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Phyllis Bowman, campaigner who led struggle against abortion and euthanasia, dies aged 85

By on Monday, 7 May 2012

Phyllis Bowman, right, with Ann Widdecombe

Phyllis Bowman, right, with Ann Widdecombe

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.

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.”

  • paulpriest

    Truly the greatest of the great…we are lost without her.

     Madeleine Teahan’s interview

    ..and to hear the Grande-Dame at her finest:
    Here she is being interviewed by Robert Colquhoun [audio]

  • teigitur

    RIP to a great battler in the cause of the unborn.

  • David Lindsay

    Grande dame (literally, in the Papal sense) of the pro-life cause in Britain. Jewish convert to Catholicism. Pro-life and pro-family precisely because staunchly Old Labour. And staunchly Old Labour precisely because pro-life and pro-family.

    The Reverend Alan Rabjohns, the former SPUC Chairman who followed her to the Board of Trustees of Right to Life, is of the same political mind and is also a converted Jew, for the time being leading the Anglo-Catholic rearguard action in the Church in Wales.

    Pray for them both.

  • archiewedderspoon


  • Charles Martel

    RIP. I had the honour to meet her, and I wish to God our Church leaders had half the courage, conviction and clarity.

  • Helemur

    A very very sad day for the pro-life movement.  Nobody has dedicated more and centred their whole life in the fight to protect unborn children.  May she rest in peace,  a wonderful and committed lady.  Condolences to all her family.   

  • Bvmservant

    She can do more from Heaven, so lets help her get there (if she has not already got there) by our prayers for her soul – she will let us know when she is there by answering some requests, so chuck those in as well.  We can begin by requesting the conversion of England back to Catholicism, which will then give us the fertile soil for a culture of life

  • Sandra Hooley

    phyllis was just the best in the pro-life movement. I worked for her for twelve years and was  priveledged to meet her on many occasions, she worked tirelessly for unborn children, and her voice was heard. What a loss! but I am certain she will continue her work Spiitually!  Those of us who knew her will always remember her fight and determination! Long may she be rembered. And God look atter Jerry and the rest of her family. Phyllis you were, without a doubt, the shinning light and the beacon of the Pro-life groups, and HEAVEN has certainly got an angel.   Sandra 

  • Speakmymind

    Rest in peace….I personally had never heard of this remarkable lady, I’m a 30 yr old woman with a deep passion or pro-life and looking to help this grave cause, I read in the news that in Korea they are selling these ‘cure all ailment’ pills, these were discovered to have human skin from ‘babies’ as the media said unborn babies from abortions, note the word foetus was not used in this story by the news article. I thought how sad, cruel and evil the whole thing is now when the mothers rights are being portrayed by the media or family planning or this planned parenthood in America the unborn child is referred to as an embryo or fetous ….society is having a meltdown where morals are concerned, it’s a me first culture. A my life comes first culture, it can’t go on it just can’t. We need to realise that love only can prevail, love for the babies love or the sick which comes from the light of the world himself our lord Jesus christ, if only we all turned to him rather than earthly agencies like family planning or pph and wholeheartedly trust in our lord to lead us down the narrow path to life, let him guide us to the right decision when struggling with an unplanned pregnancy let him give the woman strength of wisdom to see ahead of her decision which will only ever cause more pain and heartache guilt and fear for the rest of her life if she aborts……we are not incontrol of two things in this place and that is birth and death, humans have interviened and killed millions of life’s worldwide and in doing so, hurt our lord so badly and done who knows what to the future as every single life has meaning had a plan, another persons life they were to be guided to only our lord knows what damage has been done, it’s rather like the climate change crazy as that sounds and I’m not for one minute for a second comparing that to a baby but what I do mean is that in the sense of how we are killing our planet with all these luxuries we gain to ‘better our life’s ice caps are melting causing oceans to rise, whacky weather ect well where abortion and euthanasia it’s the same in a different sense, for every life that’s cruely and wrongly ended by mankinds idea of bettering the life’s of mothers to be or the ill patient we must realise the damage that’s done to human population, the people’s life who could have taken a different better path by the meeting of the unborn baby had they been given life on earth. I pray so much for abortion to be illegal but I also pray lord that the mothers life’s are bettered by haing their child, that they see they are strong and able to raise their little lamb. What I do know is that Phyllis will be with our lady ave Maria in a garden of roses comforted and blissfully at peace seeing all the unborn souls at peace and in a state of bliss and in that garden the roses have no thorns at all …….god bless her for the impact and inspiring work she done in this earthly life x

  • Pilarverzosargs

    My sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and pro-life co-workers of Phyllis Bowman.  it has been my honor to meet her in International Pro-life conferences. With my prayers, Sr. Pilar Verzosa, RGS (Founder, Pro-life Philippines)

  • Peter Sawyer

    Although I didn’t know Phyllis Bowman personally [and neither she me!], I used to speak to her from time to time on the telephone about the miriad of life issues, not least about my dealings with my ‘anti-life’ MP, and yet I felt she knew me, and spoke to me as though she did. What a privilege. I warmed to her as a truly caring remarkable lady; may she rest in peace.  Peter [Sawyer]

  • AA

    Heartfelt Thank You and Condolences

  • Mary O’Regan

    I met Phyllis at the Right to Life Ball in November 2010.  I spoke to her about the time that a pro-choice doctor had said to her, “Phyllis, but I don’t understand why there are so many abortions. Why the huge numbers?”  Phyllis looked him straight in the eye and answered; ‘because you refer them for abortions.’

  • baige867