Tuesday 31 December 2013

C-FAM's worst five events of 2013

C-FAM (the Catholic and Family Human Rights Institute) exists to defend life and family at international institutions and to publicise the debate.

Its vision is to preserve international law by discrediting socially radical policies at the United Nations and other international institutions.

An essential part of C-FAM’s work is each week to publish the Friday Fax, prepared by C-FAM staff members who attend UN meetings and conferences as well as closely reading numerous UN documents.

The Friday Fax, now in its fourteenth year of uninterrupted publication, is read by over 400,000  subscribers and readers around the world.

Friday Fax has just published its ‘bottom five’, the global abortion lobby’s greatest victories of 2013.

These will be of interest to everyone with an interest in how pro-abortion factions are working at the highest international level to promote abortion throughout the world with the assistance of national governments and global corporate leaders.

I have included the links which provide further background information:

C-FAM’s Bottom Five; The Worst Events of 2013

1.  Women Deliver

Abortion groups highly anticipate this global conference on women’s health. This year it featured clandestine abortionists, late term abortionists and pro-infanticide philosopher Peter Singer in a program that equated women’s health with contraception and abortion, but ignored some of the most basic needs of womenC-FAM staff attended Women Deliver exposing efforts to make abortion available where it is illegal using misoprostol, a drug that — even advocates admit — is more effective as an abortifacient than its stated purpose of stopping hemorrhaging. Melinda Gates was at the conference to promote the Gates Foundation family planning initiative, which supposedly had nothing to do with abortion. C-FAM has analyzed the premises of these policies.

2. Abortion Groups Keep Population Control on the UN Agenda

As nations perform a 20-year review of population policies that include family planning and abortion, the agency in charge of the review has put abortion groups at the helm. They want countries to spend more money on policies that have an overall effect of reducing populations. Governments spent $60 billion last year on population policies that originated at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development. Recipients of that money include the United Nations Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, Ipas, and groups that promote abortion, contraception and sterilization as a panacea for the world’s problems.

3. France and the UK Enact Homosexual Marriage Laws

President Francois Hollande imposed homosexual marriage on France by seeking to silence opponents and rushing to a vote on the law. But the French people staged monumental demonstrations, bringing over 1 million people to the streets of Paris. Families with children, elderly men and women, and youth were beaten, tear gassed, and jailed – actions for which France was scolded by the Council of Europe and at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This was not so for the Brits. In the United Kingdom marriage defenders were barely able to muster a whimper as their parliament voted on marriage for homosexuals. 

4. UNICEF Claims Children Have Right to Confidential Abortion

The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) called on countries to recognize a right of children to confidential sexual and reproductive health services and information. They followed the lead of UN “experts” that monitor the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They say children must have confidential access to “safe abortion” and the morning after pill among other things. Though countries may ignore experts, they must pay attention to UN agencies and programs because they provide money and other forms of aid. Unfortunately, UNICEF has joined the ranks of those who hold sexual autonomy as the highest human rights norm.

5. UN Committee Says Abortion is a Right in Situations of War

The global abortion lobby’s latest effort is to manufacture a right to abortion for women who are victims of rape in situations of war. They were at UN headquarters during the annual Commission on the Status of Women in the Spring and again in the Summer to lobby the UN Security Council, albeit without success. The UN committee that monitors the UN’s women’s treaty gave abortion groups a lifeline when it issued a recommendation that abortion is a right in situations of conflict. The committee’s opinions have no real authority, but abortion groups and UN staff will tout them as authoritative to pressure governments to change their laws.

Stefano Gennarini writes for C-FAM. This article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute. This article appears with permission.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Kiwi cricketer Ross Taylor on verge of breaking two more records

Kiwi cricketer Ross Taylor could make history today as he takes the field for the final day of the third test against West Indies.

The Black Caps bowled out the West Indies for 103 in their second innings in Hamilton yesterday and now just need 116 further runs to complete a 2-0 series win. They are currently 6 without loss.

Yesterday Taylor completed his third consecutive Test century making 131 to lead the Black Caps to 349 all out.

In so doing he became the first New Zealand batsman to score a century in all three Tests of a three Test series (217, 129 and 131).

Taylor is now just 20 runs short of breaking the New Zealand record of most runs in a three match series, which was achieved by Andrew Jones when he scored 513 against Sri Lanka in 1990/91.

The 29-year-old is also just seven runs shy of breaking the record for the most runs by a New Zealander in a calendar year - which was accomplished by John Reid when he scored 871 in 1965. But Reid's tally though took three Tests and eight innings more than Taylor.

Taylor, who yesterday scored his 11th Test ton, is averaging an incredible 246.5 for this series and 72 for 2013 with one innings almost certainly to come. So a series average of 250 is not beyond the realms of possibility.

His total runs for the year also put him fourth in the international rankings behind only Michael Clarke, Ian Bell and David Warner. But he has achieved this in just 16 innings, at least six fewer than any of these three.

Taylor has now scored over 4,000 runs in tests including eleven hundreds and has a test average of 46.52. He also has eight hundreds in ODIs and 16 in first class matches.  

He also has a test bowling average of 24 (!), but has actually bowled only 16 overs in total, taking 2 for 48 overall.

Let’s hope he reaches these new milestones today.

New Zealand cricket badly needs something to crow about despite our great ability to look on the bright side.

No pressure Ross!

Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor (his full name) was born in Lower Hutt, Wellington, in 1984 and is also only the second Kiwi international cricketer of Samoan descent. 

My top 25 blog posts of 2013

When I write a blog post I usually have no idea just how much (or how little) interest it will attract.

I am often surprised and especially by my top post of 2013 which has attracted almost 160,000 views and is still going strong.

During the year I posted 210 articles in total (including this one). 

Two of the top five (1, 5) are testimonies while the other three (2, 3, 4) deal with apologetics issues and were deliberately written to attract atheists.

Whilst I write more on abortion and euthanasia than anything else these topics generally attract fewer views unless they deal with extreme cases (6, 8, 11, 19, 20).

Blogs with the names of well-known people in the title (5, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15, 18) tend to draw a crowd but in fact eleven of my top 25, but only one of the top ten, deal with homosexuality in one way or another (10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 25).

Here are the top 25 ranked by the number of page views.

Testimony which went viral on Facebook in the US and South East Asia

Retweeted by Richard Dawkins bringing thousands of his loyal followers

Attracted thousands of atheists looking for arguments to defend their position

A favourite question from the new atheists

Christian testimonies of famous people always create interest

Led to a BBC interview and attracted many wonderful testimonies from mothers of affected children

A little-known moving letter from the former PM to a small child

Celebrities are used to endorse legalisation

An excerpt from my Christian Institute autumn lecture

Steve Chalke’s disclosure of his views in Christianity magazine

The grisly tale of Gosnell

The archbishop of New Zealand attacked by one of his own flock

Justin Welby fails to deliver in the House of Lords over same sex marriage

Some basic defences put succinctly

But she signed it anyway!

Disclosed Steve Chalke’s support for same sex marriage

The testimony which provoked outrage amongst the politically correct

The gay rights leaders see-sawing views exposed

Little known facts that shock

A big issue on both sides of the Atlantic

Controversial within the church

But it wasn’t enough!

The disease that dare not speak its name

Amazing little known facts that surprise

The man behind the RCPsych’s opposition to change therapies

Send a gift this Christmas that will really transform lives in the developing world

Do you feel you are just going through the motions this Christmas spending money on unneeded gifts?

Some friends told me recently that they had given each of their children a £50 allowance to buy Christmas gifts for people living in developing countries.

Their kids had grasped the opportunity with both hands, putting careful thought into their purchases, and even adding some of their own savings in an effort to make a real difference in the lives of those they were seeking to help.

The idea of 'buying a goat for Christmas' is not new but it is amazing to see the huge variety of other gifts that are now available on line. And for not much outlay at all. 

Here are just a fraction of the gifts on offer.

On the Christian Aid you can buy a chicken for £9, a goat for £19, a group of ducklings for £25, a month’s food for a refugee family for £25, a sheep for £55 and a herd of goats for £76.

Samaritan's Purse is offering a mosquito net for £5, four chickens for £12, a kitchen garden and tools for £15 and two piglets for £31.

From CBM £15 will provide sight-saving vitamin A for 50 children, £26 will provide enough Mectizan tablets to help 40 families for an entire year - stopping the progression of River Blindness (Onchocerciasis) and freeing them from the associated, debilitating symptoms. £24 will pay for cataract surgery for an adult.

World Vision is offering maize seeds (£9), blankets (£10) and malaria testing kits (£14).

These are just a few of the hundreds of imaginative options on these sites and others like Oxfam and Save the Children.

Why not make someone you have never met feel special this Christmas?

Jesus Christ said, 'Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.' (Luke 12:33)

Tuesday 17 December 2013

My Radio Four Today programme debate on the ‘right to die’ cases before the Supreme Court

You can listen to the interview and read a short report on the BBC website.

Two men seeking assisted suicide are having their arguments heard by the Supreme Court this week in the latest round of their legal battle.

Paul Lamb, 57, was involved in a car accident in 1990, which left him paralysed, save for limited use of his right hand. He is seeking permission for a doctor in the UK to prescribe him lethal drugs so that he can take his own life.

‘Martin’, 48, suffered a brainstem stroke in August 2008, the effects of which are permanent, leaving him virtually unable to move and unable to speak. He can communicate only through small movements of his head and eyes and is totally dependent on others for every aspect of his life.

Because of his physical disabilities, ‘Martin’ is unable to take his own life. He wishes to go to Dignitas to end his life but his wife, although she wants to be there at the end, is unwilling to take part in any of the preparation or planning for her husband’s death.

The Director of Public Prosecutions’ guidelines state that a prosecution is more likely where a ‘professional’ assists a suicide. ‘Martin’ is seeking further clarity from the DPP regarding the likelihood of a doctor or carer assisting his suicide being prosecuted.

Both Lamb and ‘Martin’ are arguing that the current law represents a disproportionate and discriminatory interference with their right to a private and family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, because it does not allow them to end their lives at a time and in a manner of their choosing - with the help of a medical professional.

Over the past 24 hours I have done six media interviews on these cases on behalf of ‘Care Not Killing’– BBC One o’clock news, Channel  5 News,  three BBC regional radio stations and the Radio Four Today programme.

I argued that if the Supreme Court were to accede to either man’s request this would be a far-reaching legal change that would remove legal protection from a large number of vulnerable, elderly, and disabled people.

You can listen to the (brief) Radio Four debate with Raymond Tallis and read a short BBC report on it here. The presenter was Sarah Montague (pictured).

Because of the death overnight of actor Peter O’Toole, our 0830 slot was bumped to 0855 leaving less than five minutes to deal with these very complex issues.

This was a matter beyond the presenters’ control and both Sarah Montague and Evan Davies said afterward that they had wanted to move the debate onto the concerning developments in other European countries that have changed the law to allow euthanasia or assisted suicide. They regretted that there was not time for this.

It is however noteworthy that the Belgian senate has in the last week voted to legalise euthanasia for children with terminal illnesses. The Belgian lower house is expected to offer not opposition to this when it considers it in the spring of 2014.

It is widely acknowledged that euthanasia is out of control in Belgium: a 500% increase in cases in ten years; one third involuntary; half not reported; euthanasia for blindness, anorexia, depression and a botched sex change operation; organ transplant euthanasia; and plans to extend euthanasia to children and people with dementia. 

One commentator has said that Belgium has 'leaped head-first off a moral cliff'.

Call it incremental extension, mission creep or slippery slope - whatever - it is strongly in evidence in Belgium.

With these two court cases proceeding and two bills due to be debated in British parliaments next year we should heed the loud warnings coming from across the English Channel. 

Sunday 15 December 2013

The 750 convicted criminals who are allowed to go on practising medicine are just a drop in the bucket

I was interested to read last month in the Daily Telegraph that more than 750 GPs, surgeons and other doctors had kept their jobs despite being found guilty of criminal offences.  

Of the convictions, 184 were for dangerous driving, 330 for drink-driving and four for driving under the influence of drugs.

But other convictions included perjury, forgery, fraud, making threats to kill and violent disorder, including rioting. Also included were one doctor who took indecent photographs of a child, two with convictions for possessing child pornography, two for trafficking drugs and three for grievous bodily harm.

There were 31 offences of assault, three of possessing dangerous weapons, seven for soliciting prostitutes, a dozen for domestic violence, and two of child cruelty or neglect.

The report predictably led to protest by patient advocacy groups. Why was it, they asked, that doctors were able to keep their jobs after criminal convictions when other professionals weren’t?

But what about doctors who habitually break the law without being investigated or prosecuted, let alone convicted?

In this connection I was interested to see another Telegraph article in which the journalist related a conversation she had had with a friend who was a GP.

The doctor had deliberately falsified an HSA1 abortion authorisation form saying that the patient qualified under ‘ground C’ - mental health - when she most clearly did not.

When the patient, a student, challenged her she explained that there were no other options to tick to grant her an abortion and that the reasons given on the form were the only legal grounds for abortion (as established by the 1967 Abortion Act).

This not surprisingly left the girl mystified and the GP feeling profoundly uneasy. She had clearly been breaking the law for some time but had never been challenged about it before.       
Ground C reads as follows:

‘The pregnancy has NOT exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.’

In practice 98% of all abortions in Britain (about 196,000 per year) are authorised under Ground C and 99.96% of these are under mental health rather than physical health.

But in fact, according to a major review carried out by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in 2011, there is no evidence that the risk to mental health of continuing a pregnancy is ever greater than the risk of having an abortion.

So  in other words these abortions are technically illegal. Furthermore doctors who knowingly or wilfully putting their signatures to an HSA1 form in the way described are actually committing a form of perjury (I explain this is much more detail here).

Under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 abortion is still a criminal offence carrying a custodial life sentence, like murder. All the Abortion Act did was to make abortion legal under certain restricted circumstances.

Under the Perjury Act 1911 falsifying an HSA1 form is a criminal offence which carries a custodial sentence of up to two years, or a fine, or both.

What happens in practice is that both illegal abortion and related perjury occur on an industrial scale in Britain.

But the police, prosecutors, the courts, parliament and the medical profession do nothing about it.

Parliament, police and the courts have always deferred to doctors in this matter. There has been only one conviction for illegal abortion since 1967 in almost eight million cases and none, as far as I know, for perjury.

As a result, close to eight million preborn babies have had their lives taken by doctors illegally.  
As well as being illegal in probably 98% of cases in Britain, abortion is also contrary to the Hippocratic Oath and was described by the British Medical Association in 1947 as ‘the greatest crime’.

But now doctors are its authorisers and facilitators.

On 23 February 2012 the Chief Medical Officer wrote to all abortion providers advising them about the importance of upholding the law on abortion.

Last week, in answer to a parliamentary question from David Burrowes MP, Health Minister Daniel Poulter said that between 23 February 2012 and 31 December 2012 there were 153,335 abortions performed where the grounds involved a risk to the woman's mental health (notice that the health minister has used wording which is nowhere found in the Act itself).

So it appears that the CMO’s letter has made not a blind bit of difference.

I wonder what will happen now? 

I suspect, if the last 45 years is any indication, the answer will be ‘not much’.

There is no one more innocent, more vulnerable and killed in greater numbers in Britain than the preborn baby. That this is done largely illegally and that no one with power does anything to stop it is one of the greatest scandals and travesties of justice of our time.

It also makes doctors the largest group of unapprehended criminals in the state.  

The 750 doctors who are allowed to go on practising despite having criminal convictions are a drop in the bucket in comparison. 

Saturday 14 December 2013

English and Welsh women are eight times more likely to abort a baby with Down’s syndrome than Irish women

If you have Down’s syndrome and your mother lives in Ireland then your chances of making it to birth are considerably greater than if you have the misfortune to be conceived in England or Wales.

English and Welsh women are 7.6 times more likely than Irish women to have an abortion for a baby with Down’s Syndrome, 6 times more likely to have an abortion for Edward’s syndrome and 4 times more likely to have one for Patau’s syndrome.

Furthermore the Irish birth rate for Down’s syndrome babies is about twice that for England and Wales.

The way these figures are derived is explained below. The calculations are not simple as many babies with all these conditions are not diagnosed until after birth.

Some of the most common congenital abnormalities accounting for abortions in England and Wales are ‘trisomies’, in which there are three copies of one particular chromosome rather than two.

The most common trisomies are Down's syndrome (trisomy 21), Edwards’ syndrome (18) and Patau syndrome (13). People with DS now have an average life expectancy of between 50 and 60 but those with ES and PS will all die in early childhood.

The National Down Syndrome Cytogenetic Register (NDSCR) was set up on 1 January 1989 and holds anonymous data from all clinical cytogenetic laboratories in England and Wales of cases of DS, ES and PS diagnosed before or after birth.

Its 2011 annual report was published in February 2013 and is available here

It shows that in 2011 there were 931 abortions for Down’s syndrome, 370 for Edward’s syndrome and 139 for Patau’s syndrome.

In the same year there were an estimated 725 babies born with Down’s syndrome accounting for approximately 1 in 1,000 live births.

How do these numbers compare with Ireland where abortion for fetal disability is currently illegal?

We know from Department of Health Statistics that 4,149 women with Irish addresses had abortions in Britain in 2011 as against 189,000 abortions that year involving women from England and Wales.

Just under 4.6 million lived in the Republic of Ireland in 2011 as against 56 million in England and Wales. So if Irish women were having abortions at the same rate as English and Scottish women there would be not 4,149 a year but over 15,500 (there were 723,913 births in England and Wales in 2011 and 74,377 in Ireland).

But what about babies with trisomy 13, 18 or 21?

According to the Department of Health Ground E abortions (those for fetal abnormality) for the years 2007 to 2011 were 27, 29, 42, 68 and 51 respectively – a total of 217.

Of this 217, the totals for DS, ES and PS were 48, 24 and 17 – or an average of 10, 5 and 3 per year respectively. 

Now for argument’s sake let’s assume the following:

1. Babies with DS, ES and PS are conceived with same frequency in Ireland, England and Wales (not unreasonable unless mothers are much older and therefore risk higher in England).

2. Babies with DS, ES and PS are diagnosed with the same frequency in Ireland, England and Wales (reasonable given the similar technology).

3. No abortions for any of these conditions take place in Ireland (as it is illegal).

4. All abortions on Irish babies with these conditions take place in England and Wales (as this is their nearest legal port of call).

5. The Department of Health statistics for abortions on babies with DS, ES and PS are accurate (although see comparison with NDSCR figures here).

If abortions on Irish babies with DS, ES and OS were occurring at the same rates as English and Welsh babies with these conditions we would expect not 10, 5 and 3 abortions per year (for DS, ES and PS) but rather 76, 30 and 11 (figures obtained by multiplying E/W figures of 931, 370 and 139 above by 4.6 and dividing by 56 to correct for population).

In other words English and Welsh women are 7.6 times more likely than Irish women to have an abortion for a baby with Down’s Syndrome, 6 times more likely to have an abortion for Edward’s syndrome and 4 times more likely to have one for Patau’s syndrome.

There are currently 60,000 people living with Down’s syndrome in England and Wales and 5,000 in Ireland – roughly similar if we correct for population size.

But whereas 120 babies are born with Down’s syndrome in Ireland every year the equivalent figure for England and Wales is 725 – about half the corrected Irish birth numbers of 1,460.

Discussion of the results and the derivation of the numbers is most welcome. 

Why Ireland must urgently learn the lessons of history about abortion

Most Western countries bear testimony to the fact that the legalisation of abortion, even in very restricted circumstances, leads inexorably to abortion on demand.

In Britain the famous case of Rex v Bourne (R v Bourne [1938] 3 All ER 615) involved a 14 year old girl who was raped by five soldiers and became pregnant as a result. 

An eminent gynaecologist, Aleck Bourne (pictured), ended her pregnancy and was charged with the offence of conducting an illegal abortion.

His defence was based on the Offences against the Person Act 1861 in which, under British law, the only recognized justification for the termination of a pregnancy was if the life of the woman was in danger

Bourne was acquitted. Mr Justice Macnaghten in his judgement said:

‘If the doctor is of the opinion, on reasonable grounds and with adequate knowledge, that the probable consequence of the continuance of the pregnancy will be to make the woman a physical or mental wreck, the jury are entitled to take the view that the doctor is operating for the purpose of preserving the life of the mother’

This statement laid the framework for the mental health clause of the Abortion Act 1967.

Since 1968, around eight million abortions have been performed in Britain; now amounting to 200,000 each year, one for every four live births.

Similarly in the US, as a result of the Roe Vs Wade case of 1973, there have been 54 million abortions; now 1.2 million per year, one for every four live births.

The Irish ‘Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act’, signed into law last July, will allow abortions to be carried out where there is a threat to the life of the mother.

But it will also be allowed where there is medical consensus that the expectant mother will take her own life over her pregnancy.

It is this latter ‘mental health’ provision that is so easily subjective and elastic.

98% of all abortions in England and Wales are now actually performed on mental health grounds.
Section 1 (1) (a) of the Abortion Act 1967 reads as follows:

‘Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family…’

But there is actually no evidence that continuing with a pregnancy ever poses a greater risk to mental health than having an abortion.  

In other words all these abortions are technically illegal – about 196,000 every year (98% of 200,000).

However, despite this, the police, the General Medical Council, the Crown Prosecution Service and parliament all choose to turn a blind eye. In fact there has been only one prosecution for illegal abortion in Britain since 1967 in eight million cases.

It does not matter, in other words, what the law says. Once abortion has been legalised in any circumstances at all, it is in practice rather a matter of how the law is interpreted by doctors, how regulators, legislators, the police and the judiciary react, and what the public will accept.

And in practice British doctors simply tick the mental health clause to authorise abortion on demand. They use ‘mental health’as a catch-all for failed contraception, economic difficulty, social inconvenience and unwanted pregnancy. And no one else does anything to stop it happening.

If a similar situation were to evolve in Ireland with its new law (and after all any woman may threaten to commit suicide if she is not granted an abortion and some doctors will comply by ticking the box!) then Ireland abortion numbers could very easily follow the pattern we see in the US and UK.

How many abortions would this mean for Ireland and what sort of increase on current numbers could we see?

We know from Department of Health Statistics that 4,149 women with Irish addresses had abortions in Britain in 2011 as against 200,000 abortions in Britain each year involving women from England (189,000) and Wales (12,000).

Just under 4.6 million live in the Republic of Ireland as against 60 million in England and Wales. So if Irish women were having abortions at the same rate as English and Scottish women there would be not 4,149 a year but over 15,300.

In other words abortion being illegal in Ireland currently saves over 11,000 Irish pre-born babies from abortion every year (This assumes that a change in Irish law will mean that Irish abortion rates will approach British rates – a not unreasonable assumption given how British rates have escalated in spite of what is on the surface a very restrictive law as argued above).

The only thing that will stop Ireland following suit is if its parliament, regulators, medical profession, judiciary and police behave differently from those in the UK.

But if the culture and public conscience in Ireland follow that of England and Wales – and there is no reason to think that they will not – it would seem unlikely that this will happen.

So what happened to Aleck Bourne?

Bourne later became a founding member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children which was organized in opposition to the British Abortion Act 1967.

In his memoirs, he wrote the following:

‘Those who plead for an extensive relaxation of the law [against abortion] have no idea of the very many cases where a woman who, during the first three months, makes a most impassioned appeal for her pregnancy to be “finished”, later, when the baby is born, is thankful indeed that it was not killed while still an embryo. During my long years in practice I have had many a letter of the deepest gratitude for refusing to accede to an early appeal.’ 

This is a huge wake up call to the Irish people.

Friday 13 December 2013

Irish MP overinflates abortions for fatal fetal disability 300-fold to advance political agenda

The Irish ‘Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act’, signed into law last July, will allow abortions to be carried out where there is a threat to the life of the mother.

It does not, however, allow abortion when the life of the baby is at risk.

Campaigners in Ireland are now seeking to change this and are up to their usual tricks of inflating statistics.

On 13 November the Irish Journal reported on a campaign by a group called ‘Terminations for Medical Reasons’ (TFMR) who argued that 1,500 Irish women per year carried babies with fatal fetal abnormalities:

‘About 1,500 cases of fatal fetal abnormalities are reported each year in Ireland with about 80 per cent of the women travelling abroad for early inducement or terminations. Members of TFMR were devastated of the omission from the legislation this year but vowed to take their cases to Europe and beyond.’

80% of 1,500 is 1,200! Given that around 4,000 Irish women have abortions in England and Wales each year this would suggest that almost one third of them are having them for fatal fetal abnormalities. That sounds a wee bit high to me.

So where did this figure of 1,500 come from? The earliest reference to it that I can find seems to be from the same group (TFMR) on 27 May this year, reported in Breaking News Ireland.

Since this time it appears to have been picked up uncritically by the Irish media.

According to the Irish Times on 26 June, during the debate over the bill, Independent TD John Halligan (pictured below), ‘pointed out’ that 1,500 women in Ireland each year had to deal with a pregnancy where the baby would live for just minutes outside the womb (emphasis mine).

The figure was repeated uncritically by the Irish Examiner a day later.

To my knowledge not one of these news outlets has since retracted nor corrected the claim, with the exception of the Irish Independent who published an article by Niamh Ui Bhriain of The Life Institute on 25 November debunking the false statistics.

This encouraged us to obtain the statistics for Irish women having abortions in England and Wales for fatal fetal abnormalities from the Department of Health (DoH). According to the above there should have been 80% of 1,500 or about 1,200 each year.

So how many were there? According to the DoH Ground E abortions (those for fetal abnormality) for the years 2007 to 2011 were 27, 29, 42, 68 and 51 respectively.

But how many of these were for fatal abnormalities where, by John Halligan’s definition, the baby ‘would live for just minutes outside the womb’?

We are not told this specifically but we can make a reasonable estimate from the data available.

Of the 51 ground E abortions in 2011, 60% (31 in total) were for chromosomal abnormalities including Down’s syndrome (11), Edward’s syndrome (7) and Patau’s syndrome (7).

Of these the latter two conditions are very serious. Half of infants with Edward’s syndrome do not survive beyond the first week of life. The median lifespan is 5–15 days. About 8% of infants survive longer than one year.

More than 80% of children with Patau’s syndrome die within the first year of life.

Today the average life expectancy for a person with Down's syndrome is between 50 and 60. A considerable number of people with Down's syndrome live into their 60's.

So, even given the fact that these are all life-limiting conditions, it is extremely unlikely that any of these 31 babies, if born, would have died within minutes of birth.

There were 12 babies aborted for a range of other conditions including spina bifida (3) and cardiovascular disease (2). It would expected that most of these also would not die within minutes of birth. Unlike those babies with chromosomal abnormalities most of this group would be amenable to treatment of one kind or another.

The only category where the babies might arguably have fitted Halligan’s definition of ‘fatal’ was anencephaly. There were 8 abortions on Irish women for this condition in 2011.

55% of babies with anencephaly, who are not aborted, do not survive birth. If they are not stillborn, then they will usually die within a few hours or days after birth from cardiorespiratory arrest, although there are exceptional cases of babies with the condition surviving up to two or three years.

So let’s say that about half of those with anencephaly, about 4 in 2011, would fall into Halligan’s category of being stillborn or dying within minutes of birth.

That’s four versus Halligan’s figure of 1,200. So the TD was out by a factor of 300!

I am not in any way trying to suggest that carrying a baby that has a disability to term is not a huge challenge which requires great courage, grace and support (see my article on anencephaly here).

But if we are to have this debate at all, then we must have it based on the actual facts of the case, and not with reference to wildly spun statistics that have been simply plucked out of the air to advance a certain political agenda.

Telling lies in parliament is serious. If John Halligan didn’t know they were lies then he is rather gullible and probably also incompetent. If he did then it is a very serious matter indeed.

I wonder if he will be called to account for it? And I wonder if the Irish media will keep propagating his untruths?

See also

Monday 9 December 2013

Please take just one minute to sign the International Anti-Corruption Day petition

Sign petition here 

New Zealand may not have a very good cricket team but in addition to the world rugby rankings there is another ladder on which it is consistently on the highest few rungs – and quite often top.

Yes New Zealand is one of the least corrupt countries in the world!

Since 1995, Transparency International (TI) has published the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) annually ranking countries ‘by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.’

The CPI generally defines corruption as ‘the misuse of public power for private benefit’.

The CPI currently ranks 176 countries ‘on a scale from 100 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).’ The 2013 ranking is here and illustrated above. The more yellow the less corrupt; the more red the more corrupt.

Well, now that I have taken the opportunity to plug New Zealand, it so happens that today is International Anti-Corruption Day and there is a chance to put your signature to a petition against corruption. It only takes a minute.

The campaign is being run by Micah Challenge and I have pasted the letter from director Joel Edwards below.

Please sign the International Anti-Corruption Day petition

Today is International Anti-Corruption Day and a chance for Christians around the world to shine a light on the scourge of corruption. Jesus came into a world of greed and corruption to turn it upside down - and I believe he wants the Church to do the same.

The reality is that today over 1 billion people live on the edge of survival with poor sanitation, no healthcare and little chance of education. There are many causes for poverty but the single greatest obstacle to overcoming this crippling poverty is corruption.

Every day well over $3 billion goes missing from the global economy - stolen through bribes, money laundering, tax evasion and other illegal payments in business and government. Money lost through bribery alone adds up to $1 trillion in a year [1]. This affects us all but it’s the world's poorest who suffer most. This is more than just a depressing statistic; it's devastating. Corruption kills. A recent report from Christian Aid estimates that if we addressed illegal corporate tax evasion we could save the lives of 230 children under the age of 5 every single day [2].

That's why we at Micah Challenge are part of EXPOSED, which we believe to be the first ever global campaign by Christians to stand for integrity and honesty in financial dealings in business, government and church. Corruption leads to injustice and broken relationships, while the Bible calls us to restore relationships with each other and with God.

Today I'd like to ask that you join us in calling on the leaders of the world’s powerful nations (the G20) to step up efforts to combat bribery and tax avoidance. Governments are already considering anti-corruption measures and we can encourage them to ensure tighter systems are in place to plug the holes in financial flows, making it harder for corrupt practices to flourish.

We really need your voice to help shine a light on corruption and protect the poorest in our world.

For many Christians around the world speaking out against corruption is not a safe option - Pope Francis himself was named a mafia target after making a strident assault on corruption and bribery during a recent Monday morning mass. But there are positive signs of hope. As Joyce Thong who heads up the Malaysian EXPOSED programme reported: ‘It is risky to speak out, and the problem of corruption is overwhelming but I have never seen the Church so receptive, so ready to act.’

The more we join together in speaking out to governments, the greater the impact we have. We need 50,000 signatures on our global petition by Christmas and are aiming for a million by June next year as we prepare to hand over our petition with a whole host of churches and NGOs. Please join your light and stand with thousands of others around the world. It only takes a minute to sign the petition, but your voice is important.

Just click this link.  

[1] Interview with Daniel Kaufman, Global Governance Director, The World Bank Institute, "Six questions about the cost of corruption" 8 April, 2004

Saturday 7 December 2013

Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ – not a very sensible comparison

Nelson Mandela’s achievements were monumental but the way that politicians and media commentators have seized upon his passing to outdo one another in their adulation of him is most unfortunate.

Peter Oborne, the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator, possibly takes the biscuit with this quote from yesterday:

‘There are very few human beings who can be compared to Jesus Christ. Nelson Mandela is one. This is because he was a spiritual leader as much as a statesman. His colossal moral strength enabled him to embark on new and unimaginable forms of action. He could lead through the strength of example alone.’

This morning, on the BBC Radio Four Today programme, presenter Justin Webb appeared to pick up on this by posing the following question (listen here) to former US president Jimmy Carter:

‘Some people have compared Nelson Mandela with Jesus. You’re a religious man. Would you?’

Carter’s reply was decisive.

‘No I would not go that far. I’m a Christian. I look upon Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as God himself, and I certainly wouldn’t compare any human being with Jesus.’

He then went on to pay tribute to Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa before reemphasising his point:

‘I wouldn’t compare any other human being with Jesus Christ.’

It seems that Mandela himself shared this view. Scottish minister David Robertson gave one of his favourite Mandela quotes on his Facebook page this morning:

‘The Good News borne by our risen Messiah who chose not one race, who chose not one country, who chose not one language, who chose not one tribe, who chose all of humankind... Our Messiah, whose life bears testimony to the truth that there is no shame in poverty: Those who should be ashamed are they who impoverish others.’

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once replied to a nine year old child who had asked her about Jesus:

‘However good we try to be, we can never be as kind, gentle and wise as Jesus… There will be times when we say or do something we wish we hadn’t done and we shall be sorry and try not to do it again! We do our best, but our best is not as good as his daily life. If you and I were to paint a picture it wouldn’t be as good as the picture of great artists. No our lives can’t be as good as the life of Jesus.’

Carter, Thatcher and Mandela himself seem to have to latched onto a deeper understanding of Jesus than Oborne.

The reality is that, unlike Mandela, Jesus did not seek to ‘lead by example’ or to start a political or even a spiritual movement. He also did not die to win a political victory.

Although his life has motivated many great social reformers he did not come to build a kingdom on earth but to offer us God’s forgiveness and new life for all eternity.

His aim was not to empty prisons but to empty graveyards.

And perhaps most importantly, unlike Mandela as the great man himself recognised in the quote above, Jesus rose from the dead!

On the day of judgement it will be Jesus who sits on the throne. And Nelson Mandela, like all of us, will be on our faces before him. 

Perhaps the last words should belong to the Apostle John, one of the three people on earth who knew Jesus best:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ (John 1:1,14, 20:30,31)

Further reading

Thursday 5 December 2013

Moves to remove protection for unborn babies with disability in Northern Ireland must be resisted

Northern Ireland's justice minister has said he is going to consult on changing abortion laws to allow women carrying babies with ‘fatal fetal abnormalities’ to have a termination.

David Ford said he hoped to put out a consultation document for the ‘potential for change’ by next Easter.

The minister told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show he would review the legislation after two women told their stories earlier this year about discovering that their babies had anencephaly, a severe brain abnormality.

The British Abortion Act 1967 does not apply in Northern Ireland which is governed by the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, and the Criminal Justice Act 1945. 

These laws only allow terminations to save a woman's life, or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Very few abortions are carried out on these grounds in Northern Ireland itself. Over the years 2006-7 to 2011-2 the annual figures were respectively 57, 47, 44, 36, 43 and 35.

Women from Northern Ireland do however come to the British mainland to have abortions. In 2012, for example, there were 905 abortions carried out on Northern Ireland residents in England and Wales (see table 12a here).

But according to the Department of Health only two of these were for fetal disability. This is because very few women in Northern Ireland carrying babies with fetal disability choose to abort their babies.

On 3 December, in response to a parliamentary question (see page 31 here), Edwin Poots, Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, said he had received a vast amount of correspondence from women carrying babies with severe disabilities, many of whom had made the decision to proceed with the pregnancy. ‘They received real value from going ahead with the pregnancy’, he said.

It is often assumed that women will naturally choose to abort a baby with a serious disability, but the Northern Irish experience shows that this is in fact often not the case.

We see a similar pattern in the Republic of Ireland where an article in the Irish Independent last week reported that only 51 abortions per year took place on Irish women in 2011 in England and Wales for fetal disability. Of these I have ascertained that the majority were for non-fatal abnormalities and only eight were for anencephaly.

But while 90% of Irish mothers or families facing this issue do not abort their babies, in Britain, up to 90% do.

In fact between2002 and 2010 there were 17,983 abortions of disabled babies in Britain. The overwhelming majority of these were for conditions compatible with life outside the womb and 1,189 babies were aborted after 24 weeks, the accepted age of viability.  

This 17,983 included abortions for serious disabilities like anencephaly but also babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft palate and club foot. 

It is an old legal adage that hard cases make bad law. This is because making exceptions in law for difficult cases inevitably leads to incremental extension to less serious cases and also a change in the public conscience.

Presently the law in Northern Ireland offers legal protection to babies with disability. But were it to change, even for extreme cases, the British experience demonstrates how things would quickly escalate and how public attitudes would change (I have previously documented the frightening attitudes to disability amongst the British public).

Furthermore, contrary to public perception, the psychological trauma for women having abortions for fetal disability is often very significant.

Northern Ireland currently has a law which protects disabled babies and allows abortion only when the mother’s life or health is under very serious threat. It already has built into it the provision for judges and prosecutors to temper justice with mercy in hard cases.

We must resist any attempt to weaken it further.