gaining a political lead
CARDINALS Hume and Gray's condemnation(October 26) of the proabortion policies of the Labour Party (and TUC) has given us, as (2atholics, a long-needed political lead. For, let us summarise the implications of this year's Labour conference decisions. First, by reaffirming its support for easy abortion, it is rificiallt denying
the right of lif m
e to part of the human family. (Next stop the old, thenthe mentally handicapped?) Second, by voting to submittabo.ur MPs to ametputsori. re-selection, it denies their right moral issues such as abortion, sirice an MP can now be sacked for opposing party policy on abortion. No democracy, of course, can survive elected representatives being rauzzled
matters on matt of conscience. •
Third. and most fundanientally. Labour has .aabotaged the political pluralism which is a foundation stone of our democratic tradition. Up to now, Catholics and others with strong moral views have enjoyed the right to support. and be supported by, any party not officially Marxist or Fascist. In return for the chance of gaining our support as voters, the parties have wisely maintained neutrality on moral issues and allowed their elected representatives freedom of conscience. By arrogantly abandoning this u neutrality, Labor has lust the right to be accepted by us. as a democratic party. I say arrogantly. since its actions imply contempt for the votes of millions of Catholics and others who oppose easy abortion and the foreclosing, by a potential government of the moral options open to its elected zepresentatives. Following the Cardinals' statement, we should now show that our votes and political actions, so far from.being contemptible, are sufficient to ensure that Labour never regains office while holding its present views, As Catholics, we are by far the largest group of people in Britain committed to a coherent moral philosophy. We outnumber the Labour Party's individual membership 12 to I. We are concentrated in urban areas, where most marginal seats are. We have a national organisation which can deliver, not just votes, but campaign help to the opponents of Labour pro-abortionists. In the last election the largely Catholic membership of Bromley Life showed what can be done by throwing its weight behind the opponent Of a Labour pro-abortionist in a oearby seat. It had the satisfaction of helping to reduce a previously large majority to a highly marginal one. Subsequent intelligence suggests that the Labour MP in question has now modified his support for abortion — proof that Catholic power works.. Others can do the same and show that Catholic power is more to be feared than left-wing militancy in every seal where Labour is vulnerable or hopes to win in future. As a first step, every parish. council CPEA branch and Catholic organisation could adopt the.folloWlng policy resolution: "We condemn the Labour Party's official support for abortion and its subjecting the consciences of Labour MPs to the threat of compulsory reselection. Until and unless .Labour reverses these moves we pledge ourselves to campaign, vote and organise against every Labour candidate who refuses publicly and positively to repudiate them." This would not imply blanket support for the Conservatives,. since we now have a multi-party parliament. Now would it hurt anti-abortion Labour candidates, as long as local Labour parties in their present frame of mind allow them to stand. It could certainly help Labour independents standing on a platform of freedom of conscience against a party machine. We have nearly five years to organise ourselves, select thc seats where we can have the greatest impact and put (literally) the fear of God into the Labour Party organisation. With luck. sense will prevail and
pre sve will never need to show
our strength — but we can make sure that it is a long, long time before any party dares to ignore our consciences again.
Bromley Kent I SEE from your columns that the abortion question is being festooned with the usual bumper catch of red herrings; for the sake of Catholics trying to reach a right and responsible decision about the moral issues involved. I think it is worth questioning a few of these.
First. the tendency of antiabortionists to regard themselves as right • and everycine else as wrong. Your Own columns show that this issue is being actively and intensely debated within the Church, with clergy and lay people (including theologians) on both sides. Impossible to sum up the arguments here, but they include such questions as: when does "ensouled life" begin? — conception? quickening? viability? birth? All are arbitrary limits, which is why science and theology alike have always been (and still are) unwilling to give a definite answer. If the answer were "conceptionwhat is the position of the large proportion of Catholic wives who use abortifacient contraceptive methods such as the pill
or the (the pill has a back-up anti-nidatory effect)?
Abortion is not defined as murder in law, science or theology. Christians should be guided by their consciences in this matter, therefore, and not impose their views on fellowChristians whose' consciences differ. Second. the description of any group as "pro-abortion". Nobody thinks abortion is a good thing in itself. Eventually, please God, social and medical advances will make it unnecessary. Until then, women who cannot face unwanted pregnancies will continue to seek abortions, as they have always done. The only question is whether these should he early, easy and safe or painful, expensive and often mutilating or fatal. Third, similar misapplication of the term "pro-life". In my experience, it is the "pro-choice" people who will be found working and campaigning against real abuses of human life such as war, torture, hunger, the arms trade, economic injustice; while a lot of anti-abortionists seem to stop curing about "life" once it has ten the womb. . Fourth, the antis' concerted and politically skilful creation of rumours of "abuses" of the Abortion Act. There are abuses of abortion and contraception, such as their use as a means of social control in many Third World countries; but the abuses Mr Comic and the gutter press scream about are almost always lies. The antis' propaganda bombards us with photos of well-developed foetuses (although very few abortions take place at such a late stage, and those usually for urgent medical reasons or because of NHS delays). Prochoice people, if they wanted to play that game. could reply with horrifying and pitiful pictures of women who have died after illegal abortions. They don't; but I think Catholits should question themselves very carefully before laying on others burdens they themselves could not bear.
Hilsry Cashman Norton