Friday, 17 February 2017

Regulator’s proposal to remove pharmacists’ conscience rights is unethical, unnecessary and quite possibly illegal

Should pharmacists be forced to dispense drugs for what they consider to be unethical practices – like emergency contraception, gender reassignment, abortion and assisted suicide?

Or should they have the right to exercise freedom of conscience by either referring to a colleague or opting out?

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the independent British regulator for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy premises, is proposing to replace the current ‘right to refer’ with a ‘duty to dispense’.

The Council calls this ‘person-centred’ care. 'Person-centred care' which puts the dignity and best interests of the client first is, of course, crucial and at the very heart of true professionalism.

But the Council then goes on to frame this care in terms of a universal right for clients to ‘access’ legally prescribed drugs and devices.  Pharmacists would thereby be pressured to comply or risk disciplinary procedures and/or possible loss of employment. Potential trainees could be dissuaded from pursuing a career in pharmacy altogether.

The consultation on the draft proposal is open until 7 March 2017 (background here; full consultation document here - the response form is on pages 23-30 and is summarised on p31).

Pharmacists who believe that human life should be respected from the time of fertilisation will generally object to dispensing potentially abortifacient drugs like levonelle and ellaOne.

Although marketed as ‘emergency contraception’ or the 'morning-after pill', these drugs are known in some cases to act by preventing the implantation of an early embryo and causing, in effect, an early abortion.

Currently pharmacists have a right to refer these cases to another pharmacy or colleague, but under the new draft guidance, which the GPhC admits represents ‘a significant change from the present position’ this right would be removed.

All health professionals are currently protected by a conscience clause in the Human Fertilisation Act 1990 from having to participate in ‘any activity’ governed by that Act. So, for example, if they have a moral objection to disposal of, or experimentation upon, human embryos, they do not have to take part.

But ironically, no such statutory conscience protection exists for those 'contraceptives' which act by killing embryos.

The Abortion Act 1967 has a conscience clause which allows health professionals to abstain from ‘participation’ in abortion. However, it also does not cover abortifacient contraceptives. Its scope has also recently been narrowed by a Supreme Court judgment so that it probably does not now protect pharmacists from being forced to supply drugs used in medical abortions either.

Highly contentious gender reassignment procedures, involving hormones to bock puberty in children, or to aid transsexuals to ‘transition’ to the opposite gender, are another area where the new regulations will put pharmacists under pressure to comply.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are currently not legal in Britain, but were they to become so, this could be yet another situation where the new proposed guidance would leave pharmacists exposed.

Freedom of conscience has been a core ethical value, foundational to healthcare practice as a moral activity, from the Hippocratic Oath to the General Medical Council’s Good Medical Practice.

The right of conscientious objection is not a minor or peripheral issue. It goes to the heart of medical practice as a moral activity. It helps to preserve the moral integrity of the individual clinician, preserves the distinctive characteristics and reputation of medicine as a profession, acts as a safeguard against coercive state power, and provides protection from discrimination for those with minority ethical beliefs.

Most people can understand and respect the right of health professionals not to be involved in activities which they regard as abhorrent – obvious examples in other jurisdictions in which doctors have been complicit include female genital mutilation, punitive amputation, capital punishment or organ harvest from prisoners or street children.

But equally we need to recognise that many healthcare professionals in Britain regard such practices as abortion, assisted suicide, gender reassignment or embryo disposal or experimentation to be similarly morally wrong.

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals in their own right. Accordingly they deserve to be treated by their regulators with the respect due to their professional status. This latest proposal does not do that.

The contribution of community pharmacists to the provision of primary care is being actively promoted by the profession. Given that pharmacists are now taking on many of the roles once seen as the preserve of doctors, the GPhC should surely be protecting their freedom of conscience in a way commensurate with that shown to doctors by the GMC.

There are simply better ways in a democratic society to ensure that freedom of conscience is respected whilst still enabling people to access services to which they have a legal right. 

In this case there are at least three alternatives available to the GPhC.

First would be to leave the current guidance, which grants a right to refer, unchanged. Whilst this does not give full freedom, as many would regard referral as involving a degree of complicity, it does in practice give enough wiggle room for pharmacists who have a conscientious objection to dispensing certain drugs to avoid direct involvement. It has served the profession well up until now.

Second, the GPhC could follow the example of the GMC, the doctors’ regulator. GMC guidance (para 8) permits doctors to ‘opt out of providing a particular procedure because of [your] personal beliefs and values, as long as this does not result in direct or indirect discrimination against, or harassment of, individual patients or groups of patients’. In such situations, a doctor must ensure the patient understands her right to see another practitioner and has the necessary information to exercise that right.

Third, the GPhC could follow the example of the pharmacists’ professional body, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), in a policy statement they drew up in 2013 to preserve freedom of conscience in the event of assisted suicide being legalised. This required pharmacists to ‘opt in’ by placing their names on a register of those willing to dispense barbiturates for assisted suicide. What is to stop a similar opt-in system operating for the practices I have mentioned above, rather than making a blanket imposition on all pharmacists?

If instead the GPhC ignores these solutions and presses ahead with imposing a ‘duty to dispense’ it will not only be running roughshod over the professional status of pharmacists, but could also be opening itself up to a legal challenge.

There is already a substantial body on law on conscience protection in British and European Law.

Article 9(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) provides a right to freedom of ‘thought, conscience and religion’. Whilst this is not absolute, and needs to be balanced against other democratic rights, any intervention must be shown to be both necessary and proportionate. It is hard to see how this move by the GPhC fulfils either of these requirements.

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has affirmed rights of conscience for sincerely held religious and moral beliefs as falling within the gambit of Article 9 (ECHR, Bayatan v. Armenia [GC], (2012) 54 E.H.R.R. 15.) They base their reasoning on the premise that a refusal to allow conscientious objection fails to strike a proper balance between the interests of society as a whole and the fundamental rights of the individual; providing rights of conscience ensures a cohesive and stable pluralism and promotes religious harmony and tolerance in society ( § 124, 126).

The British Equality Act 2010, which is the sole legal precedent that the GPhC quotes in their consultation document in support of their proposal, lists nine protected characteristics, one of which is ‘religion and belief’.

It is therefore almost inconceivable that this draconian draft proposal will not be challenged in court by an aggrieved individual or organisation. 

But it should not come to that. It is just not worth the time, energy and expense and can be avoided.

There is little real evidence of widespread complaints by clients denied access to drugs under the current regulations. GPhC council meeting notes from 12 April 2012 specifically state that no data is collected and mention that only ‘a small number of complaints’ relating to 'fitness to practice' are received annually. We would expect complaints specifically about FOC to make up only a tiny subset of these.

The regulator, it seems, is using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

The GPhC’s proposal to remove pharmacists’ conscience rights is disproportionate, unethical, unnecessary and quite possibly illegal.

For the sake of professional freedom and reasonable accommodation, essential in a pluralist multi-faith democracy, let’s hope that they chose instead a more flexible, tolerant, respectful and eminently sensible path.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The one speech at the General Synod marriage debate which brought it all together

Yesterday the General Synod of the Church of England voted not to ‘take note’ of the House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships. 

The report upheld the historic position of the church on marriage as the exclusive coming together of one man and one woman for life.  However it also gave some scope for the affirmation of those in same-sex partnerships.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the report attracted the wrath of both sides. Whilst the House of Bishops voted overwhelmingly to support it by 43 votes to 1, and the laity followed suit by the narrow margin of 106 to 83, the house of clergy rejected it by a majority of 100 to 93, and so it fell. 

This means that the House of Bishops is now back to square one without any clear way ahead after three years of ‘shared conversations’.

In a debate lasting the best part of two hours, in which a total of 34 people spoke, many excellent points were made by clergy and laity who held to the biblical position on marriage.

But there was only one speech which mentioned all of Jesus, the love of God, the Cross, the definition and purpose of marriage, sin, repentance, judgement, heaven, hell, discipline & the need for clarity and leadership from the bishops. 

I have reproduced it in full below (full audio here).

‘From what we have heard this afternoon the two positions are irreconcilable. The Bishops’ report has sought to straddle the two positions but they cannot be straddled. And this is where we as a group of people and the wider church cry out to the bishops to make a stand and to make the position clear.

Jayne Ozanne, Simon Butler, Andrew Foreshew-Cain and Robert Hammond: you have all spoken movingly this afternoon. The Lord Jesus, he loves you, he died for you, he died for each one of us. We are all broken sinners all fall short of the glory of God and it’s on the cross that he took away our sin. We are all beggars, as Andrew Foreshew-Cain described us, in need of a Saviour. But that requires repentance from what (Jesus) says is sinful.

And clearly, Genesis 2 and Matthew 19 demonstrate that all sexual expression outside the lifelong and permanent union of one man and one woman is sinful. It’s contrary to God’s purposes. We have the picture of Christ who will come for his beautiful bride clean. He died for her. We rob society of that picture when we seek to destroy the truth of what marriage is.

God’s people are called to be set apart and clergy are to be examples to their people, to model holiness, chastity, purity, to model the way of the cross.

If sexual immorality were simply a secondary issue as opposed to a first order salvation issue then the Bible would not link it specifically with salvation (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). And that is why it is so important to speak clearly with regard to sexual sin, because, actually heaven and hell depends upon it. Our very eternity depends upon it. That’s why it’s loving to hold firm to it. And it’s also beautiful and freeing for all that hear this message.

When {the apostle) Paul heard of the specific case of persistent sexual immorality in Corinth involving a person who claimed to be a Christian believer he acted decisively urging that that person be immediately excommunicated (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

We have to make a choice about discipline. Paragraph 64 of the Bishops’ report states that there needs to be a fundamental trust in the clergy to know and be faithful to the teaching of the church in their own lives and in their ministry to others. We are looking to the bishops to lead in this.’

Andrea Williams (286, Chichester)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Sexual immorality is a first order salvation issue. The Church of England is now needing the surgeon’s knife.

On Wednesday 15 February the Church of England General Synod will decide whether or not to “take note” of the House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships.

Within the Church, it is now very clear that the two main positions held are irreconcilable.

On the one hand are the “conservatives”, represented by the Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, who hold to the biblical and traditional position of monogamous heterosexual marriage.

On the other are the “progressives”, represented by “One Body One Faith” (previously the Lesbian and Gay Christian movement), who are seeking “a significant level of LGBTI+ representation” on church boards and councils, an “approved liturgy for the blessing of same-sex couples after a Civil Partnership or Civil Marriage” and “a change to Canon C26 to make clerical civil marriage not a matter for discipline”.

They add that these demands are “very far” from “all we want to see” but they represent “a way forward, a start”.

In between, is a body of currently indeterminate size, who are seeking to live with some kind of “arrangement” in a desperate attempt to keep those holding two radically different ideologies together.

But in reality, given the current level of entrenchment, it is only a matter of time before the inevitable separation takes place. If the bishops’ report is not “taken note” of then that separation may come earlier rather than later. If Synod does “take note” then the whole enterprise may limp on a little but the writing is on the wall.

Earlier this month, a group known as “accepting evangelicals” (who are ironically neither) wrote a letter to members of the evangelical group of General Synod (EGGS) outlining their position. The letter was signed by five well-known exponents. A few others have added their signatures on the website.

The letter, which can be read in full here, makes a number of highly contentious but familiar arguments but the signatories’ bottom line is that they remain “unpersuaded that this (ie. homosexual behaviour) is a first-order or salvation issue. We find nothing in the Bible to imply that it is so: indeed, quite the reverse.”

Interestingly, they don’t marshal any biblical arguments to back up this position but regard it as a self-evident truth.

I was surprised today to see the normally theologically sound “Archbishop Cranmer” making exactly the same point. In a blog post titled “The Church of England should not tear itself apart over homosexuality and same-sex marriage” he argues that “homosexuality is not an issue worthy of schism” as it “affects only a tiny minority of Christians” and is “of distinctly secondary, even peripheral, scriptural importance”. It is not “a battle for the soul of the church”.

This is a different argument than those normally advanced by people seeking to justify sex outside heterosexual monogamous marriage. But it is equally unbiblical.

The “one man, one woman, for life” pattern is an Old Testament creation ordinance, upheld by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament (Gn 2:24; Mt 19:3-12; Eph 5:22-33).

Sex in the context of marriage (Gn 2:24, Mt 19:3-12) is viewed as the good gift of a good creator (Pr 5:15-20, Song 4:11-16) and a sign of Christ’s coming marriage with the church (Eph 5:32, Rev 19:7)

Anything outside this context, by contrast, is seen as a disaster (2 Sa 11, 2 Sa 13, Gn 34), offensive to God (Lv 18:6-30, 20:7-21; 1 Cor 6:12-20) and accordingly worthy of judgement (Lv 18:29; Dt 22:20-22, Rev 21:8).

All wrong sexual patterns are spelt out specifically in detail (Lv 18:1-30; Lv 20:1-27; Ex 22:16-19; Dt 22:13-30) and include all homosexual acts (Lv 18:22, 20:13; Gn 19:1-29; Jdg 19:1-30; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11).

God’s people are called to be ‘set apart’ (holy) with respect to sexual behaviour (1 Thes 4:3-8; Mt 5:27-32).

Obedience to Christ, in this and all other areas of morality, is of course only possible by God’s grace, through the indwelling work of his Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-27), but Christians are nonetheless called to obey him. In fact the heart of the great commission, sadly so often distorted into an exhortation merely to evangelise, is to ‘make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19, 20).

“If you love me”, says Jesus, “you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15, 15:14).

As a clear corollary of this teaching that loving Christ means obeying him we are told that a life without demonstrable evidence of faith through a changed life is valueless. It is evidence of non-regeneration.

Furthermore, if sexual immorality were simply a “secondary issue” as opposed to a “first order salvation issue”, then the Bible would not link it specifically with salvation. Yet this is exactly what it does.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 tells us, ‘neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God’.

Galatians 5:19-21 warns that those who exhibit the ‘acts of the flesh’ - sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like - will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:3-5 echoes, ‘But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people…. For of this you can be sure: no immoral, impure or greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

The book of Revelation (20:12) tells us that the dead will be ‘judged according to what they have done’.

In case we are in any doubt it adds that ‘the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur’ (21:8).

Outside the holy city will be ‘those who practise magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practises falsehood’ will not partake of the tree of life (22:15).

The book of Hebrews (10:26) tells us that ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’.

Now it is clearly evident from these and other passages that sexual immorality (including all homosexual acts) are just some of many sins that are offensive to God.

But it is equally clear that sin that is justified and not repented of is a “first-order” or “salvation” issue and certainly not something “insignificant” or “peripheral”.

As I have argued elsewhere, Satan does not attack the same Christian truth in every generation. This is why the dominant heritage heresies of the past are not necessarily those of the present nor the future.

But a crucial heresy today is that which says that sexual immorality, or for that matter any other sinful behaviour, is a secondary issue not worthy of formal discipline or, if widely enough spread, splitting the church over.

The Apostle Paul’s approach was very different. When he heard of a specific case of persistent sexual immorality in Corinth involving a person who claimed to be a Christian believer he acted decisively, urging that this person be immediately excommunicated:

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

Excommunication is simply a recognition that a person is no longer behaving as a member of Christ’s kingdom. It is, at heart, a step of obedience to Christ aimed at bringing the guilty party to their senses in the hope that they will choose to repent and become reconciled again with their brothers and sisters.

It is precisely, as I’ve argued elsewhere, the unwillingness of the Church of England to practise godly discipline leading if necessary to excommunication that is the cause of this current deadlock.

The problem now is that the church, and especially its ruling body the General Synod, is now so full of people practising, promoting and defending this particular form of sexual immorality that nothing short of radical surgery will resolve it.

When the necessary steps of discipline are not taken over a prolonged length of time, then as I’ve argued, schism is inevitable. Rather than allowing this to occur spontaneously, it is far better to make the separation cleanly and proactively. It is better to be cut apart than to be ripped apart.

There will inevitably be bleeding edges, but they will heal far more quickly if the incision is decisively and expeditiously executed.

The time for shared conversations is over. It is now time to act.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The time for shared conversations is over – the Senior Bishops now need to act

Open letter to Archbishop Justin Welby

In 2014 I sat next to a senior staff member in the Church of England at a Christian event and discussed the way the church was likely to handle the issues of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage. 

This person thought that there were three groups: 15% who wouldn’t settle for less than full acceptance of same-sex marriage, 15% who would refuse it absolutely and 70% who might accept some kind of ‘arrangement’.  I asked ‘How is it going to end?’ ‘One of the 15% groups will split off’, came the reply. ‘Which one?’ The question was left hanging when the speaker began talking at that very moment.

Since 2014, seeing events unfold… the legalisation of same sex marriage,  the quadruple lock, the rise of GAFCON, the facilitated conversations, and now the publication of the House of Bishops’ report on Marriage and Same Sex relationships… I have often pondered over that brief yet candid conversation.

Now, next week, on 16 February the Church of England General Synod (full agenda and papers here) will finally debate the Bishops’ report. There is expected to be very little meeting of minds and a real possibility that the proposed ‘take note’ motion will not pass.

The LGBT lobby within the church, backed by powerful ideological and political vested interests in wider society, abhor the fact that the report upholds the teaching, recognised by canon law, that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

But many Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are wary about plans to ‘revisit’ and ‘clarify’ advice to clergy on informal prayers for same sex couples marrying or forming a civil partnership. They feel red lines have already been crossed.

Paragraph 64 of the Bishops’ report states that, ‘there needs to be a fundamental trust in the clergy to know and be faithful to the teaching of the Church, in their own lives and in their ministry to others’.

But the current breakdown in trust is due precisely to the fact that some members of the clergy are not being ‘faithful’.

The Bible is clear that the only admissible context for sexual relations is within the context of a lifelong marriage relationship between one man and one woman. It is equally clear that all homosexual erotic acts are morally wrong (see here and here).

But some Church of England clergy are already involved in active homosexual partnerships, others have clearly signalled their openness to involvement and others are openly teaching that sex within such partnerships is morally acceptable.

This situation deeply compromises the witness of the church.

The foundation document of the Church of England, the 39 Articles, makes it crystal clear where ultimate authority lies:  

‘The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority- in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.’

The Church of England’s official doctrine on marriage in Canon B30 (and in other statements including the 1987 Motion of General Synod and the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10) upholds the key principles in this biblical testimony.

The 1987 Motion reads as follows:

This Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity and fidelity in personal relationships as a response to, and an expression of God’s love for each one of us, and in particular affirms:

1. that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship;

2. that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;

3. that homosexual genital acts also falls short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by call to repentance and compassion

4. that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality, and that holiness of life is particularly required for Christian leaders

So, given this clear doctrine, why are those clergy who dissent in word or deed not being called to repentance? Why further, if they refuse to repent, are they not being disciplined by being removed from office?

The biblical pattern of church discipline is unambiguous: ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.’ (Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3). Its purpose in restoring erring members of the church is clear: ‘Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.’ (James 5:20) Discipline is necessary not only to protect and preserve the church but also to save sinners from judgement.

The Lord Jesus Christ himself lays down the pattern of restoration in Matthew 18:15-20:

‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.’

The Apostle Paul addresses a specific instance of serious sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 5. The principle taught is that, although we should not judge those outside the church, it is our duty to judge those inside and to call people to repentance. If someone calling themselves a Christian refuses to repent, then they are to be excommunicated.

The Bible is equally clear (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) that ‘homosexual offenders’ will not ‘inherit the kingdom of God’. This is not a secondary issue (one on which true believers might have flexibility to disagree) because it impacts on salvation itself. Therefore, those Christians ‘who are spiritual’ (Galatians 6:1) have responsibility to restore their erring brothers and sisters ‘in a spirit of gentleness’ in order to stop them facing God’s judgement.

Just as culpable in the eyes of Jesus as those who persist in sexual sin are those who give false teaching, who ‘mislead my servants into sexual immorality’. The Lord tells the church in Thyatira not to ‘tolerate that woman Jezebel’ who promulgates such teaching (Revelation 2:18-29).

The Church of England appears to suffer from two key problems. First of all, there are some in leadership who seem not to hold to biblical authority or the traditional teaching of the church. Second, there are others who are clearly violating Christian biblical standards of sexual behaviour and are not being properly disciplined or called to account.

There are a number of practising homosexual clergy who are ‘tolerated’ and have not been disciplined by the relevant bishop(s). A clergyman currently on the Church of England Synod has also  had a same sex ‘marriage’ in defiance of Bishops’ guidelines, openly advertises his church hall as a venue for celebrating same sex partnerships, and is vocal in the media about his heterodox views.

A leading member of the Archbishops’ Council makes no secret of the fact that his same-sex relationship is not celibate. At least one bishop advocates the full acceptance of homosexual relationships, undermining the Church of England’s historic teaching on sexuality without being censured.

These individuals are personally known to, or under the oversight of, either yourself, the Archbishop of York or to the Bishop of London, the three men occupying the highest offices in the Church of England.

Bishops in the Church of England are not primarily managers, politicians or administrators – they are rather ‘ordained to be shepherds of Christ’s flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles’. This is based on the Apostle Paul’s commissioning of Timothy and Titus. They are to teach the truth, protect the people from false teaching and correct error. The Lord’s servant must be ‘able to teach’, and opponents ‘must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth’ (2 Timothy 2:24-26). He must ‘hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it’ and appoint people to positions of leadership ‘who love what is good’ and who are ‘self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined’ (Titus 1:5-9).

The Bible is clear that from those to whom much has been given much will be demanded (Luke 12:48). This surely means that those with highest office in the church should be leading by example.

The Church of England is currently drifting slowly towards an inevitable disintegration with no possibility of reconciliation. The situation cries out, not for mediation and more conversation, but for discipline and for leadership.

The upcoming Synod may well be the last chance to grasp this nettle. But before that the three most senior bishops surely need to lead by example and fulfil the first two steps of Christ’s commands in Matthew 18 – going to the offending clergy they know individually and then as a group. They can then, if these men refuse to repent, present the matter to the entire Synod when it meets on 13-16 February.

If the three leading bishops are not willing to take the lead then others must do so. Once the process has begun it must continue throughout the church.

Those who support, or are involved in, homosexual partnerships (ie. not celibate) who are not willing to repent, according to the 1987 resolution, should be removed from leadership. This of course applies equally to all involved in any other form of sexual sin.

The principle is clear. There has so far been much conversation but no real action. It is now time to act.

You have been felt burdened to apologise, on behalf of the church, for sins and failures for which you are not directly responsible. But with respect to the discipline of clergy promoting or involved in homosexual partnerships you, along with John Sentamu and Richard Chartres, are in fact directly responsible.

To obey Christ in this matter will undoubtedly lay you open to criticism from the media, the LGBT lobby, other sections of society and dissenters within the church itself. It may cost you dearly in terms of popularity and in other ways. But the key question is whether, like the apostles, you are willing to ‘obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29).

Jesus was uncompromising, ‘If you love me you will obey my commandments’ (John 14:15, 15:14).

May I urge you and your two fellow bishops to perform your duty before God as ‘shepherds of Christ’s flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles’.

I appeal to you to be faithful in this matter to the Lord you profess to love and serve. The future of the Church of England depends on it.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas - The miracle of the incarnation

Many people today are sceptical of the miraculous elements of the life of Jesus Christ: the virgin birth, the healing miracles and the resurrection. They ‘know’ that such things are scientifically impossible.

But the real miracle, on which all rests, and which we celebrate at Christmas, is actually the incarnation, the Word becoming flesh. C S Lewis, in his classic book ‘Miracles’, calls it ‘the grand miracle’.

If we can accept the incarnation - the idea that God could become a human being - then all other aspects of Jesus’ life follow on naturally. They are exactly what we would expect if God were walking on the planet.

Apologist Josh McDowell has suggested that if God became a man we would expect to see the following things.

He would have an unusual entry into life - which is exactly what we find in the virgin birth.

He would be morally perfect. When Jesus challenged others to find him guilty of sin no-one could answer.  

If God became a man, we’d expect him to perform astounding miracles. The gospel accounts are full of them: he heals those who are deaf, blind and paralysed; he calms storms, walks on water and turns water into wine. According to eyewitnesses Jesus healed diseases for which even today there is no treatment; instantaneously, irreversibly and unambiguously. 

We'd expect him to speak the greatest words ever spoken. People responded to Jesus in amazement. ‘How did this man get such learning without having been taught? ‘No one ever spoke the way this man does’.

Psychiatrist James Fisher has written: ‘If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene - if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out all the excess verbiage - if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount.’

If God became a man, we would expect him to have a lasting and universal influence. Why is it that all religions try to accommodate Jesus somehow, to find a place for him? In the words of historian Kenneth Latourette, it is simply because ‘measured by his effect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived’, profoundly shaping our worldview, our laws, our history, our culture.

We would expect him to satisfy the spiritual hunger in man. Millions testify that Jesus Christ has filled the spiritual vacuum in their lives; that his promise that those who come to him will not thirst or hunger is amazingly true.

Finally if God became a man, we would expect him to exercise power over death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best attested historical fact in all of antiquity; over 500 witnesses to his rising from the dead. It is the only logical explanation for the empty tomb, the dramatic change in the disciples and the spread of the early church.

But what does the incarnation mean for us personally? 

First, it reminds us that Jesus understands us. He knows what it is like to be a human being. He knows hunger and thirst, pain and sorrow, bereavement and loss, rejection and betrayal. As the writer of Hebrews tells us he can sympathise with our weaknesses because he has been tempted in every way as we are, and much more.

Second, it reminds us that Jesus can help us:
‘because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted’. What are our areas of weakness? What do we despair over? What is it that is stopping us growing as Christians? What is it we are fighting that perhaps no-one else sees or knows about? He is able to help us. 

Third, the incarnation is a model for us in our own Christian lives. We are called to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. The cross is a pattern for us to follow. We are to carry the cross, to take our share of suffering, to bear the burdens of others. 

Fourth, the incarnation helps us in our evangelism. It challenges us to cross social barriers as Jesus did, to make ourselves accessible and vulnerable, in the way that Jesus was, to be, in the words of Paul, 'all things to all people'. 

But finally, and most importantly the incarnation reminds us of why Jesus came, because Christmas is the prelude to Easter. The same Jesus who grew in the womb and lay in the manger was sent to die on a cross and rise from the dead in order to reconcile us to God. 

Christmas starts and ends with Jesus Christ. Let’s keep him at the centre. 

Monday, 31 October 2016

Biotechnology Company seeks to profit from search-and-destroy technology for babies with Down’s syndrome

The government yesterday approved a new test for pregnant women that will make it much easier to detect and destroy babies with Down's Syndrome (DS) (see previous CMF blog posts here, here, here and here).

According to the BBC, the non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) will be rolled out by the NHS from 2018.

NIPT involves taking a sample of blood from the pregnant woman which is then examined for abnormal fetal DNA. It is called 'non-invasive' because it doesn't involve 'invading' the mother's womb. It therefore carries no risk of miscarrying a 'normal' pregnancy.

It is claimed that NIPT will cut the number of women who need invasive tests like amniocentesis and chorion villus biopsy, which carry a 1-2% risk of miscarriage.

The move to make NIPT available on the NHS is extremely controversial and has led to the launch of the ‘Don’t screen us out’ campaign (DSUO). DSUO describes itself ‘as a grass-roots initiative supported by a collection of people with Down’s syndrome, families and Down’s Syndrome advocate groups led by Saving Downs Syndrome’.

They say that, given the fact that 90% of babies who are prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are currently aborted, the result will be ‘a profound increase in the number of children with Down’s syndrome screened out by termination’. 

new study published in the British Medical Journal on 4 July 2016 backs up their concerns. 

The lead author professor Lyn Chitty and her colleagues calculate that in an annual UK screening population of 698,500, offering NIPT (as a contingent test to women with a Down’s syndrome screening risk of at least 1/150) would increase detection by 195 cases with 3,368 fewer invasive tests but, crucially, only 17 fewer procedure related miscarriages.

If rolling out NIPT will result in 195 more babies with Down’s syndrome being detected, then assuming that 90% will then be aborted (the standard quoted figure), that means almost 180 more abortions for Down’s syndrome each year.

Most people are unaware that abortion is legal in Britain right up until birth for babies with disabilities. Last year a record number of 230 babies with special needs were aborted beyond 24 weeks, the age at which most will survive in a neonatal unit if born prematurely.

In total last year there were 3,213 babies with disabilities aborted in this country, over 1,000 of them more than halfway through pregnancy. 689 of these had Down’s syndrome. 11 had cleft lip or palate. 

Sally Phillips drew attention to the issue dramatically in a BBC documentary ‘A World Without Down’s Syndrome’, which aired on 5 October. ‘What’s so dreadful, to the world, about Down’s syndrome? she asked. The Bridget Jones actress, who has a son with the condition, questioned the ethics of pregnancy screening and abortion and asked why affected babies are viewed as a ‘burden’ in society. The programme understandably prompted fierce debate. 

On Friday 21 October, Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords. Lord Shinkwin (pictured below) is arguing that the current situation is profoundly discriminatory - eugenic even.  He wants to remove ‘ground E’ (1(1)(d)), which enables any baby with a significant risk of a serious abnormality to be aborted, from the Abortion Act altogether. 

At the weekend, 279 medical professionals signed a letter accusing the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) of 'advocating that women with a prenatal diagnosis of Down's syndrome should end their pregnancy'. They said: 'We utterly reject the implicit premise that the value of a human being is based on their economic contribution to society.' (see full text here)

The move to introduce NIPT into the NHS is also backed by powerful commercial interests.

In March 2015 the St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust revealed that it was joining forces with the British firm, Premaitha Health to bring in this new screening test. Premaitha, which describes the test (marketed as ‘Iona’) as its ‘flagship product’, along with its shareholders, now stands to make a lot of money. Millions of pounds in fact. Each NIPT test costs between £400 and £900 pounds. Do the maths!

Premaitha admitted this much in a 
press release earlier this year: 'Premaitha anticipates that the endorsement by the NHS will accelerate private payer market growth in the UK'. More importantly, it will put them in pole position to pitch for NHS hospital tenders. 

On 27 October at its AGM the company was even bolder. Non-executive Chairman Adam Reynolds, claimed that ‘the international landscape for non-invasive prenatal testing is evolving very considerably in Premaitha’s favour’. He added that the company was ‘exceptionally well placed to win significant market share as awareness of the availability of NIPT increases’.

In the light of all this, people may be surprised to hear that Premaitha’s share price rose by only 10.81% today to 10.25p. This is in spite of brokers Finn Cap and Panmure Gordon having target prices of 20p and 24p respectively on the stock.

But in an ironic twist, enthusiasm for buying the shares has been curbed by unresolved legal action. US biotechnology giant Illumina has launched patent infringement proceedings against Premaitha and others.

Nevertheless Premaitha has ‘absolutely no doubt that the developed world is moving’ towards ‘widescale adoption of NIPT’ and that it ‘is well placed to gain a large share of the market’.

So here we have it – a global drama involving pregnant women anxious about having disabled children, campaigners concerned about the eradication of people with disabilities, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money up for grabs, biotechnology companies hungry for profits and salivating shareholders seeking a quick buck.

But, caught in this toxic web of vested interests, the real victims in this whole drama are babies with a common genetic abnormality whose eradication will lift a perceived burden from some and make others very rich indeed.

The real test of an administration is in what it values – and in particular how it treats the most vulnerable members of society, especially when it costs something emotionally and financially to do so.

The British government, by this reckoning, is not heading in a good direction. Nor are biotech companies and their shareholders who are keen to profit from the search and destroy conveyor belt.

But disabled people and their families will not go quietly and I suspect we have not heard the last of this yet.  

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Culture of Life - Keynote Speech for Alliance of Prolife Students Celebration and Fundraiser

I gave the keynote address at Alliance of Pro-life Students Celebration and Fundraiser in London on 20 October 2016. Here is a full transcript.

Tomorrow, 21 October, Lord Shinkwin’s Abortion (Disability Equality) Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords.

Most people are unaware that abortion is legal in Britain right up until birth for babies with disabilities. Last year a record number of 230 babies with special needs were aborted beyond 24 weeks, the age at which most will survive in a neonatal unit if born prematurely.

In total last year there were 3,213 babies with disabilities aborted in this country, over 1,000 of them more than halfway through pregnancy. 689 of these had Down’s syndrome. 11 had cleft lip or palate.

Lord Shinkwin is arguing that this is profoundly discriminatory - eugenic even.  He wants to remove ‘ground E’ (1(1)(d)), which enables any baby with a significant risk of a serious abnormality to be aborted, from the Abortion Act altogether.

He is supported by the ‘Were all Equal’ campaign – who argue that the current law is out of date – it promotes inequality, reinforces negative stereotypes and is inconsistent with disability discrimination legislation for after birth.

One of their most powerful spokespeople is actress and Bridget Jones star Sally Phillips, who has argued powerfully that children like her eleven-year-old son Ollie, who has Down’s syndrome, have as much right to live as anyone else.

But, of course, the present law also discriminates on the basis of age.

We would be horrified if a woman could have her newborn baby daughter put down simply because she was the result of an unplanned pregnancy, posed an economic burden or was socially inconvenient.

But the law allows exactly this for babies just a few weeks younger – 200,000 of them every year in Britain. Under the Abortion Act over eight million preborn babies have been ‘terminated’ since 1967 – one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion and one in every three British women will have an abortion: eight million British citizens who were never given the chance to live.

This year the ‘We Trust Women’ campaign was launched by pro-abortion activists aiming to decriminalise abortion altogether. A new bill attempting to liberalise the law in Northern Ireland was lodged on 19 October. There are similar moves already underway on the Isle of Man.

Back in 2008 a whole host of amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill were tabled in the Westminster Parliament. MPs were seeking to remove the two doctor provision, allow nurse and home abortions, allow abortion on demand up until three months gestation and extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. 

Thankfully all these measures failed when the economic crisis struck, leading the prime minister Gordon Brown to cut time in debating abortion amendments in order to save the nations’ banks.

Last year 38% of all abortions were repeats and 95 British women had their eighth abortion or greater – evidence that abortion is simply being used as a form of birth control.

Over 98% of British abortions have been carried out on mental health grounds although, according to a major recent systematic review, there is actually no medical evidence that continuing a pregnancy poses any greater risk to a mother’s mental health than having an abortion. If anything the opposite is true. This means that 98% of British abortions are technically illegal and that the 500 doctors every day who put their signature to a statutory document ticking the mental health box are actually committing perjury.

And yet the law is not upheld. The police do not investigate. The CPS does not prosecute. Courts do not convict or sentence and parliament turns a blind eye.

In fact judges rule against those who attempt to apply the law.

Aisling Hubert, who attempted to bring a private prosecution against two doctors, who authorised abortion purely on grounds that the baby was female, has been ordered to pay court costs of £47,000.

People who maintain silent vigils outside abortion clinics or offer counselling to women with crisis pregnancies are threatened and intimidated and driven out of the public square.

And sadly the medical profession have colluded with this whole sorry state of affairs.
Abortion is against the Hippocratic Oath, against the Declaration of Geneva and against the International Code of Medical Ethics. In 1947 the British Medical Association called it the ‘greatest crime’.

And yet now the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists calls abortion ‘a basic healthcare need’ and the British Medical Association is pushing to liberalise the law even further. Meanwhile, the General Medical Council (GMC) refuses to give up the names of 67 doctors who are known illegally to have pre-signed abortion authorisation forms without even seeing the women who would use them.   

In 1967 Britain was the first Western country outside Scandinavia to legalise abortion. And in so doing this country paved the way for the legalisation of abortion throughout the English speaking world.

Today, authorities quote 43 million abortions as the annual figure worldwide.

This is an astounding figure. 55 million people died in the entire five years of the Second World War. 57 million people each year from all causes other than abortion. This means that of every 100 human deaths on this planet 43 of them involve babies in the womb being killed by healthcare workers.

There is no one more innocent, more vulnerable and killed in greater numbers than the baby in the womb. Ironically, what should be the safest sanctuary on earth has become a more dangerous place that even Mosul or Aleppo.

The right to life is the most fundamental of all human rights and the right on which all other rights are based. It is meaningless to speak of the right to food and clothing, the right to free speech, the right to education, the right to own property, the right to fair compensation for work, the right to freedom from harassment, the right not to be abused or sexually violated - if you are not alive. The right to life is the foundation on which all other rights are built.

So when we are talking about abortion we are talking about the deprivation of the most fundamental of all rights from the most innocent, vulnerable and helpless of all human beings for the most trivial of all reasons and in the greatest of all numbers.

That alone must make abortion one of the most serious human rights abuses in the world today. And also the least defended.

The Alliance of Prolife Students supports the right to life of all human beings from fertilisation until natural death. In so doing it stands against discrimination on the basis of mental and physical disability, against discrimination on the basis of age, against discrimination on the basis of size and against discrimination on the basis of neurological capacity.

This is the only possible position to take for those who are opposed to all discrimination.  And if consistently held it must also lead to a defence of human embryos.

Human embryos from the moment of fertilisation are human lives. They are not potential human lives. They are human lives with potential. They are potential children and adults. As human lives they are worthy of our empathy, wonder, compassion and protection including legal protection.

Sadly, but not surprisingly in the wake of the Abortion Act, the first Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 rendered human embryos non-persons and deprived them of legal protection.

The HFE Act made it legal to freeze, experiment upon, select and dispose of human embryos. In 2012 the Daily Telegraph reported on 20 years of this activity.  More than 3.5 million embryos created, 840,000 put in storage, 5,900 set aside for research, 1.4 million implanted – of which fewer than one in six led to pregnancy and 1.7 million were discarded unused.

The Warnock report (1984) which led to the HFE Act of 1990 said that the human embryo had a ‘special status’, but from these figures it is evident that the human embryo in practice has no status at all.

It is true that IVF and related techniques have led to many childless couples being able to have children. But the figures demonstrate that a large proportion of the embryos which have been created in British laboratories in the last 20 years are not even given a chance to live. It is right to seek treatments for infertility but we cannot and must not allow the end to justify the means. And we must be pursuing infertility treatments which respect the humanity of the human embryo.

We should also be promoting adoption.
In 2009, which is the last year for which I have adoption figures, there 203,444 abortions on UK residents and just 91 adoptions involving babies under one year. 91!

That’s a ratio of 2,235 abortions performed for every baby adopted. 

And yet when Martin Narey, the adoption czar, suggested in 2011 that adoption was a ‘golden option’ and a real alternative to abortion he faced howls of derision from the politically correct.

Baby adoption is a win-win option because it provides an unwanted baby with a loving home and a childless couple with a baby to love and care for.

We know that abortion kills babies. But it also hurts women.

I first came face to face with the hurt caused women when I was training as a general surgeon in New Zealand.

I was on acute call and was asked to see a 14 year old girl with abdominal pain.  Her GP wondered if she had appendicitis but it was very clear on examining her that she did not need surgery.

I asked her if she had had any abortions or miscarriages and she looked very uncomfortable and glanced awkwardly at her father who was in the cubicle. So I asked her again later when he was no longer present and she burst into tears.

It turned out that she had become pregnant to her 15 year old boyfriend and that her father had threatened her that if she did not have an abortion he would take her boyfriend to court for carnal knowledge. So, wanting to protect her boyfriend from prosecution, she reluctantly consented.

She then told me that she had been plagued with guilt over the abortion ever since, and was often tearful in class but unable to tell anyone why. ‘Whenever I think about the abortion I get this pain in my tummy that I have now’, she said. ‘You are the first person that I have ever told about it and I don’t know what to do.’

We hear a lot about choice from the pro-abortion lobby but the reality for many women, like this poor girl, is that they feel they have no choice. They choose an abortion to protect other people – parents, boyfriends, spouses – because they don’t want to create a burden for others. Sometimes, as in this tragic case, they are threatened and coerced to have an abortion against their will.

There are some wonderful initiatives in the UK offering support to pregnant women in crisis – food, money, emotional support, counselling and antenatal care -  they are doing a fantastic job and need our strongest support.

This young lady was the tip of a huge iceberg of women damaged by abortion – many of them suffer from guilt and grief – but many also have physical complications – bleeding, infections, mental health problems.  

There are over 70 scientific studies now showing a link between abortion and premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. And there is an ongoing debate about the link between abortion and breast cancer – of three major scientific meta-analyses – studies of studies – two support a link.

Abortion kills babies and hurts women. And it is also driven by powerful commercial interests. 68% of abortions are now carried out by independent facilities like BPAS and Marie Stopes but are fully funded by the British taxpayer.

Abortion also has huge demographic effects.

We know that because of female feticide in China and India there are now 160 million missing women in the world. This means that many men face no possibility of ever finding a female partner and this alone has had a huge effect in fuelling sexual abuse, pornography and human trafficking.

Abortion in Russia - there were at one point two abortions for every live birth - led to such a shortage of young people that Vladimir Putin sought to tighten the abortion laws and provide financial incentives to women to keep their babies.

He was worried that there would not be enough people in the working population to support the growing number of elderly people.

In Japan in 1950 35% of people were under the age of 15 and 5% were over the age of 65. This is a healthy demographic which ensures that families and strong and that vulnerable people are well provided for.

By 2050 the figures will be reversed - only 8% will be under 15 and 40% will be over 65. This is an extremely unhealthy demographic which places more pressure on families and resources. Add in unemployment, economic recession and family breakdown and you have a very toxic brew indeed. 
We see a similar pattern all over the Western world – fewer children, growing numbers of elderly people, growing debt and family breakdown.

This has led some commentators to make the chilling prediction that the generation that killed its children through abortion – will in turn be killed by its children – through euthanasia.

Vulnerable elderly, sick and disabled people are at great risk from the advance of legalised euthanasia.

Euthanasia is now legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Canada. Assisted suicide – euthanasia one step back – is legal in Switzerland and in five US states – the latest being California. It is said that what California does today the world does tomorrow.

The Democrat Party is working hand in glove with Compassion and Choices – the pro-assisted suicide pressure group – to legalise assisted suicide in the US state by state. When they capture enough states they will go for a Supreme Court case to impose it everywhere – as happened with the Roe vs Wade judgement on abortion in 1973 and the Obergefell judgement for same sex marriage in 2014.

In the UK since 1992 we have been fighting the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide. We have been amazingly successful in both parliament and the courts.

There have been over a dozen attempts to legalise assisted suicide through British parliaments in the last twelve years. Every single one of them has spectacularly failed. Our biggest victories ever were over the Harvie Bill in Scotland and the Marris Bill in Westminster just last year. Marris’s Bill, which supposedly had more safeguards than any bill in history was defeated by a massive 330 votes to 118 with only the Green Party supporting it.

MPs from all sides of the house were convinced by the arguments that the bill was not safe. 

Vulnerable people would inevitably have been put under pressure to choose early death so as not to be an emotional and financial burden on families and carers. MPs saw that the right to die can so easily become the duty to die.

We have seen this worked out across the North Sea. In the Netherlands euthanasia numbers have increased by between 10 and 20% every year so that now over 4% of all deaths are due to euthanasia. What started with the terminally ill has now spread to the chronically ill. What started with physical illness has spread to those with dementia and mental health problems. What started with adults now involves children. Euthanasia is legal for twelve year olds and babies with disabilities are being euthanised under the Groningen protocol.

In Belgium they are practising organ donation euthanasia. Half of Belgium’s euthanasia nurses have killed without consent even though both nurse euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia are illegal. But a third of cases in Belgium are now involuntary and yet there has been not one conviction. We should have learnt the lessons from abortion.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide cannot be controlled. Once you legalise it for some there will inevitably be incremental extension as more cases which stretch the legal boundaries are brought to bear.

It’s only for the terminally ill we hear. It’s only for adults. It’s only for those unbearably suffering. No. It is clear from what we see now in other jurisdictions that it is only the beginning. 

We have shown in Britain how this can be fought. We have shown that when people of faith and no faith, when disabled people and able bodied people stand together and marshal strong arguments we can win. We have proved that with assisted suicide. But the issue will not go away and we can only keep on winning and push back if we win the battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation.

This is why the work of the Alliance of Prolife Students is so crucial and why their vision to build, support and connect prolife societies in universities is so important.

They are in a unique position to equip students with up to date prolife education and resources. They have a unique mission to build pro-life communities in the universities and other tertiary instructions of England, Wales and Scotland.

They need to build on their success and momentum of the past few years and take their movement to the next level.

They must not be intimidated. It will need courage, good leadership and resources – both human and financial. And they will need our support to stand alongside us and to help fulfil their vision of a society where the value of human life is always affirmed, a society free from unethical practices in science and medicine.

Let me close by telling you the story of another 15 year old girl who into my care after a road traffic accident. I was up all night putting her broken limbs back together. The next day the nurses did a pregnancy test and found she was pregnant. They arranged for her to have an abortion.

I didn’t find out until after she had left the hospital. So I wrote her a letter. I told her that I understood that she must feel desperate. But I urged her to think again. I said that abortion may seem like the only way out in a crisis pregnancy but that it only exchanges one problem for a whole set of new problems. I said she had three choices – abortion, adoption or keeping the baby – and that anyone of them would change her life for ever. I offered to help her in any way I could.

She came back to the fracture clinic six weeks later. Whilst I was reviewing her x-rays she was on the edge of her chair wanting to tell me something.  Eventually, she could hold it in no longer and blurted out, ‘I’m keeping the baby. I just wanted you to know. Thank you for your letter. I showed it to my gran and she said she would support me. My boyfriend did too. I’m keeping the baby.’

Two years later I received a card in the post. When I opened it, out fell the picture of a little boy. There was a note which said, ‘You probably don’t remember me but I was the pregnant girl who broke her leg that you operated on in hospital. I just want to thank you for helping me avoid making what would have been the worst decision of my whole life. This is my son. He is my pride and joy. I wanted you to have this picture. Thank you so much.’

I know it was not an easy decision for her. But I’m sure that in choosing life she made the best decision – both for her and for her little boy, and for her whole family: because life affirming decisions are always the best decisions.

We need to stand for life. We need to resist the culture of death. We need to be a voice for those who have no voice whether they are embryos, elderly or disabled people or preborn babies.

We need to be trained. We need to put in the hours to know the arguments and produce the resources. Overall we need to be willing make a stand and be courageous. We must not allow ourselves to be silenced or intimidated. The battle will not be easy but we need to stand together and fight it. And we need to equip the next generation of prolife soldiers to take the baton from us.

That is why the work of the Alliance of Prolife Students is so important. I urge you to support them.  

Thank you.

For a video of this talk, and opportunities to give to the Alliance of Pro-Life Students, please visit their website