Friday 27 October 2017

On the 50th Anniversary of the Abortion Act

Marble Arch lit up by Life to mark the anniversary
People sometimes assume that I am pro-life because I am Catholic. In fact, it might be more accurate to put that the other way around. In my late teens and early twenties, the time when one is questioning such things with particular intensity, the Catholic Church's clear and consistent pro-life position was one of the things that helped convince me that this was my spiritual home.

My pro-life position, then, has two main roots: one practical, one philosophical.  The practical one was witnessing one of my sisters being pregnant at a relatively young age and in very inauspicious circumstances. That was in 1969, the year after abortion was partially de-criminalised. So my nephew was an early candidate for abortion - and I have always been quite clear that ending his life would have been the wrong thing to do (not least for his mother, as things turned out, of course).

On the philosophical level, it seems to me that human rights are universal or they are nothing. Of these rights, the right to life is clearly foundational: without that, no other right has any meaning. Once we take it upon ourselves to say certain categories of human beings do not have the right to life, whether because of age, disability, the circumstances of their conception, or any other reason, we have assumed to ourselves a position of power that is untenable and, I think, corrupting. History is rife with examples.

The first training I had in non-directional counselling was with Oxford Nightline, when I was an undergraduate. It was the approach taken to all the issues that students might present with, except suicide. With suicide, we were not non-directional: all our efforts were to keep the student from ending his or her life; confidentiality no longer applied - a second volunteer would call the emergency services whilst the first kept the student talking, and so on.

And rightly so: somebody's life is at stake. Moreover, we recognise that the desire to commit suicide is, more often than not, a passing one; but a successful suicide is irreversible. 

I believe similar considerations also apply to abortion. If one considers Kubler-Ross' research, and the transition curve, we are compelling women to make an irreversible choice at a particular moment, when they are going through the emotionally charged experience of coming to terms with an unwanted pregnancy. We know that the way she will react will change over time - but the nature of the choice demands a quick decision. Such a decision may well not be the one she would make given more time and more support.

Of course, I do not condemn any woman who has made that choice; any more than I would condemn anyone driven to attempt suicide. But in both cases I would see it as a tragic choice, one to be avoided, not promoted.

And I do blame those who promote abortion through lies; both the active lies of the abortion industry and the colluding lies of their cheer-leaders in other spheres of public life. By active lies, I mean lies like Marie Stopes promoting itself as supporting women in their choice, when in fact their staff are on a bonus scheme to push women in one direction: the one that contributes to MSI's bottom line. Lies like denying that the unborn child is a human being, flying in the face of science. And lies like claiming that pro-life prayer groups are harassing women in Ealing, when despite having two cameras trained on them, there is no evidence of their having done so.  Their crime, rather, is to offer women a real choice, as these women testify: 

By collusive lies, I mean things like the BBC, commissioning a poll on public opinions, and then suppressing the fact that the public does not favour de-criminalisation, and only quoting the results that favour the BBC's agenda of liberalisation. And the BBC dropping a woman who chose not to abort her baby with Downs from a programme, and steadfastly refusing to interview women such as those who feature in the video above, who have been helped by pro-life organisations. 

I also mean things like the NHS, which refers to an unborn child as a baby, when it is wanted, but as 'a pregnancy' when describing abortion. Surely the nature of the being under discussion doesn't change depending on our attitude towards it? This is an Orwellian use of language.

I mean things like ideologues imposing radical pro-abortion agendas on organisations they lead, without consultation of their membership; whether that is Colleges of health professionals, or Amnesty International, which has apparently spent more on abortion campaigning in Ireland than on the causes its founders and members signed up to.

Abortion, of course, does not address the many serious and challenging issues that some women face. Indeed, it provides a short cut that makes it easier to ignore them. Perhaps the most damning indictment of all is that abortion is used by pedophiles, rapists, incestuous relations, and abusers to cover their crimes (as in Rotherham, for example). To its shame  MSI carries out hundreds of abortions on girls under 16 without any referrals for safeguarding.

That is why I not only oppose abortion, but also support those who work to offer real support to women in crisis pregnancies; and why I am so proud of my daughter Clare, who works for Life (the second speaker on this clip).

Thursday 12 October 2017

The Meeting

This morning, as I was driving down the M6 to a meeting, the traffic came to a halt and we could see heavy black smoke ahead. The opposite carriageway was completely clear, and it was quickly apparent that the motorway had been closed due to a vehicle on fire (we soon learned, from those who wandered up the central reservation to have a look, that a large crane had caught on fire).

So I sent a message to the person I was due to meet, and also texted Jane at HQ (we were at a complete standstill, and had been for some time, I should add...) to let her know what was going on. She replied that the person I was due to meet had also got in touch to say he wouldn't be able to get to work on time, so could we postpone the meeting.  I had visions of him being a couple of cars ahead in the queue...

So I then typed up a quick briefing note of the issues I had wanted to update him about, and the questions I had hoped we would be able to discuss, and emailed that through to him. In the meantime, he had texted me his mobile number and agreed we should talk by phone.

And that is what we did. I called his mobile (it turned out he was sat at a train station, awaiting the  next train to get him to work) and we had a very productive telephone conversation, in about 15 minutes.

And then I had to wait for the motorway to reopen, before I could go to the next junction and then come back home the back way (the northbound carriageway was still closed as the crane was on that side of the road).

All of which made me reflect that I should conduct more meetings by phone.  Had I gone to his office, the meeting would doubtless have lasted longer - not least because both of us would, at some level, have felt that it should, to justify the journey.  But in fact we sorted everything in quite short order.

Yet I had had, I thought, good reasons for seeking a meeting rather than a phone call. I was suggesting some changes to a plan of work, and wanted to gauge his reaction. I wanted to have a creative conversation with him about some possibilities, and elicit his best thinking. I wanted to continue to build the relationship: we had only met twice or thrice, and that over a twelve month period.

But in fact, the meeting we had by phone was more than adequate: it was quick, efficient good-humoured and productive.  I was able, I think, to gauge his reactions, and he certainly had some very good ideas that took our thinking forward. And writing the briefing note had really focused my thinking, and also gave us both a written record of the key issues.

So my conclusion is that I need to be more confident in the power of a phone call both to transact business, to enable creative conversations, and to build relationships.  And I am sure my clients will appreciate the time saved by shorter conversations - and I certainly will, once travelling time is added on top...