Monday, June 30, 2008

Skydiving for Life

A British medical student has completed a parachute jump to raise awareness about the dangers facing the unborn in the UK and the pressure being placed on doctors who oppose abortion. Siobhan Fearon, 19, jumped from 14,000 feet and was in freefall for 50 seconds. She said:
I think it is vital that society understands and appreciates the sanctity of every human life whether it is a developing child in the womb or somebody approaching the end of their life. When I graduate and become a doctor I am hoping to be able to use my skills to help save lives. I think abortion is never the answer and hope that one day, as a doctor, I will be able to help women to make the right decision.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Council of Europe Vote

The Council of Europe has passed the pro-abortion resolution on child abandonment by 39 votes to one. Only 65 members of the Council turned up and just 40 took the trouble to vote on this most sensitive of issues. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children described the Council of Europe as ‘out of control’ in a press release, whilst John Smeaton, SPUC’s national director was quoted in a news bulletin as saying:
“What kind of world do politicians live in where they call for the abortion of children in order to avoid their abandonment at birth? Quite apart from the cruel fate of the children aborted, this policy will result in the abandonment of the mothers who are being aborted, and the continuation of the social problems which the report claims to address. The resolution's title describes abandonment as the first form of violence yet this is untrue. The first form of violence is abortion.”
What should have been an entirely child-centred resolution has been devalued by the addition of a pro-abortion ideology that had no place in such a resolution.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The European Centre for Law and Justice

As I reported last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is today debating a draft resolution: Preventing the first form of violence against children: abandonment at birth.

The European Centre for Law and Justice has published a memorandum on the resolution, expressing concern about ‘the underlying promotion of abortion as a preventative alternative to abandonment.’ It states:
Whereas the aspiration of preventing abandonment of infants is an honorable and necessary societal goal, the ECLJ is extremely concerned with the politicization of the Draft Report and the unnecessary promotion of “abortion rights”.
As ever, a laudable aspiration is being hijacked to promote unethical polices that are outside the competence of the Council of Europe.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Asia's Missing Daughters

John Smeaton’s blog features a report on a Parliamentary meeting earlier this week highlighting the growing problem of sex selective abortion in India. There are an estimated 35 million ‘missing’ girls in India alone and an estimated 100 million missing girls worldwide. The average sex ratio across India is just 800 girls to 1000 boys, a figure that is as low as 300 girls per 1000 boys in one area.

Tragically, last year the US put forward a UN resolution against sex selective abortion which had to be withdrawn due to overwhelming opposition from countries such as China and India where sex selective abortion is widely practiced, but also from the EU. The Holy See noted at the time: “Despite its importance, the Commission on the Status of Women has remained silent on prenatal sex selection, infanticide and son preference.”

Sex selective abortion is the worst act of violence and discrimination against women, but few have the courage to speak out against it. Worse, this act of what is being called ‘gendercide’ is supported by people who claim to campaign in favour of women’s rights. Ann Furedi, Director of the abortion provider BPAS, stated in an article in 1999:
“Our feminism is affronted when we are faced with a couple who decide to end a previously wanted pregnancy because they have discovered that the child would be the wrong gender: a girl. To condone the choice of abortion seems to devalue the lives of girls and lend passive support to a system of cultural values that oppresses women. Yet to deny this woman the right to make her own choice, because we disapprove of the reason for her abortion request, is to mirror the actions of paternalistic doctors who have similarly refused to comply with abortion requests because, in their eyes, women did not have good enough reasons.”
To refuse to condemn sex selective abortion on the grounds that ‘choice’ trumps every other right, including the right to life and the right to freedom from discrimination, is yet further evidence of the fundamentalist nature of the abortion ideology and its rank hypocrisy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pro-Life Conference in London

The Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life is holding a conference in London tomorrow. The keynote speakers are Clare and Stuart McCullough from the Good Counsel Network, talking about their work 'mediating motherhood.' See The Hermeneutic of Continuity for details.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sex clinics on School Premises

Researchers from the University of the West of England have claimed in a study that young people are more likely to visit drop-in sexual health clinics if they open on school premises. The study looked at 16 such clinics, which received around 500 visits from pupils as young as 11 every month.

Of the 515 pupils tracked over a 15-month period, over 100 girls were given the Pill or the longer-lasting injection, 55 girls were given the morning-after pill, nine had positive pregnancy tests and one girl was referred to an abortion facility no fewer than three times. Only 26% of youngsters in the sample were advised by nurses to delay sex.

David Paton, professor of economics at Nottingham University’s Business School was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying:
“Pretty much all the research on school-based family planning clinics suggests they have little or no impact on teenage pregnancy rates. There is a possibility that such services change the behaviour of some young people and may increase risk-taking sexual behaviour.”
In spite of the all too obvious failure of such policies, the British government is continuing in its efforts to impose contraception, abortion and ever more explicit sex education on schoolchildren, without the knowledge or consent of parents. It is little wonder that Britain is rapidly gaining a reputation as the teenage pregnancy and abortion capital of Europe.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Resolution on Abandonment and Adoption of Children

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), is scheduled to debate a draft resolution adopted by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee in March, "Preventing the first form of violence against children: abandonment at birth", on Friday next June 27th. The goal of the resolution is to consider ways to reduce the numbers of children abandoned at birth in member States and to protect the rights of abandoned children, such as the right to determine their origins.

There are many good aspects to the resolution such as the promotion of support for pregnant women in difficulty. However, this is also a pro-abortion resolution which pushes issues such as sexual rights and reproductive health services. In essence abortion is regarded as a preferable option to a later abandonment when in reality both options are completely unacceptable. There also seems to be confusion in the report and the text of the resolution between criminal abandonment and legitimate decisions to place children for adoption.

See John Smeaton's blog for more information on the resolution and how to contact the representatives of your country on the Council.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The ideology of so called "abortion rights"

In January 2008 an article entitled, "Human Rights Pitted Against Man" by Jakob Cornides, appeared in the International Journal of Human Rights which has brought a response from the pro-abortion organisation Catholics for a Free Choice in the June edition of the Journal. The article and response have already been the subject of an excellent review in the Catholic Action UK blog.

To understand the background to this exchange it is necessary to place both the Cornides article and the Catholics for a Free Choice letter in response to that article in a wider context. Pro-abortionists have for many years been trying to make abortion a human right however their efforts have all failed so far. There has been a noticeable increase in the number and frequency of such attempts in recent times. The fact that this year is the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights has brought a new impetus to the attempts to create a right to abortion.

The timely article by Jacob Cornides was a major setback to these attempts and had to be challenged in order for the pro-abortion impetus to continue unabated, hence the Catholics for a free Choice letter. It is significant however that CFFC in making the response did not address the fundamental issues raised by Cornides, their approach is dismissive and focuses on one statement unrelated to the main thrust of the Cornides article. The CFFC approach seems to suggest that this is only a Catholic opinion, that there are different views in the Catholic Church and anyway religious opinions should not be taken into account in the greater scheme of things. The letter finishes by declaring abortion to be a universal right. The pretence that there is an alternative Catholic viewpoint by associating the name catholic with the culture of death is repugnant to all faithful Catholics.

Cornides in his article points out that Pope John Paul II warned against a ‘new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden than its predecessors, which attempts to pit even human rights against the family and against man’ Pope John Paul II had personal experience of the evils of Nazism and Communism, and he was speaking at the dawn of the new millennium, yet he saw what he termed, this new ideology, as being more treacherous and underhand than either of those regimes. The onward march of this ideology is directed through international institutions like the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe and the African Union (AU). Opposition is stifled by, anti democratic decision making and by subtle attempts to control freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and conscientious objection. It is partly achieved by designation of certain groups as victim classes and prioritizing their rights above the rights of the rest. It is also achieved by gaining control of the language and presenting issues that most people reject, by sanitizing that language used to describe it. This agenda masquerades as the right to health, women’s rights, children’s rights and other rights. These groups really do need special protection but their special status is being usurped by powerful NGO's in order to further radical agendas. Natural law Human Rights are being replaced by bogus rights, which are being placed in a position of supremacy over real human rights.

A further challenge to the Cornides article has been published recently by the Centre for Reproductive Rights, entitled: "Abortion as a Human Right—International and Regional Standards." This article focuses on what it terms as the “striking expansion” of international and regional human rights standards and jurisprudence that support women's human right to abortion, despite the fact that no such right has ever been accepted internationally and that there is no such right in any international treaty or convention. On the contrary the Convention on the rights of the Child in its preamble calls on the international community to protect the child before as well as after birth, “The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth." The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written in the post war period to ensure that atrocities such as those witnessed during the war would never happen again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Problem with Democracy

The President of the Czech Republic has described Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty as a “victory of freedom and reason over artificial elitist projects and European bureaucracy” which should stop the process of ratification.

However, a somewhat bizarre joint statement by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President stated: “We took note of the democratic decision of the Irish people with all due respect even though we regret it very much.” The statement then went on to claim: "We are convinced that the agreed reforms included in the Lisbon Treaty are necessary to make EU more democratic and more efficient and that they will enable Europe to meet the challenges confronting the European citizens."

I am probably not alone in thinking it a little disingenuous to claim to respect the decision of the Irish people then claim that it will make the EU ‘more democratic’ to ratify a treaty that has been resoundingly rejected by the one people who were given a say on the matter.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Why Europe Needs a New Vision

The Irish Government is wondering what happened and why so many Irish people from all walks of life decided to reject the Lisbon Treaty, despite the fact that the vast majority of the political establishment not only supported the measure but actively lobbied for a yes vote. European governments are even more confused and are asking, did we not prioritise Ireland, why are they rejecting this treaty? They are even contemplating anti-democratic measures to force Ireland to rethink and come up with the “right answer” or threatening to create a two-tier Europe. Either of these actions would actually confirm the wisdom of the emphatic NO expressed by the people of Ireland. There are clearly many reasons why the Irish as a nation decided to reject this treaty. Many people are deeply concerned about the direction Europe is taking. We have seen more and more dark clouds on the European horizon as traditional values are being struck down one by one and Europe embraces what Pope John Paul II called the culture of death.

Freedom of religion is under grave attack, such as happened when Italian Rocco Buttiglione was denied a Commissionership simply because he is Catholic. Freedom of conscience and freedom of religion were and still are under attack, as we saw when the European Commission set up a panel of experts to evaluate a Concordat Slovakia planned to sign with the Holy See and the resulting report found that a woman’s right to have an abortion trumped the right of a doctor to conscientious objection. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech are under attack when laws on sexual orientation and same sex marriage are forced on nation states and anyone who dares object is guilty of a hate crime. The right to life is under attack when Europe decides that sexual and reproductive health is a right and this includes abortion or when on myriad occasions the human embryo has not been respected from the moment of conception. Democracy itself is under attack when governments deny the right of their peoples to have a real say in the future of Europe.

We hunger and thirst for real justice in all of these and many other areas and are conscious of the message of John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa when he wrote;
Raise your voices in the face of the violation of human rights of individuals, minorities and peoples, beginning with the right to religious freedom; pay utmost attention to everything that concerns human life from the moment of its conception to natural death and to the family based on marriage: these are the foundations on which our common European home rests; ... respond, with justice and equity and with a great sense of solidarity, to the growing phenomenon of migration, and see in it a new resource for the future of Europe; make every effort to guarantee young people a truly humane future with work, culture, and education in moral and spiritual values. (182)
This is the Europe we want, Pope John Paul II has highlighted the way forward and Europe needs to listen. The political elite of Europe must cease to involve itself in empire building and in social engineering. They must turn their backs on the culture of death and begin to understand the deep-rooted needs of the people. They must embrace real justice and peace and begin to value life at all stages from conception to natural death. They must decide to embrace real democracy. When we see these root and branch changes in the development of the new Europe most people will be willing to accept it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Lisbon Treaty is dead or at least it should be

The Lisbon Treaty was defeated in the Irish referendum by 53.4% against to 46.6% in favour of the treaty. The threat to Ireland, Europe and to the democratic process in general posed by the Lisbon Treaty has been averted and all eyes now turn to the question of what happens next. The treaty which is a slightly amended version of the Constitution previously rejected by both France and the Netherlands should now be binned. Ratification could only have taken place if the treaty had been accepted unanimously by all 27 nations, so for all practical purposes this treaty is dead.

This point was echoed by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in a TV interview on Thursday (the day of the Irish referendum) when he said, "If the Irish people decide to reject the treaty of Lisbon, naturally, there will be no treaty of Lisbon." This view however was not shared by other French politicians “[...] rejection of The Lisbon Treaty should not stop other member states ratifying it”, according to France's Secretary of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet . "The most important thing” according to Mr. Jouyet in an interview with LCI television, “is that ratification should continue in other countries and I have good reasons to think that the process of ratification will continue,". This sentiment was also mooted by Jose Manuel Barosso President of the European Commission in and interview on Irish TV. Clearly Mr Barosso wants to put pressure on Ireland when he should be conceding that the treaty is dead.

The historic rejection of the Lisbon treaty shows that the Irish electorate will not be bullied into voting for a treaty which would have stripped Ireland of much of its remaining sovereignty. The result is by no means an attack on Europe, as Dana Rosemary Scallon pointed out in her recent letter to the Irish Times.

We are no less European in upholding the primacy of Ireland's Constitution and protecting the rights of the Irish people, for what is at issue here is not whether we should remain in Europe, but rather what kind of Europe we are to be part of.

It is important to note that this very significant decision was made by the Irish electorate despite the fact that all the major political parties canvassed for a yes vote and it clearly demonstrates that the politicians are out of touch with the people. What we do not want is a re-run of a slightly amended text or continuation of ratification of Lisbon by other states. Lisbon is dead and it should now be buried. Any attempt to continue the ratification process in spite of the Irish “NO” only underlines the democratic deficit that caused Ireland to reject the treaty in the first place.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dana on the Lisbon Treaty

A letter penned by the former MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon appeared in yesterday's Irish Times. In it, she warns of the impact the Lisbon Treaty will have on the Irish Constitution and its ability to protect the most vulnerable citizens.
Madam, - The Lisbon Treaty is a stealth EU Constitution. During my term of office as MEP, from 1999 to 2004, the building of an EU Constitution and the move towards an EU superstate was clearly set out.

I stated this publicly many times and urged our political leaders and elected representatives to uphold the Irish Constitution, for as the "Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe" clearly stated: "The Constitution, and law adopted by the Union's institutions in exercising competence conferred on it, shall have primacy over the law of the Member States".

In 2005, voters in France and the Netherlands soundly rejected this proposed constitution, yet well over 90 per cent of it is contained in the Lisbon Treaty. A simple name change will not change the fact that this is the same EU Constitutional Treaty and adopting Lisbon will profoundly weaken Ireland's position in Europe and undermine our sovereignty and political independence.

I have no doubt that the loss of the primacy of our Irish Constitution will eventually affect our rights and our lives in many different areas: neutrality, taxation, justice and policing, public services, immigration, energy, water, environment etc; and it will undermine the protection for family and life contained in our Constitution.

The people of Ireland have not been afforded an open and truthful debate on the implications of adopting the Lisbon Treaty, and as citizens of other member-states have been denied the right to vote on it, we again stand alone at this crucial time in European history.

We are no less European in upholding the primacy of Ireland's Constitution and protecting the rights of the Irish people, for what is at issue here is not whether we should remain in Europe, but rather what kind of Europe we are to be part of.

Article 9.2 of the Irish Constitution clearly states: "Fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State are fundamental political duties of all citizens." I believe this to be the express duty of elected members of the Dáil and Seanad - and particularly of the President, whose primary function is as guardian and protector of the Constitution, which exists to protect the rights of Irish citizens.

Our main political parties are yet again united in trying to secure a vote in favour of the Lisbon referendum. The President, however, has the unique privilege and fundamental political duty of being guardian of Ireland's Constitution, to which an oath of allegiance is sworn at the time of taking office. - Yours, etc,

DANA ROSEMARY SCALLON, Claregalway, Co Galway.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kathy Sinnott on the Lisbon Treaty

Kathy Sinnott MEP (as mentioned in my last post) has written a thought-provoking reflection on the Lisbon Treaty and its possible consequences for Ireland, in light of the bishops' pastoral letter. She looks at a number of life issues such as embryo research, abortion, disability rights and euthanasia, pointing out that the possibility of euthanasia being introduced into Ireland might be more serious than abortion. On euthanasia she notes: “We do not have any protective protocol and we already have precedent for euthanasia in Irish case law in the Ward Case of 1995 in which a High Court allowed a comatose woman, a ward of the state, to die by withdrawal of food and water.”

As we prepare for tomorrow’s vote, we should bear in mind Kathy’s remark about the unpredictable consequences of voting in favour of this treaty. She writes:
It is not unusual for us to take risks in many things, but in the life and death of our smallest human beings, I, for one, am not willing to take the risk.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crackdown on Small Groups in European Parliament

Kathy Sinnott, pro-life Irish MEP

A report by Labour MEP Richard Corbett has called for new rules for political groupings in the European Parliament, which would eliminate small groups. The current rules for groupings within the parliament require that they have representation from one fifth, 20% of the member states and have a minimum of 20 MEPs. In a parliament with 15 member states this meant representation from three states. In the new situation of 27 member states with others waiting in the wings this already implies representation from 5/6 countries. Under the proposed new rules however groups would require representation from 25% of member states and have a minimum of 30 members. This report, which will come before the parliament in the July plenary is aimed at groups such as INDEM (Kathy Sinnott's group), the Greens and UEN the group to which Fianna Fail belong.

Should this vote be carried it would be a major setback for pro-life and pro-family deputies who are able under the current system to propose amendments to anti-life anti-family resolutions. The importance of the Pro-Life-Coalition of MEPs within the parliament has been clearly evident during various debates and shows that it has always been the small groups which tabled sensitive amendments on pro life, bioethics and family-issues. INDEM and the Greens in particular were outstanding in the fight against the use of embryonic stem cells and human cloning. The larger groups, (apart from a small number of deputies) do not support pro-life or pro-family policies. Efforts to block the proposal in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) were only partially successful and the entire issue will now be voted on in the July Plenary after the Irish Referendum.

In the meantime every effort is being made to keep this from becoming an issue for the Irish electorate prior to next week's referendum vote. During the debate on the issue this anti democratic measure was reasoned away by the PSE and EPP speakers who suggested that the abolition of small groups would lead to a coherent increase in the work of the parliament and that such a move would best serve democracy. They also blandly stated that members of those groups could either be non-aligned or should join the larger groups. Either option would remove their right to propose amendments. The two largest groups in the parliament - the centre-right European People's Party and the leftwing Socialists - have 64 percent of all the MEPs and may be able to push the changes through despite the combined opposition. All of which leads to the question do they really understand that real democracy is 'of the people, by the people, for the people?

Monday, June 9, 2008

European Centre for Law and Justice

The European Centre for Law and Justice has published a Legal Analysis of Special Provisions of the Lisbon Treaty ahead of Thursday’s Irish referendum. It makes the point that the Irish people are in the uniquely privileged position of being allowed to vote on whether our country signs up to a treaty that will ‘radically change the nature of the European Union, the rights and duties of citizens of all other EU Member States.’ This analysis raises a number of highly important points about the possible consequences of a Yes vote, particularly in the field of social policy.

Most significant for pro-life campaigners is the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in Article Six as binding law. As the analysis states, this ‘appears to create the potential for new “rights” and could create considerable confusion as to interpretation of human rights in Europe.’ I am all too aware, working at the UN, of the way the abortion lobby manipulates human rights to promote their own agenda. It is by no means improbable that future legislation or court decisions could overrule Ireland’s protection of the unborn. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has already passed a resolution calling for the decriminalization of abortion across the EU.

The Irish Constitution protects marriage and the family, describing the family as “the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society”. The prohibition of ‘discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation’ within the Charter of Fundamental Rights may well be used to challenge the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Women's Rights at the UN

I attended the first week of the 8th session of Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. The session included an 6 hour debate on Thursday 5th June on women's human rights and I was able to make an intervention on the subject of abortion and maternal mortality. Due to the number of speakers however the available time slot was only two minutes. (Note: to view the webcast linked to above, you will require RealPlayer).

Mr Chairman, distinguished panellists, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children supports this important initiative. In dealing with maternal mortality however undue focus is placed by some governments and powerful international NGO’s on ideological issues rather than authentic human rights. This is most evident in the ongoing efforts by some organisations to make abortion a human right despite the objections of many countries. This is a distraction from genuine human rights infringements and not only undermines legitimate human rights campaigns but wastes time, effort and scarce resources. The international community has always rejected attempts to ‘hijack’ human rights initiatives in this way. The ideologies I speak of are hostile to the life of the child before birth and must be confronted and shown to be immoral, unethical, inadequate and detrimental to the future population of all nations, their economic viability and their social cohesion. Misleading terms such as ‘sexual and reproductive health’ are being abused by some countries, various UN committees and powerful NGO’s in order to force other countries to introduce abortion. When these attempts are exposed and result in failure, pro-abortionists find new ways of attempting to do so. One of the most recent abuses is the suggestion that legalizing abortion will reduce maternal mortality. The available evidence suggests that the reverse is true, as first world countries without legal abortion have a much lower level of maternal mortality. Ireland, for example, has the lowest maternal mortality in the world while the UK, which legalised abortion over 40 years ago, has a maternal mortality level eight times the Irish level and the US level is approximately 11 times higher. The blatant falsehood that maternal mortality will be reduced by the introduction of legalized abortion is responsible for the killing of countless babies and the needless deaths of women through the misdirection of scarce resources. The major factors in reducing maternal mortality include ante and post-natal care, the availability of midwives and birth attendants, medical interventions such as assisted delivery and Caesarean section, decent sanitation, clean water and the ability to provide powerful antibiotics and blood transfusions where necessary.

Monsignor Bert Van Megan made an excellent intervention on behalf of the Holy See and told the meeting that abortion is not a human right and that no UN treaty or convention makes such a claim. He also reminded the meeting that the Convention on the Rights of the Child says that "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Judge O'Neill's Ominous Silence

Ireland's Referendum Commission has said that the EU's Lisbon treaty is not a threat to Ireland's abortion law. However, the Commission's president, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, gave no answer to a question on the significance of the removal of Ireland's veto over 'arrangements for the control of implementing powers' within the treaty. This is an ominous development when the person who is responsible for providing impartial information is either unable or unwilling to answer it. It does not augur well for the future that there are aspects of the treaty which are undefined. Despite his denial on the abortion issue this hesitation raises major questions.