Tag Archives: abortion

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee Meeting – 11th February 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

David O’Mahony, a CU Council Member, was elected a member of the Committee.

Correspondence

The chairman had written to Jane Spencer at the Department of Health about the dangers of mitochondrial donations and the lack of an ethical framework. He asked for details of the advice received by the government. He received a reply from a senior official, saying there was an expert committee that had met three times and which advised that was no great danger in mitochondrial donation. There was no reply on the ethical basis. There was however a reference to a web site Catherine Sampson (sic). This is in fact a high powered scientific committee which has met twice and is due to meet again. Parliament in 2008 effectively cleared the way for mitochondrial donation. It was concluded it was safe for [laboratory animals] and should be tested on primates.  If used on humans it should be followed up for a long time; this is not in fact a green light. There has been a public consultation, now finished. It looks as if the government are determined to introduce mitochondrial donation. In 2008 the government had removed the right for those born via IVF et al to know the identity of their biological parents. This would mean the subjects of mitochondrial donation could not be informed of this. There had been no answer on the subject of ethics.  Britain has no medical ethics committee. “Consequential ethics” now seems popular, that is, the end justifies the means.  Any action on this taken by the Bishops’ Conference is to be advised to the Committee in due course.

MSP Vote on SSM 4th February 2014

This vote in the Scottish parliament to redefine marriage was carried by 105 votes to 18 with supporters of traditional marriage subject to verbal abuse. Amendments to protect teachers, adopters, fosterers etc. were all defeated. Scotland is becoming very nearly a totalitarian society. Anyone who disagrees with same sex marriage will be called intolerant, discriminatory and hateful and may lose their position in public bodies. Further, the Children and Young Person’s bill introduces a “Named Person” imposed by the state on every child without consent and without opt-out whose function, according to the Bill “cannot be carried out by a parent of the child or young person”. People are regarding developments in Scotland as a social revolution. People now live in fear of being overheard in a public place, being reported to the police and arrested, in some cases held overnight. It was agreed the CU should revive an active committee to support John Deighan in presenting parliamentary developments to the Catholic public. The guidelines for sex education were being revised; this should be resisted because current guidelines give parents a very strong position to demand to know what was being taught. The Labour party had tried to introduce sex education into the primary curriculum but had been defeated.

The Lunacek road map for LBGT rights has been overwhelmnigly accepted by the European Parliament.  It calls for the criminalisation of homophobia throughout Europe, for same sex marriage in every country, for teaching of homosexual practice to all children from which parents may not dissent and people who speak out against are to be silenced.

 

Plight of Syrian Refugees

The government has now agreed to take in a limited number of Syrian refugees.  A Syrian Catholic Bishop warned against the possibility of a mass exodus of educated Syrians, who would be needed during the process of reconstruction and development in the hopefully near future.

Assisted Dying

The Falconer Bill is not being put before the House of Lords, although Lord Falconer denied claims in a Times article (20th January) that his Bill was about euthanasia, rather it was about allowing those terminally ill patients wishing to die access to drugs to enable them to do so.  Belgium and Dutch law covers the non-terminally ill.   A Bill on Assisted Dying is likely to be presented in the next session of Parliament, with input from Living and Dying Well, which will hopefully be better drafted than the Belgian and Dutch versions.

Sir Edward Leigh MP – Further Questions on Abortion

The government reported there had been an error in their previous reply. Sir Edward therefore asked the following questions:

i.      When the problem on the extraction of data had first started and what the government intended to do about it.

ii.     Is there any data on how many women seeking abortion had actually met the authorising medical practitioner;

iii.   How many of these practitioners have training in mental health issues.

A ComRes poll had found that 95% of the public felt it was wrong for a woman to have an abortion without seeing doctor.

Westminster Hall Speech on Marriage – Sir Edward Leigh MP

This speech was well received by the press.  The speech was part of a Westminster Hall debate about strengthening relationships among couples.

Any Other Business

Injunctions to prevent Nuisance and Annoyance replacing ASBOs had been defeated by the Lords and replaced by Injunctions against causing Harassment, Alarm or Distress.

A UN committee on the Rights of the Child severely criticised the Holy See for concealing child abuse by priests. In fact responsibility here lies with diocesan bishops, not the Holy See, who must act in accordance with the civil law of the local jurisdiction which subsists to Canon Law.

Summary of the Parliamentary and Public Affairs Committee 14th January 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

David O’Mahony, a CU Council Member, was suggested as a prospective member of the Committee.

Synod Questionnaire on Family Life

Elizabeth Davis, Marriage and Family Life Project Officer of the Bishops’ Conference, gave a presentation on the Synod Questionnaire. It was not a survey but a consultation on experience. The online questionnaire was aimed at reaching those who did not go to church on Sundays. Since the responses had not yet been collected it was not possible to say how many there had been. However it had been taken up with enthusiasm. Many respondents stated had struggled to be faithful to the Church’s teaching. The objective was to help with setting the agenda for the next Synod of Bishops in Rome. It should not be seen as a prelude to a change in doctrine and it was hoped from a clear statement confirming this from the Bishops.

Correspondence

A letter had been written to the Prime Minister and the Dept. of Health regarding the proposal to allow the production of embryos with two mothers and one father (hoping to prevent mitochondrial disease in the child). The Chairman had written again to a named civil servant at the Department of Health about the dangers of this procedure and the lack of an ethical framework.  He would write again to Jeremy Hunt seeking an answer to his questions.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

The threshold for registration has been raised from £5,000 to £20,000 in England and from £2,000 to £10,000 in Wales, following a great deal of lobbying against the original proposals. The maximum has been raised to £450,000. Any higher figure will be deemed illegal. The “restricted period” has been reduced to 7.5 months. The courts can deem organisations to be cooperating without evidence. This could be an effect free speech. It is unlikely to affect the CU, given the budgets involved.

Plight of Syrian Refugees

As a result of a papal initiative the Holy See was bringing together the parties involved to discuss humanitarian relief (to both sides), a cease fire and finally a political settlement. The meeting deplored the government’s refusal to receive any refugees. Many Syrian refugees, in particular Christians, were in great danger and some, at least should be welcomed here.

Euthanasia

The CU is on the advisory group of Care not Killing (CNK), an alliance of some 40 organisations opposed to euthanasia. Margo Macdonald MSP, has sufficient signatures to introduce the Assisted Dying Scotland bill, despite the result to the consultation being 65% against. A “trained facilitator” could assist any mentally competent adult with a terminal condition. At Westminster, the Falconer Bill is to be reintroduced with softened wording. The Lords would not normally divide on a second reading but should be encouraged to do so, on this point of principle.

The Follow-on from the Liverpool Care Pathway (LACDP)

This LACDP consultation has no recognition of the need for a research base to underpin their recommendations. There is a suspicion that doctors will resort to familiar methods of treatment. To provide an alternative, the Medical Ethics Alliance has produced a document which the chairman had sent to the minister. The backlash against the LCP came from relatives, and doctors are now more cautious about using it for fear of being sued.

House of Lords Debate on end of life care 12th December 2013

This debate was initiated by Baroness Jolly on behalf of the Department of Health proposing that GPs should nominate the 1% of patients expected to die within the next 12 months in order to enable arrangements for their care to be discussed with them. The Government wishes to save money by keeping old people out of hospital since most people prefer to die at home. There were significant practical problems with this and the existence of a “death list” is extremely unhelpful.

MEA Conference on Mental Health and Abortion 21st November 2013

The topic “Mental health reasons for abortion – are there any?” Speakers were a consultant psychologist, a consultant psychiatrist, a GP and a lawyer. The conclusion was “no, there are not” and further, the Medical Colleges concluded abortion was of no benefit to mental health; stress and anxiety were not per se a threat to mental health. However the purpose of the conference was get the message out that what happens now is a charade. Doctors without mental health training or experience go through the requisite administration without asking any questions.. However there is now disquiet about the working of the Act from the gender imbalance caused by gender based abortion. The Dept of Health said only in 46% of cases, had one or both doctors actually seen the woman. The situation in the remaining 54% was uncertain and the DoH seems to have no interest in ensuring the figures were correct. The BPAS, which performs a majority of abortions, has a policy which states any unwanted pregnancy is grounds for abortion. This explicitly contradicts the official DoH policy.  MPs must ask hard questions to press home this point and so reveal the DoH’s real policy of abortion on demand.

“Rules for Migrants are a scandal” Archbishop Nicholls

The Archbishop h had strongly condemned a Government policy which prevented a UK citizen from bringing in a spouse from outside the EU unless s/he had an after tax income of over £18,500 p.a, well above the minimum wage. This led to families being split up and children being raised without one or other of their parents. The committee was not in agreement over this policy.

Any Other Business

Ministers want to replace anti-social behaviour orders in England and Wales with injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance. One man’s annoyance is another’s free speech and it was thrown out by the Lords 346 Votes to178.  The Government’s reaction waits to be seen.

 

 

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 17th December 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

Mrs Josephine Robinson, a former Chairman (sic) of the Association of Catholic Women was elected to the Committee.

Correspondence

A letter had been written to the Prime Minister and the Dept. of Health regarding the proposal to allow the production of embryos with two mothers and one father (hoping to prevent mitochondrial disease in the child). Two near identical replies had been received, referring to an imminent consultation and to a commission of “international experts” who said there was no concern for safety. However, IVF is known to increase the risk of birth defects, cancer and mental retardation. It is irresponsible to predict no risk with this even more radical procedure. The Chairman would write to Jeremy Hunt and to his own MP, questioning the safety of this procedure and seeking the identity of the “international experts”.

Same sex marriage in Scotland and Northern Ireland

The debate in the Scottish Parliament on this issue has been astonishingly abusive. It is expected that the SSM Bill will be approved by early March 2014. The Chairman is due to talk to the Political Officer of the Scottish Bishops conference. The Northern Ireland Assembly will not entertain SSM, but will accept as civil partners, those same sex couples married elsewhere in the UK.

Gender-based abortion

The Government stated that the law would be enforced, but has also said there are many grounds for seeking an abortion. It is unlikely that the Government will do anything in this regard.

Survey on Family Life

There had been 12,000 responses nationally to this Vatican survey. There was uncertainty about what the survey was intended to accomplish or what it was capable of accomplishing. It was thought it might be about how care is provided to people in family life, in particular, sacramental care from the Church.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

This Bill could obstruct free speech prior to General Elections. CAFOD is making a list of Part One Catholic lobbyists; Caritas Social Care of Part Two lobbyists with a view to joint approaches to the Government.

Extension of euthanasia in Belgium

The Belgian Parliament has passed legislation whereby children of 12 and below with terminal illness and unbearable pain could choose to die, or their parents and next of kin, where such consent is unavailable, could do so in their place When they are near to death, these children are claimed to increase in maturity. There were 1,132 cases of euthanasia in 2012; 25% up on 2011.We should note this lest attempts are made to introduce it in England. Other approaches to child euthanasia were the LCP and the Groningen protocol in the Netherlands.

Abortion on mental health grounds

The chairman had given a Parliamentary Question to Sir Edward Leigh. It said abortions were being carried out on Ground C (risk to the mother’s mental health) without mental health being assessed and by doctors not trained to assess mental health. There is a statement by the Academy of Royal Colleges that there is no difference to the mother’s mental health whether she has an abortion or gives birth What is currently going on is fraudulent.  It was suggested that the thrust of the argument should move away from time limits, to pointing out the number of fraudulent abortions being carried out in a local area, to make it real to people.  The late Phyllis Bowman (LIFE) used to say she would be perfectly content if the Abortion law were honoured. However, it would be necessary to convince juries that there is no risk to mental health. The CU and others should continue to raise awareness and press that Ground C be removed or at least observed.

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

This Bill provides that if a nuisance or annoyance is caused to any person, they can apply for an Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (or IPNAS). The Christian Institute has pointed out this could conceivably cover carol singing, street preaching, children playing football in the street. Local Authorities, police and private security firms can also hand out Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in order to restrict any activity deemed to have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.  It was hoped that common sense would prevail in such cases.

Persecution of Christians – Westminster Hall Debate 3rd December

This debate was initiated by Jim Shannon MP (DUP). He said Christianity is the most persecuted religion at the present time. One Christian dies for their faith every eleven minutes. Persecution starts with discrimination in business, in civic life, education and politics. In some countries it was illegal to possess a Bible and there was forcible conversion to Islam. Sir Edward Leigh MP said that the worst crisis no one had ever heard of is in Pakistan. Western intervention could make things worse (lecturing by former colonial masters). However many countries persecuting Christians receive money from the UK Government.

Any other Business

Assisted Dying Bill – This had been shelved for now, but a more comprehensive version will be introduced in the next session of Parliament.  The Supreme Court is considering Article 8 rights to respect for private life for Nicklinson/Lamb.

Protection of the Vulnerable – NHS England had set up the LACDP (Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People) to advise the Secretary of State for Health by 6th January 2014, on what should replace the LCP. Dr Cole had met its chair, Dr Bee Wee, and had agreed that anyone entering hospital should have confidence that they would receive evidence-based treatment compassionately and ethically applied. “More Care Less Pathway” had been set up to counter it and seek a meeting with Norman Lamb MP, minister for health, to slow the process and give time for the counter views (now accepted by the BCEW) to be considered.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 19th November 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

Mrs Josephine Robinson, a former Chairman (sic) of the Association of Catholic Women was elected to the Committee.

Correspondence

The Chairman had written to Princess Frankopan, a onetime Vatican adviser following the demise of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), as a result of the  the Neuberger Report.  He suggested that the group of doctors charged with looking into alternatives were keen supporters of the LCP, so there is a danger that it could be brought back and rebranded. His reason for writing was to remind Princess Frankopan that the LCP was taken up by 21 other countries including Malta, with practically no research undertaken.  The Anscombe Centre has signed up to the findings of the Neuberger Report.

LCP Follow Up ad End of Life Care Bill of Rights

The Government has set up a working party (most of the members contained therein were enthusiastic supporters of the LCP) too look into end of life care.  There is a real risk that the outcome could see a rebranding of the LCP.  Baroness Neuberger is aware of this development and is understood to be concerned.  Any end of life plan needs to be research based which the LCP was not and it is vital to ensure that any future plan has its base in solid research.   Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill would now be followed up by someone else.

Three Parent Children

A letter had been had written to the Prime Minister protesting about the government’s manifest intention to introduce the production of children with the genetic material from two mothers and one father. This was contrary to human dignity and international law. (see www.care.org.uk/threeparentchildren) but would need to be approved by parliament.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

The Bill is intended to limit the ability to influence elections for one year before the election. Organisations must register (£5,000 in England, £2,000 in Wales, Scotland or NI) and must present accounts three-monthly or weekly before elections with a cap on total spending. This would have a chilling effect on local charities including bishops but is not expected to affect the CU. The Electoral Commission was not consulted on this.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

A Paper on Tony Cole’s recent visit to Syria was presented.  It can be found on the News section of the CU website.

Sex education and the National Curriculum

Labour amendments proposed to the children and families bill would make personal, social, health education (PSHE) compulsory. Withdrawal from such lessons would no longer be at the discretion of parents but of the child. A working group to review SRE guidance was proposed which excluded parents. The Government would not accept these amendments and will not make sex education compulsory. However if Labour win the next Election, sex education would become compulsory. Parents would have no say on this.  OFSTED now wants to know if primary schools are teaching about same-sex families. The concern for secondary schools seemed to be homophobic bullying. The syllabus should promote marriage, including SSM but teachers can disagree with SSM provided they adopt a reasonable and professional tone.  Abortion is currently treated in this way. Guidance is needed by Catholic teachers on these subjects and the CES is working on this.

C4M and the Big Promise

The Big Promise was in fact separate from C4M. It was planning that on 8th Feb 2014, every couple in the UK will have the opportunity to re-affirm their marriage promises to each other. It plans to draw attention to the BIG Promise by coordinating those venues that wish to, in setting a new Guinness World Record for couples reaffirming their vows.

Any Other Business

The Committee heard that Kier Starmer has said that abortions based on gender are not being prosecuted due to defective legislation.  56 charities were due to meet with various MPs, Ministers and members of the House of Lords to discuss the unforeseen consequences of Government cut backs.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 22nd October 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

The Committee for 2013-2014 was announced.  The Officers of the Committee remain as before, although Angela Gracey has retired and Rosalind Bearcroft, together with Stuart Sexton, is vice chair.  There are presently three vacancies and names were sought to fill these.

Lord Falconer is now in the Shadow Cabinet so will not be advancing an assisted dying bill for now, although something akin to it might be put forward in Scotland.

Same Sex Marriage

C4M intend to keep the fight alive on this issue and not let politicians off the hook.  The Committee’s view was that this issue is now behind us.

End of Life Care

The Catholic Medical Association has put out a statement on end of life care and Dr Tony Cole was congratulated by the Committee for all his hard work in helping to bring about the demise of the Liverpool Care Pathway.  NHS Trusts are looking at end of life procedures.  An end of life care Bill of Rights is now under considerations by such groups as Living & Dying Well.  There was a discussion on gender-based abortion – in the majority of cases these are undertaken given the supposed unstable mental state of the mother.  Failure to prosecute for such abortions was felt to be an ethical, rather than a judicial matter.

All Party Group on international freedom of religion or belief

This group has written a letter signed by a number of MPs, asking the Government to appoint an ambassador for international freedom of religion or belief.

Proposed anti-slavery Bill

This welcome proposal seeks to disrupt gang trafficking amongst men and women and also to offer some form of help to the victims.  The Bishops would be meeting with Frank Field MP to discuss this further.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

“Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14”. It was intended to limit the ability influence elections. It would limit spend and increase the scope of activities covered.

The Bill:

  • introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and establishes a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements;
  • regulates more closely election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties ;
  • Strengthens the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date. It could have a chilling effect on some charities.

“One of Us” Campaign

This campaign aims to acquire a million signatures with a view to opening a debate in the European Parliament on ending funding from research using embryonic stem cells (we can’t destroy embryos because they are “one of us”).

Press Release – Peace in Syria and Gender Based Abortion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

LONDON, 7th September 2013

PEACE FOR SYRIA AND GENDER BASED ABORTION

The Catholic Union welcomes the Holy Father’s call for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria today, Saturday, 7th September.  As has been seen in the House of Commons Vote last week, the case for going to war in Syria is by no means clear and the number of MPS who either voted against or abstained from the motion to engage British forces in Syria is testament to this fact.  The Catholic Union further welcomes the Holy Father’s letter to President Putin and the G20 Summit leaders, presently meeting in St Petersburg, calling for negotiation rather than armed intervention; sentiments echoed by several religious groups in Syria.  It is always necessary in these instances to apply the criteria of the various elements which determine whether such military intervention as advocated by some, fulfils the norms of a Just War.  A peaceful, just outcome is preferable to a long drawn out military campaign, with shifting parameters and priorities.

The Catholic Union notes the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute in the case of two doctors who were asked, but who did not, undertake abortions, on the grounds of gender, on two Asian women, who sought terminations as the child each was carrying was a girl.  By referring the matter to the General Medical Council (GMC), the CPS has indicated that its action has been decided by the fact that there were no victims in this case, as no abortions took place.  Nevertheless the Catholic Union views these developments with concern.  Clearly the clinics concerned were happy to consider these terminations on grounds of gender, itself a breach of the law.  The Catholic Union is clear that it supports and upholds the Church’s teaching on abortion, that it is intrinsically wrong and that life begins at conception.  Whilst it is of course vital to assist and support mothers who find themselves in sometimes unexpected and difficult circumstances, there are always other options to consider such as adoption and family support, which preserves and upholds the sanctity of life and the family.  There can be no justification for abortion, especially not on grounds of gender.  It is to be hoped that the GMC will uphold this precept, so that the sanctity of life and human dignity may be preserved.

ENDS

New Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, LONDON 25th JULY 2013

THE CATHOLIC UNION OF GREAT BRITAIN WELCOMES THE APPOINTMENT OF THE NEW ARCHBISHOP OF ST ANDREWS AND EDINBURGH

The Catholic Union is pleased to add its voice to that of the wider Church in these isles upon the news of the appointment of Mgr Leo Cushley as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh by the Holy Father yesterday.

Commenting on the appointment, Catholic Union Chairman Robert Rigby said “This appointment of Mgr Cushley as the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh is extremely good news for the Church in Scotland.  The Catholic Union, whose role as the voice of Catholics in public life across this country, has a determined following north of the border. We have been involved in several important cases concerning the place of Catholics in daily life in Scotland recently, most notably with the case of the two Scottish midwives, who found themselves at odds with the health authorities, over their stance in assisting with abortions.  {Following an earlier ruling that they could not be classed as “conscientious objectors” to abortion because of their religious beliefs, in April of this year, the Court of Session in Edinburgh overturned the earlier ruling on the Midwives, and indeed anybody who objects to the whole process on grounds of conscience.}

This is testament to the hard work and diligence of the Catholic Union and others,” he added, “working alongside those involved, so that individual conscience and the common good of society can be upheld and maintained.  We look forward to a new springtime for the Catholic Church in Scotland with clarity of leadership, where the moral value of the Church and Christ’s teaching of caring and support for the individual are upheld”.

ENDS