The pro-abortion lobby is driving relentlessly on with its campaign to hunt down and eliminate before birth all Downs Syndrome babies and to remove the requirement to have two doctors certify that the grounds for abortion are legitimate. The pro-euthanasia lobby is continuing its well-resourced campaign to secure legislative change to allow assisted dying.
In Parliament, the pro-life position is promoted by the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-life Group which has, since 1983, been the main forum for discussion and vehicle for action to protect the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. It is an effective, cross-party alliance, involving Members of both Houses of Parliament and all faiths and none.
Serving as the Group’s Chair is Fiona Bruce MP, the well-respected Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of Congleton. Her predecessor as MP for that constituency was Ann Winterton; and we should be grateful that the Congleton Conservative Association, having chosen one pro-life, Christian MP with the courage of her convictions went on to choose another as her successor. The example those two choices set is clear: there is no bar in the Conservative Party to being a successful politician for those who are pro-life and open about their faith.
The other Conservative officers of the Pro-life Group in Parliament today are Mark Pritchard MP, Maria Caulfield MP, Sir Edward Leigh MP, and the former health minister Baroness Hooper. Labour is represented by Rob Flello MP and Mary Glindon MP, names with whom readers may be familiar through occasional columns in this newspaper. The same goes for the Liberal Democrat, Dr John Pugh MP. The Democratic Unionist Party’s Jim Shannon MP and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP work alongside Margaret Ritchie of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, with Baroness Masham of Ilton representing the Crossbench (independent) Peers.
Only on an issue of this moral significance could such an impressive alliance be constructed, and the Group has worked to nurture these cross-party and multi-faith links since it was launched in 1983. Whilst neither was actually able to attend the inaugural meeting, Lord St John-Stevas and Ian Paisley both sent messages of support, leading to what at the time were truly astonishing headlines along the lines of “Paisley and St John-Stevas unite to fight abortion”.
The Group has held together over the decades, leading campaigns to great heights such as the vote on David Alton’s Bill to end late abortions in 1987/88 and leading the campaign to introduce regulation of the previously unrestricted area of research upon the human embryo and the practice of in-vitro fertilisation and other techniques to relieve infertility.
Enoch Powell, then the MP for South Down in Northern Ireland, introduced the Unborn Children (Protection) Bill to focus Parliamentary attention, and other Members kept bringing it back before Parliament time and time again until the Government felt obliged to act. What we got in terms of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority regulating these techniques was not the best possible outcome, but at least there is now a regulator that can be held to account and which should have the resources properly to police the sector. It is the relentless stream of Parliamentary Questions in both Houses of Parliament that seek to keep up the pressure on that body to do its job properly even if many would wish that the law it polices were not as liberal as it now is.
The Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill introduced recently into the House of Lords, by pro-life and disability campaigner Lord Kevin Shinkwin, is another great example of the Pro-life Group at work. That Bill seeks to expose the heinous reality that disability is the only feature of an unborn child (as opposed to a feature of the mother or her existing children) that permits abortion. Blatant discrimination not only in singling out disability for the dubious of honour of deserving a death sentence, but also in permitting that sentence to be carried out up until the point of birth, with the general limit for other abortions being 24 weeks except in emergency situations.
The Group has also unearthed many unlawful practices that were going unchecked: abortion being performed on the basis of the gender of the baby: most often baby girls being singled out for an abortion because of the cultural pressure in some ethnic groups to have a son. They’ve founded hundreds of abortions where no notification was submitted to the Chief Medical Officer, and they’ve unearthed through persistent Parliamentary questions the many millions of living human embryos destroyed through research programmes or simply discarded as un-needed.
The Group successfully marshalled the forces against measures to introduce assisted dying and continues, day in day out, to hold the line on euthanasia.
These campaigns are politically challenging and can be emotionally gruelling. Yet, our pro-life friends in Parliament have never worked better together or with greater vigour. In that work they are supported by advisors and campaign teams to do the leg work, the background research, and to build the campaign coalitions of the disabled, the distressed and marginalised so that they can themselves speak out in the public policy square. This team of supporters receives its resources principally from three organisations: Life, CARE, and Right To Life, but it is Right To Life which gives, and has always given, the lion’s share.
To keep the pro-life parliamentary campaign on the alert to threats and pressing forward to maximise political opportunities requires funds. Right To Life are determined to keep those funds flowing. This Christmas is your opportunity to assist in that work by making a donation to keep the culture of death at bay. Please give generously this Christmas to:
Right To Life, PO Box 542, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 9TS or visit: www.righttolife.org.uk
This column, a true voice of moderation in the public policy debate, takes the opportunity to extend to all its readers very best wishes for a happy and holy Christmas, and for a peaceful and prosperous New Year. God bless!
The column first appeared in The Catholic Universe of 23rd December 2016
Cllr Chris Whitehouse KCSG is Chairman of Westminster’s leading political consultancy, www.whitehouseconsulting.co.uk, Secretary of the Catholic Legislators’ Network, a Trustee of the Right To Life Charitable Trust, and a Member of the Isle of Wight Council (Cons. Newport West).