British Catholics mourn 'leading light of the global pro-life movement'

The veteran British pro-life campaigner Phyllis Bowman has died aged 85.

Bowman, who was described today as a “leading light of the global pro-life movement”, died peacefully this morning in Hammersmith Hospital, west London, with her family at her side.

For over 40 years she played a leading role in efforts to overturn the Abortion Act, which has claimed millions of lives since it was passed in 1967. She also fought tirelessly against efforts to legalise euthanasia in Britain.

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She was a key figure in the founding of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in January 1967. In 1998 she left SPUC and went on to found Right to Life, Britain’s leading pro-life political lobbying organisation.

Ann Widdecombe, the former Home Office Minister and Conservative MP, said: “Phyllis Bowman’s contribution to the pro-life cause was unique but her work will be carried on and she is probably already getting the heavenly hosts organised. Right to Life has lost a much-loved founder and all of us a much-loved friend. The biggest tribute we can pay her is to ensure her vigorous defence of the helpless unborn child continues unabated.”

Catholic crossbench peer Lord Alton of Liverpool said: “For half a century Phyllis has been an indefatigable champion of the unborn child and for the sanctity of human life. Her tireless efforts, right up to her final illness and last days, serve as an inspiration to the next generation. She was an extraordinarily talented woman, utterly dedicated, highly articulate, politically shrewd and the possessor of an encyclopedic memory.

“Her early training as a Fleet Street journalist never left her short of things to say. Her Christian faith and her beloved husband, Jerry, kept her strong throughout years of having to fight endless battles against abortion, embryo experimentation, human cloning and euthanasia. Her name deserves to be associated with some of the great women who have given their lives to great causes – Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, Cicely Saunders, Mother Teresa and Sue Ryder.”

Chris Whitehouse, secretary of the Catholic Legislators’ Network and a trustee of the Right to Life Charitable Trust, said: “Phyllis Bowman was one of the key foundation stones upon which the world pro-life movement was built. Her legacy is that despite the rising tide of the culture of death, hundreds of thousands are alive today who would otherwise have been slaughtered in the womb; and that the United Kingdom has to date resisted the introduction of euthanasia. She was a lantern of hope in the dark, and will continue to shine through the generations of young pro-lifers whom she inspired.”

Catholic author Joanna Bogle wrote on her blog: “She was courageous, hard-working and professional, and an excellent journalist and communicator, working with skill, enthusiasm and good humour under pressure. Her love and concern for unborn babies drove her and this, combined with her Christian faith, made her someone to whom we looked with admiration and even awe. Britain is in her debt: she understood the great moral issues of our era and sought to make a better future.”

The Archbishop of Westminster also paid his own tribute to Phylis Bowman on behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales. He said: “I wish to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Phyllis Bowman, who died on the morning of Monday, 7 May 2012.

“I wish to pay tribute to the many years of generous service and the unfailing witness which Phyllis gave to the promotion of the dignity of human life and her unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death.

“Phyllis was passionate in her desire to give a voice to the voiceless and do all in her power to defend those who are most worthy of our protection. She was a true champion and ‘apostle’ of the precious gift of human life.

“May Almighty God grant Phyllis’ soul, peace and rest, and may the prayers of Mary the Mother of God, bring consolation to her husband and family. We pray too, that the Lord will give courage and determination to all the members of His Church to promote the sanctity of life and be resolute in the defence of the unborn and those who are disabled, ill, or dying.”

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