Culture of Death is Alive and Well

Well, the great debate is over. I’m sure there have already been plenty of post-vote post mortems in the blogosphere, though I have trawled through to read them. Between marking exams and getting ready for the arrival of the grandparents, I haven’t had the time.

The culture of death is alive and well in Britain. We will continue to have some of the most liberal laws in Europe and babies will continue to die at a rate exceeding 500 per day. There has been no change to 24-week social abortion limit. Supporters tried to play this down by emphasising that only 1.5% of abortions occur between 20 and 24 weeks, Of course if you do the math, that’s over 3000 babies chopped up and pulled out of wombs each year. That’s more than eight per day. It’s also an increase of 44% over the last ten years. For those aged over 17 weeks, and there were 7,123 abortions, or more than 19 per day. Those children were also removed one amputated part at a time.

And speaking of eight, that’s the highest number of previous abortions recorded. In other words, in the statistics available, they only note individuals (we can’t really call them mothers, can we?) who have had eight or more previous abortions. This number obviously continues to increase. The 2006 figures – the latest available – show that 54 women had procured at least eight abortions. There were 65 who had six abortions before they were 30 years old.

Then the numbers get really scary. In just the year 2006, 1300 women had their what was at least their fifth termination. More than 3,800 were on their fourth and nearly 15,000 were killing their third child. I suppose it is some comfort that of those achieving a hat trick, only 82 of those were under 18.

Most all of this is at taxpayer expense. Don’t be fooled by hearing that less than 25% are carried out by the NHS. A further 67% take place in private clinics that are funded by the NHS. That’s 92% in total.

As for the rest of the legislation, MP voted for human-animal hybrids, against children of IVF needing a father, and for the production of children as saviour siblings.

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Life and Death

According to the Daily Telegraph, Prime Minsiter Gordon Brown has been warned by his whips that his opposition to reducing the abortion gestational time limit is likely to fail. The mood of the House is to bring the limit down. With nine time-limit amendments tabled, the most likely compromise appears to be a fortnightly reduction to 22 weeks. I think 20 weeks should be a reasonable adjustment to even the most die hard pro-death supporter, but it would seem that even that extra two weeks will be too much for some to stomach.

The son of a Church of Scotland minister, Brown will vote against the pro-life position on any attempts to change the law. Even though less than one percent of abortions happen between 22 and 24 weeks, and those are the most gruesome (except for the very later abortions, which it appears will continue to be legal), Gordon doesn’t want to keep them from happening.

What is interesting to me about battle lines on this “women’s rights” issue is that the chief pro-life leaders in the House of Commons are women. The pro-choice campaign is led by men. Abortion is a very cross-party issue here. The Labour Party has long had significant support amongst Catholics.

So next week as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is debated by a committee of the whole House, it will be a matter of life and death.  On Monday, the debates will cover human-animal embryos and saviour siblings. Tuesday will start with lesbians and fertility treatment, before moving on to abortion. The preservation of the unborn and the sanctity of the entire human species is up for grabs.

The Not-So-Independent View of Christians Working in Parliament

Back in 1992 when I was a visiting law student in London, I interned with a Conservative backbencher. I got the job because of my pro-life credentials. I wrote to the sister of a family acquaintance, but since she had been elevated into the Government of the day and was not allowed unpaid interns, she referred me to another Tory MP who was very active in the pro-life movement.

Thus, I was quite interested to read in the Independent today that a Christian pro-life charity has been sponsoring interns to work at Westminster. Of course for the left-wing Independent, this is a rather dastardly thing. This is particularly bad since it is “allowing them unrestricted access to Westminster in the run-up to highly sensitive and potentially close votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill next month.” Never mind that Christian Action, Research and Education (Care) has run the internship programme for 10 years.

There is no suggestion that Care has actually done anything wrong. The only thing the Independent found to exploit is that two of the twelve members of Parliament who have Care interns failed to note them as such in the main register of members interests. It is not a lack of public record as to their sponsorship. The interns themselves have registered this. The paper even admitted, “There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of any of the MPs who employ Care research assistants.”

There is not even any evidence that Care-sponsored interns are lobbying MPs about the HEF Bill or anything else. It’s just that they could.

The Independent knows that Care is an evil organisation because it campaigned against the repeal of the infamous Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Section 28 banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It also campaigned against assisted suicide in the House of Lords (or what the Independent likes to call “assisted dying”). Why didn’t the Independent mention that Tom Harris has a staffer who is Parliamentary & Campaigns Officer for the pro-euthanasia activist group Dignity in Dying? Or for that matter, that Bob Laxton employs the Chief Executive of the Birmingham Brook Advisory Centre, an organisation that promotes abortion?

And the Independent does not mention that there are members with staff who are sponsored by other organisations with political agendas – it’s just that the agendas are more fitting with the views of the Independent. For example, Michael Clapham employs someone registered as “Independent Parliamentary and Political Consultant” and lists eight organisation as clients. Natascha Engel has a staff member who is Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an HIV charity which encourages promiscuity as a partner of Playzone: “We’re working in partnership with gay venues to improve conditions and make your play safer.” Eliot Morley has a staffer who is “Parliamentary Consultant, Network for Animals”. Fabian Hamilton has a staffer who is involved as Parliamentary liaison/research for the trade union Amicus. Lindsay Hoyle employs one of their Policy Officers. Doug Henderson employs the National Political Officer of the GMB union. Diana Johnson employers a Regional Manager for Unison. Edward O’Hara employs two staffers who are Parliamentary Assistants for Age Concern. I know this is a fairly innocuous organisation, but it is a lobbying group nonetheless.

Or how about the fact that Michelle Glidernew and Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein have staff on the register at all? Neither has taken their seat since being elected, because they won’t take the oath of allegiance. However, Sinn Fein’s press office assures me that they are entitled to public money for this and most everything else, just like any other MPs.

Free Vote?

When members of Parliament are given a free vote, they are allowed to vote their conscience on a particular bill. Free votes are not particularly common, especially on significant legislation.

For Americans, the severe whipping MPs sometimes get may seem strange. In Congress and state legislatures, there are party whips who use various methods to persuade members to vote a certain way. They may be able to dangle carrots of certain preferential treatment or future committee assignments. Party discipline here is a different. Because the executive and legislative functions are so intertwined, an indisciplined party can bring down a Government.

That is why a Government that chooses to introduce very morally questionable legislation has to force members of its party to choose between the Prime Minister and their conscience. If a Government allows a free vote, they are saying that it would be nice if the bill were inacted, but not key to their policies and agenda for the country.

Backbench member of the party of Government are held in line with a lot of carrot and stick. Fronbenchers – members of the Prime Minister’s ministerial team – are held in line with their jobs. If a minister cannot vote with the Government, they are expected to resign and return to the back benches. This means a loss of between one-third and more that half of their salary, depending on their ministerial rank. Except for particularly high-flyers, it also means their hope for advancement in their political career is effectively over.

It is easier to return to the frontbenches after a scandal of immorality than it is over disloyality to the party whip. In other word, it is better to lie, cheat, steal, improperly use ministerial influence for personal gain, or cheat on your spouse using public money to finance it and cover it up, than it is to vote your conscience.

If you are still with me, I said all that to say this. Gordon Brown has determined that Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill now has parts that can be allowed a free vote and parts that can’t. Human/animal hybrids are now optional, as are saviour sibilings. However, embyro screening and lesbian parents are not. And once all the amendments have been voted on, regardless of the outcome, all ministers must vote for the Bill or resign.

Prior to the PM’s partial back-down, there were a dozen members of the Government who were willing to rebel, including three Cabinet ministers. Reports are that two of the three Catholics, Paul Murphy and Des Browne, are satified. Ruth Kelly, a member of Opus Dei, was reported back in 2004 to be “straight down the line” on abortion and other life issues.

The embryo screen provisions of the Bill are plainly contrary to Catholic teaching. This would specifically authorise the killing of embryos that do not meet certain genetic criteria. I’m also not sure how the idea that lesbian parents would both be able to register as parents on a birth certificate is in line with Catholic teaching either. Under this provision, children of lesbian parents will be forbidden to from contacting their fathers (since due the nature of the species, every has a male parent, whether or not that fits into the lesbian lifestyle) until they are eighteen years old.

When the dust has cleared, it will be interesting to see who has voted their conscience, or even for which Catholics the teaching of the Church is their conscience.

Babies Playing the Postcode Lottery

The debate in Parliament over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has provided the opportunity to members to present amendment to either liberalise or further restrict abortions. There is a big push amongst some MPs and in certain outlets of the MSM to reduce the number of gestational weeks during which an abortion can be procured for social reasons. It is currently at 24 weeks, having been reduced from 28 week in 1990.

But that’s all over the news. You don’t need me to tell you something you can read anywhere. What I didn’t know is that there are only 180 neo-natal units in this country. That’s roughly one for every 333,000 people.  As you would expect, they are not evenly distributed. It’s another example of the NHS postcode lottery.

If you get yourself to University College Hospital in London, your baby has one of the best chances of survival in the country. In the years just after the legislation was amended to it’s current state, 1991-95 the rate of survival for babies born at 23 weeks was 44%. It has risen since then. At 24 weeks, over the same periods, survival rose from 50% to 81%.

Live where there is no unit and the outlook isn’t so good.  Sometimes even the right postcode doesn’t help. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, “according to a National Audit Office report each unit had to close its doors an average of 52 times during 2006-07.” Even if those closures were for only one day at a time, that’s still an average of once a week. Chances are that at least in some cases, the closures were for longer.

Given these problems with the health service, it is surprising that the survival rate for neo-nates is as high as it is. It is not surprising that the rates are higher in other countries.