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The pro-life movement needs to be divided if it is to win battles in Parliament

We need one lobby group to fight for the unborn child and another to oppose assisted suicide

By on Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lord Falconer is proposing a draft bill to legalise assisted suicide (PA photo)

Lord Falconer is proposing a draft bill to legalise assisted suicide (PA photo)

In the build-up to the Iraq War the British Left were out in full force under the banner of the Stop the War Coalition. Although the arguments against the invasion of Iraq were compelling and reasonable, I rapidly lost interest in protesters’ arguments because of the multitude of placards stating various Left-wing grievances. As a young social conservative I felt totally alienated from a perfectly reasonable and moral cause due to its hysterical hijacking by Left-wing militants.

When Lord Falconer presents his draft bill to legalise assisted suicide, arch proponents of liberal abortion laws will oppose him. Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney, for example, is opposed to assisted suicide and even Lord Winston, a prominent supporter of embryology experimentation, has voted against moves to legalise assisted suicide.

If success in politics demands building parliamentary networks and co-operative relationships in order to achieve political ends, perhaps it is time for a drastic change of tack.

What if pressure groups opposed to the destruction of human life from conception to natural death considered separating for future parliamentary battles? One key group would defend the rights of the unborn child and the other would focus on opposing the legalisation of assisted suicide and/or voluntary euthanasia.

Both groups would take a strictly evidence-based approach to influencing and resisting future legislation. Religious sentiments or distracting arguments about sexuality would be kept out of the equation.

On a practical level this might make sense in terms of focus, expertise and the raising of funds but there are further incentives for this approach.

The following thought is depressing for pro-lifers; but they must face the reality that a pro-choice parliamentarian who admires a lobby group for their persuasive stance against assisted suicide will be quickly put off when they visit the website to find that it features pictures of unborn children and maybe even a press release opposing gay marriage.

The parliamentarian who received impassioned opposition, even hostility, from one lobby group due to his support for abortion may find it difficult to work with them at a later date to oppose assisted suicide. And we cannot forget that abortion is not like many other political issues – it has a unique emotiveness and can cause enduring acrimony when opinions differ. Of course, the right to express a private view must always be defended, but if lobbyists concentrate their professional efforts on one end of the debate alone this may prove fruitful.

Furthermore, because of the way pro-life groups currently operate, campaigners make continuous comparisons with abortion and euthanasia but this is not necessarily helpful given the many parliamentarians who do not view assisted suicide as a question of private morality but of public safety.

I appreciate that for some supporters and opponents abortion and euthanasia go hand in hand, as they both boil down to the principle of defending human life or personal choice. But there is a vast middle ground in between, in and outside Parliament. Those who occupy this territory will be sympathetic to at least one of the issues that much of the pro-life movement care so passionately about and work tirelessly for.

Just as a reasonable anti-war pressure group can fast become a shopping list of Left-wing demands, pro-life groups run the risk that Parliament and the public perceive them as the equivalent of the American “religious Right.” They need to be convinced otherwise.

  • Caroline Farrow

    Exactly right Madeleine. 

    Rather than attempting to fight several battles on several fronts – it would be far more efficacious for pro-lifers to split into two specialist areas, namely anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia, for a variety of reasons. 

    Firstly, both areas are becoming increasingly specialised, particularly with the advancement of medical technology. It strikes me as difficult, though not impossible, for pro-life groups to be able to specialise in both. 

    Secondly, both the abortion industry and the pro-euthanasia lobby led by the likes of Lord Faulkener and his knobbled Commission, are proving formidable opponents in terms of the weight of resources that they have to throw behind their campaigns. 

    Any pro-life group needs to be broad in base and narrow in focus, otherwise the pro-life movement resembles a beleaguered army attempting to fight battles on several fronts but with limited success. Far better to have specialised, targeted groups, able to fully concentrate and put all their resources and expertise into one single issue.

    Furthermore, as you note, though life issues are inexorably linked, for most people the issues of euthanasia and abortion are entirely separate. Not everyone has the time or the inclination to think through the issue holistically. It is probable that far more people feel comfortable with supporting anti-euthanasia legislation than they do with anti-abortion measures, for a variety of reasons. Though Catholics in particular, are able to appreciate the philosophical thread and unbroken logic that underpins all life issues, for many people they are entirely separate and thus many would find it difficult to support an anti-euthanasia group that opposed abortion and perhaps vice-versa. 

    Add in the issue of ‘gay marriage’ and it is possible that yet more support is alienated, most people seeing gay marriage as utterly irrelevant as to the issues of euthanasia and abortion. 

    Whilst as Catholics we are hopefully able to understand the bigger picture, the pro-life effort should not purely consist of or be confined to the religious sphere. Support for equality of human life, from conception to natural death, does not necessitate religious belief and should not be defined as a purely religious issue. 

    Sadly, for many people, supporting abortion, does not preclude opposing euthanasia. We need focused but separate lobby groups and charities to effectively fight the separately-pronged juggernauts of the culture of death. After all, there is not one “pro-choice” umbrella. 

  • paulpriest

    Madeleine I’m sorry but you’re making a few crucial errors:

    Primarily: What Pro-Life movement?
    There isn’t one!

    We have a variety of political lobby groups, activist groups, supporters/counsellors/educators/commentators/writers/charity workers/vigil keepers but when we add this all up we face the fundamental fact…

    …There is no national umbrella Pro-Life coalition.

    Therefore when it comes to opposition against either abortion and euthanasia it is invariably a hotch-potch amalgam of minor groups tied in with religious/charity affiliates and maybe a few big-hitters from the political/medical or even media/cultural scene.

    Now: Your paradigm pre-supposes the awkwardness of…
    …the ‘s’ word
    spuc – a predominantly anti-abortion lobby group – being the most outspoken or politically influential when it comes to an issue such as euthanasia [and - despite being a secular lobby group - it's almost invariably aligned to Catholic positions on such issues]

    Therefore people who would normally support a directly anti-euthanasia movement are not going to support one which is also anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage…

    That’s understandable – but pardon me for mentioning the elephant shaped vaccuum in the room…



    Now you can either pontificate and posture..or you can face reality:

    There is only one structure which has the resources, the manpower, the intellects and the built-in networking/communication facilities to actuate a national pro-life movement.

    ..and it’s the Catholic Church.

    Now we can talk of ivory tower/blue-sky thinking of a national ‘all faiths and none’ pro-Life group – but I’m sorry at present it’s a ludicrous delusional entity which couldn’t possibly exist until the groundwork was done by those who should be mandatorily doing it as part of their apostolic pastoral mandate to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

    The Church SHOULD be THE national Pro-Life movement as it is the ONLY Body which will unequivocally defend the inherent dignity and sanctity of every human being from conception to natural death.

    I’m sorry but no other organization can be trusted – by Catholics – to defend the sanctity of Life – than the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church.

    Therefore we should be taking the reins and leading the fight on every issue:

    But here’s the double-crunch

    a] WE’RE NOT DOING IT – which is a scandal in itself – given the tens of millions pumped into Eccleston Square – given the thousands of lackeys – given the hudreds of thousands we hand over to the lobby group spuc to do a little of the fight for us…


    It’s the scandal we all want to ignore & dismiss…but it’s an unpalatable fact which has driven many to exasperation and the nation’s Catholics into incredulity!

    How many times have spuc had to relate to us the inadequacies/the blatant counter-productivity in Conference or Episcopal policies, statements, actuated procedures or personal comments?!!

    How many times did the late, great Phyllis Bowman bewail the plain & simple fact that she was rather than being helped – at times defiantly hindered – by Bishops, professional lay quangocrats and Conference?!!

    Do I really need to repeat myself ad nauseam in what ways Our national Church has conspired with the Culture of Death?

    a] Connexions – underage sex counselling, contraception, abortifacients & abortion referrals in Catholic schools – at the behest of the CES.

    b] The Liverpool care pathway – Euthanising by accelerating death and denying human dignity in death – contravening absolute Catholic teaching that nutrition and hydratrion are natural forms of care and not removable clinical treatment PLUS it defiantly contravenes the teaching of Pius XII that unnecessary sedation of those approaching the end of their life is barbaric and Gravely Evil!!!

    c] The Mental Capacity Act – the euthaniser’s charter…

    d] The St John & St Elizabeth hospital – despite repeated direct papal orders to stop this Catholic charity providing abortifacients, abortion referrals & sterilizations – it continues to do so and has even become the metropolitan hospital of choice for gender-reassignment surgery!!!

    e] Catholic Charities which are allowed to promote directly anti-Life policies – especially in regard to human reproduction and population control.

    f] The actions of
    i] Archbishop Nichols [e.g. giving the inaugural memorial address to abortionists celebrating the life of an abortionist - commending the Royal College of Obstetricians & gynaecologists for the conscience clauses they don't in fact have - then telling the audience the Church has no right to interfere with their clinical determinations!!!
    ii] Archbishop Smith – ye gods where does one start!!? The ‘welcoming’ of the murderous assisted suicide prosecution guidelines, his ‘note’ to the House of Commons which stopped a rebellion against the mental capacity act, the systemic incompetence around the HFEA bill, the farce of the abortion reduction campaign, his nationwide endorsement of the LCP…his negligence, acedia, ineptitude and downright refusal to address the grave issues at hand….
    iii] Every other Bishop who has either kept their mouths shut or bewailed the situation with handwringing or said “well I’m not the right person to comment – that Archbishop Smith’s remit”
    iv] Bishops Conference in EMPLOYING those who have directly conspired in the culture of death – Pro-abortion MP Greg Pope to the CES – we even handed over the Papal Visit events-organising to Magi Cleaverhook – a woman whose CV includes organising the distribution of mobile abortuaries in Africa!!!



    A] The Bishops Conference & our hierarchy need to clean up their act in all things Pro-Life – becoming authentically Catholic in precept, praxis and promotion.

    B} Then we need to take the helm and actuate a national Pro-Life movement – certainly with many facets and internal specialist departments with corresponding experts/lobbyists/media spokespersons etc – but we take over the whole thing!

    C] any other organisation or group which wishes to ally with certain departments on certain battle-fronts on certain issues is fully free to participate in that remit – i other words – they join us! Where there is any ideological antagonism or antipathy – that’s their problem – not ours – we are not going to sidle up and conspire with any group or association which contravenes our absolute moral principles – we stop making deals – others can make deals with us – on OUR terms!

  • JByrne24

    Is everyone sure about the meaning of “natural death”?

    Deaths often result as consequences of various choices or “non-natural”** events or actions: smoking; drinking alcohol; breathing-in blue asbestos fibres; bad driving (by self or others); faulty airplane servicing or flying; incompetent, maybe drunken, ship’s crew; incompetent medics…..etc.
    (**”non-natural”: defined here in an analogous way to chemical contraceptives)

    Since a death from, say, lung cancer could be considered as unnatural (being caused by unnatural tobacco smoking) could a sufferer be permitted an organised death by even the strictest of anti-euthanasia moralisers?

    [Even though the tobacco smoking/drinking might not be undertaken in order to produce death, the (pending) death would still occur as a result of the wilful inhalation or ingestion of chemicals. It would not then be "natural".]

  • Ttony

    “Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder,
    genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the
    integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or
    mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such
    as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery,
    prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working
    conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free
    and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies
    indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice
    them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor
    to the Creator.”
    Gaudium et Spes 27
    Being pro-life isn’t about a checklist; it’s not about saying SPUC to oppose abortion and SPBA to oppose euthanathsia: it’s about an authentic view of what the Lord, the Giver of Life, has created.

  • paulpriest

     Thank You!!!!

    It is – as it always was and will be – all about the why…

    and that’s why some will simply never get it….

  • Caroline Farrow

    No Catholic would disagree Ttony, however the article was about how pro-life aims and objectives may best be achieved via Parliament.

    Politics is, after all, the art of the possible. It is not simply about the ideology but about the best methods of achieving a pro-life society in which Parliament has an invaluable role.

    Whilst an authentic Catholic pro-life movement is desirable, we cannot insist on dialogue with other potential supporters, purely on our terms. Or we can – but I’m not sure how far it would get us.

    My understanding is that constructive dialogue with others in an attempt to advance the common good is a key tenet of the operation of the Holy See.

    Attacking others for their lack of perceived ideological purity or wisdom is one of the reasons why there is such unnecessary and unwholesome divisions and squabblings within the pro-life effort which hampers so much.

  • Ttony

    I suppose my problem arises from your formulation:

    “Whilst an authentic Catholic pro-life movement is desirable, we cannot insist on dialogue with other potential supporters, purely on our terms. Or we can – but I’m not sure how far it would get us.”

    I worry that this is a process-driven way of looking at how to solve issues-affecting-Life: how to negotiate slices of belief for slices of benefit.  If Catholics aren’t affirming an authentic Catholic pro-life movement as an unnegotiable core, how can we expect other potential supporters to accept that any of our beliefs are not negotiable?

    I hope you didn’t think I was attacking anybody by quoting Vatican II (there are depths of irony in that statement that you might not appreciate).  The thing that has struck me since the Catholic Reading Group set Gaudium et Spes as a “set text” is that in it the Church defined a Catholic pro-life position at the Council and the ostensibly pro-VII Church in England and Wales has never adopted that position as its own. 

    If we argued our credible, holistic, view of life, instead of adopting a series of positions and groups arguing about abortion, euthanasia, et al, we would be an authentic sign of contradiction which would attract others.  It might not win divisions in Parliament at first – but then neither does anything else we do – but it might attract and save souls.

  • Charles Martel


  • Parasum

    “arch proponents of liberal abortion”

    ## An “arch proponent” is a proposer who displays the character of of archness.

    What is meant, is “arch-proponent”, a leading proposer.

    (An arch arch-proponent is apparently not what is meant.)

    Compare: “Eight Legged Freaks” which means “Eight Freaks with Legs”

    - with “Eight-Legged Freaks” (the correct, and intended, form of the expression), which is the name of a horror film, meaning:  “Freaks with Eight Legs”

    On a different topic: it is a great pity that “liberal” is often used when “secular”, “secularist”, “secularising”, or (much better) “inhumane” & its variants is intended. (A great many secularists are humane and decent people, and deserve much better than to be accused of holding attitudes many of them would find abhorrent.) Liberality is a virtue, and virtue is worthy of praise – so why use “liberal” as a term of dispraise ?

  • Parasum

    I thought a natural death was a death caused by factors that in some sense are not external to the person.

    So (say) the death of a smoker from emphysema, would be natural, whereas death at the hands of a mugger would not. In the forner instance death is caused by processes that are within the ordinary operation of the body, even though tobacco is not in origin one of them; it has however been naturalised by acts deriving from the free action of the smoker.

    Carbon monoxide OTOH, though it uses the processes natural to the body, is not one of them – it has not been naturalised, but is incompatible with the processes natural to the body.

  • Parasum

    “If we argued our credible, holistic, view of life, instead of adopting a series of positions…”

    ## IOW, what’s need is a coherent vision & integrated vision of and in Christ & creation. “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, as Amos said a long time ago. Forget all those Roman *Lineamenta* – read the Prophets !

    That won’t happen, until the rest of the parts integral to it are accepted. That would mean great changes in R.E. It would mean wholesale reform & renewal: the genuine article. It would mean *metanoia*/repentance/conversion on a massive scale. It won’t happen. It would merely result in more forest-killing. 

    BTW: credible to whom – Us ? Unbelievers ? Both ?

  • Caroline Farrow

    I understood the irony alright. I also understand where you are coming from and think that it’s a valid point that you are making. The battle for souls must be at the forefront, however I don’t believe that an authentic Catholic pro-life movement and separate targeted political lobby groups and charities are mutually exclusive are they?

    A differentation needs to be made between focused lobby groups and integrated members of those groups. There is nothing to stop individuals from being members of several groups.

    What is clear is that despite the tide of opinion slowly changing and the climate gradually becoming more favourable towards pro-life issues, nothing is being achieved in terms of Parliamentary gains or legislative controls.

    Splitting the pro-life effort into specialisms may just be a way of achieving this, without necessarily compromising Catholic belief or doctrine. There is nothing to prevent Catholics from mobilising and attempting to build a movement within the Church. One only needs to examine the success of 40 Days for Life in terms of garnering support. There is much support mixed with much despair amongst grass-roots Catholicism. People want to DO something. What the Church needs to do is harness and effectively focus this support. Effectively the whole thing needs rebuilding from scratch, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Lets start little by little with the things we can achieve and stop bemoaning the past or claiming that others don’t get it or lack wisdom. Let’s look forward and build a momentum for the future.

  • paulpriest

    Permit me to repeat you in case anyone is mistaken into thinking you didn’t say it:

    “…the Church defined a Catholic pro-life position at the Council and
    the ostensibly pro-VII Church in England and Wales has NEVER adopted
    that position as its own. 

    If we argued our credible, HOLISTIC , view of life, INSTEAD of
    adopting a series of positions and groups arguing about abortion,
    euthanasia, et al, we would be an authentic sign of contradiction which
    would attract others.  It might not win divisions in Parliament at first
    – but then neither does anything else we do – but it might attract and
    save souls”

    I maintain my point that the National Catholic Church’s position on many issues is alien and anathema to an authentic Catholic Pro-Life stance…

    …and yet despite this it is the ONLY Body capable of defending, advocating and promoting a truly Pro-Life position in this country as it is the only entity which is authentically holistically Pro-Life in regard to every aspect of the dignity which should be afforded our neighbour.

    But of course my , how was it put? “Appealing to doctrinal purity”? will lead to my being denounced [yet again] as:

    ‘cruel, uncharitable, divisive, offensive, creating dissension and counterproductively forming factions where there should be a unity amongst everyone on the same side’

    How dare I say anyone is not being fully pro-Life? Or Pro-Life Lite? Or neither reflecting nor advocating Catholic teaching on the sanctity of Life?

    [especially after all these people have done for the Pro-Life cause and how much they've sacrificed in all their efforts?]

    OK: Let’s make this clear:

    a] ANYONE who suggests that it is ever permissible for condoms to be used with prophylactic intention in marriage among hiv serodiscordant couples; or indeed anyone who does not outrightly condemn this as a violation of the fifth commandment and does not condemn those who advocate it or those who suggest the Church has not condemned it absolutely…
    …is not being fully pro-Life

    b] Anyone who does not condemn any form of palliative care which considers nutrition/hydration as clinical treatment which may be removed and that permanent sedation at the end of life is anything but gravely evil……
    …is not being fully pro-Life

    c] Anyone who does not constantly seek an absolute universal ban on abortion…
    …is not being fully pro-Life

    d] Anyone who does not condemn the Culture of Death activities and payment of Connexions [whether inside Catholic schools or beyond]…
    …is not being fully pro-Life

    e] Anyone who does not condemn same-sex unions in any form [other than disaffected friendship] as a scandal which jeopardises the sacramental natural sanctity of marriage wherein this holism new life is brought forth, nurtured and sustained…
    …is not being fully pro-Life

    f] Anyone who jeopardises, compromises or seeks opt-outs from the absolute integrity of the beauty and dignity of the inherent truth within humanae vitae where lovemaking is sacramentalised in its unifying and procreative aspects…
    …is not being fully pro-Life.

    g] Anyone who advocates any social, political or economic policies which directly compromises or jeopardises the inherent dignity and sanctity of marriage and the family…
    …is not being fully Pro-Life

    h] Anyone who endorses any form of eugenics or population control or directly advocates contravention of a married couple’s ability to gracefully receive the gift of life within their family…
    …is not being fully Pro-Life.

    i] Anyone who sees death as a valid form of punishment or advocates any form of violence which violates the fifth commandment by not being intrinsically defensive in nature…
    …is not being fully Pro-Life.

    j] Anyone who advocates any form of active or passive euthanasia or the acceleration of a neighbour’s death via assisted suicide…
    …is not being fully Pro-Life

    k] Anyone who does not advocate the absolute inherent dignity and sanctity of the Human person as a conceptus [irrespective of anything which might follow]…
    …is not being fully Pro-Life

    And this is not me pharisaically determining who is and who is not fully pro-Life – this is merely my reiterating the Truth regarding the sanctity of Life as advocated, taught, promoted and COMMANDED by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church….
    …and if people have a problem with this?

    It’s their problem – not mine – and certainly not ours!

    And these are very far from unnecessary or unwholesome divisions – these involve the Life [ot potential life] of Our neightbour and any appeal to being cruelly isolationist or doctrinaire, or being uncharitable or displaying ‘unwise’ insensitivity or intolerance – is axiomatically fallacious.

  • teigitur

    Totally lost it! Enivitable I suppose.

  • JByrne24

    A death from lung cancer, emphysema or cirrhosis (by way of a few examples) could be caused by the choice of the deceased to take certain chemicals (tobacco condensates or ethyl alcohol) into her/his body so as to react with the normal, natural bodily processes so causing these processes to change: producing a tumour, loss of lung elasticity or scaring of tissue. 

    This seems to me as being essentially equivalent to the ingestion of a chemical contraceptive which causes changes in the normal, natural bodily processes which would, by themselves, lead to a pregnancy. 

    The Church (presently) considers the death from the tumour (say), caused by chemicals taken into the body, to be natural (it must not be interfered with by euthanasia)  –  but the inability to conceive, caused by chemicals taken into the body, to be artificial.

  • Ttony

    This article and the piece from Gaudium et Spes, along with the comments have reallys et me thinking.  What follows is offered tentatively: not the whole story and not condemnatory of anyone who thinks or acts differently.

    One of the problems with secular democracy is that it reduces everything to voting: what is right and what is wrong is decided by a majority of those voting.  Of course, those voting (whether at a general election or in Parliament) have a moral compass, but if that compass is off beam, unformed, whatever, it will come up with objectively wrong decisions, like abortion, and soon, euthanasia.

    There are two ways of dealing with this: the lobbying, little-by-little, brick-by-brick approach; or the no compromise, the package can’t be split, we do not accept your premise approach.

    Where once I would have favoured the former, I have come to believe that that approach necessarily forces those taking part to cooperate (objectively, unintentionally, at some level) in evil, however unwillingly.  Fighting to reduce the limit on abortion to 18 weeks necessarily means accepting that abotion up to 17 weeks may continue, however many 18-22 week babies are saved.

    I am coming strongly to the belief that taking an activist part in the democratic process where our values are concerned is to accept that the majority has the right to impose the wrong, however hard we might fight to halt or mitigate that wrong.

    Mother Teresa never accepted the premise that the dying poor should not have access to love and health care, because of the need to ensure that the funds available for health care should be managed to effect the best overall outcome consistent with the greatest good of the greatest many.  This view increasingly rings true to me.

  • theroadmaster

    The author of this piece has made some well-intentioned but naive suggestions regarding networking strategies to be adopted by pro-life groups in Parliament.  One cannot compartmentalize such fundamental life issues as abortion and euthanasia into different areas of interest, if one is a parliamentarian or activist genuinely seeking to preserve a consistent moral ethic regarding these matters without making convenient distinctions between them.  We need an overarching organizational framework and policies to optimize the talents of pro-life religious and even non-religious people, both within and outside parliament.  To much opposition to immoral and anti-life government programs and legislation is formed on an ad-hoc basis when particular interests seem to coincide without any long term plans for further collaboration.

  • roger1212

    Madeleine I agree with your article.

    I know of people who are anti-abortion (even members of pro-life groups!) but pro-euthanasia, and people who are anti-euthanasia but pro-choice on abortion.

    Euthanasia is a public safety issue; known ‘anti-abortionist groups’ leading the opposition will inevitably put off many potential allies and public opinion.