Monday, 26 September 2011

Nadine Dorries & ‘Right to Know’: How Not To Run A Parliamentary Campaign

I will say this for Nadine Dorries: by watching her you can soon learn how not to effect constructive change in Politics. We only have to consider her most recent fiasco in trying to obtain counselling for women considering an abortion.

The purpose of her amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill was certainly a creditable and worthy aim, that most Pro-Lifers would support. And I, for one, would certainly take my hat off to her for the way in which she apparently withstood so many threats and such bullying. She is not a coward – and I know from experience what pro-abortionist aggression tactics are like. I have been involved in the abortion battle for over 40 years, and during the process of Bills seeking to tighten the Law, I was regularly subjected to frightening telephone calls at around midnight and in the early hours of the morning.

My office was broken into a number of times, and during the process of the James White (left) Bill in 1974/75, we had to take turns of sleeping on the office floor to protect our equipment throughout the summer months, because we were broken into so often. On another occasion – during the debates on the Enoch Powell Bill on Embryo Research – we had our office smashed up so badly that the BBC actually made it the first item on their evening news programme.

Far worse, when John Corrie (right) introduced his Bill to amend the abortion law, his family had to withstand the most dreadful harassment. He was a sheep farmer, and lived with his family in a Scottish farm house. His wife was heavily pregnant at the time, and throughout the night she had regular menacing calls until she became absolutely petrified of what might happen to her and her other children.

Nonetheless, much as I sympathise with Mrs. Dorries over the bullying and threats, I have to say that her campaign has done the Pro-Life cause more damage than anything else in 40 years. Furthermore, it is the Pro-Life groups which are now being blamed for the whole fiasco. “What were the Pro-Life groups doing?”, people ask me, “Is it true that Pro-Life groups were not speaking to each other?” In fact, most of us were, and what makes it so infuriating is that the whole thing could have been avoided.

When I first spoke to Mrs. Dorries, she promised that she would consult on the wording of the amendment. In the event, however, she acted behind the backs of all the Pro-Life groups with the exception of one. The rest of us did not see the original draft until she had published it. I immediately made it quite clear that, although we were very anxious to support her, we considered the amendment, as drafted, a hostage to fortune. We explained that we would not organise any kind of grass-roots lobby unless considerable changes were made – the least of which was the need to ensure that the counselling work of LIFE and CARE Confidential would not be blocked, as was a danger with the original draft.

On April 5, I wrote a letter to her explaining our thoughts and stressing that we still very much wanted to support her. I made it clear that RTL considered that any Bill/amendment should concentrate on the information which women should be entitled to receive when considering an abortion. That is the basis of informed consent legislation in Germany and America which has been so successful in bringing down the numbers of women having their pregnancies terminated.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Dorries seemed to think that a website and a publicity campaign, getting newspaper-headlines, would be enough to secure victory. In all my experience, I have never known such a badly run campaign and – above all – one in which the MPs presenting Bills/Amendments did not closely consult their Parliamentary colleagues, showing them the basic respect they are due.

She seemed satisfied to gain the support of Frank Field, the Labour MP, who is profoundly pro-abortion. I well remember the manner in which he whipped Labour colleagues to vote against the Corrie Bill and from the moment I heard he was involved, I predicted that he would not be there when it came to the final scenario. In fact, I wish that I had placed a bet with William Hill: I could have made money for RTL!

One of the problems with Mrs. Dorries and the  Christian lobby group with which she was involved (and which shall remain nameless) is that they know nothing whatsoever about grass-roots lobbying, in which I have gained 40 years' experience. I understand very well how to get “bums on seats” at public meetings and how to get people to swamp MPs with letters on an issue. It is very hard work, and costly, and it takes time to organise. The fact that even the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group did not know until the very end that she had accepted their suggestions is an indication of the contempt she appears to have for colleagues, as well as (quite evidently) for mainstream Pro-Life groups.

The result was a total lack of any grass-roots lobby campaign as could be seen by the lack of mail MPs received from their constituents. And swamping MPs with individual, personal letters from their constituents is the most important factor in any political campaign! Most MPs take far more notice of letters from voters than they take notice of headlines. One MP who usually has shoals of letters and telephone calls told me on day before the debate that he had received one telephone call and two letters throughout the whole campaign.

During the time that we were trying to persuade Mrs. Dorries to accept some changes, supportive MPs begged Pro-Life colleagues (who had become extremely concerned) that nobody should publicly criticise her. Because of our respect for the parliamentarians involved, RTL made no public comment throughout the campaign – although we did tell our members and others not to write to their MPs urging them to support the amendment, due to its potential dangers.

The only time there was even the vaguest attempt to “consult” (as had been promised from the beginning) was when Mrs. Dorries’ office sent an e-mail to Jim Dobbin MP and to me one night (after my secretary and helpers had left the office). She asked if we could attend a meeting the next morning at around 9.30. We were told than an eminent lawyer whom I respect greatly (and who shall also remain nameless) would also attend. I had a chest infection which made it very difficult for me even to walk and I had to e-mail her to say that I could not attend. It was too late, even, to find somebody to represent me. In addition, it was after 22:30 that night when I finally got hold of Jim Dobbin. He had to attend a Select Committee meeting the next morning and it was impossible for him to go along.

Subsequently, I received an e-mail from Mrs. Dorries telling me that the lawyer-who-shall-remain-nameless considered her amendment would achieve all we wanted. I was thunderstruck, and when I contacted him he told me that he did not wish to become involved in ”squabbles”  between Pro-Life groups. I felt this was very sad, especially after the leading political groups had worked so hard to co-operate. However, he sent an e-mail to all of us listing the points he had made and from which it was clear to everybody that he certainly had not claimed the amendment achieved all we wanted.

A further attempt was made to negotiate with Mrs. Dorries, concentrating mainly on ensuring that the counselling work of LIFE and CARE would not be blocked. Finally, only a few days before the debate, she agreed to adopt the amended clause – by which time it was far too late to organise any kind of grass roots lobby urging MPs to back the amendment. But even that was not the final act in the drama.

Anybody watching the debate must have wondered what was happening to make MPs – looking for all the world like Epsom Racecourse Bookmakers  start to tick-tack each other. However, at one stage during her overlong speech (which allowed hardly any Pro-Life MP to speak) it appeared that Mrs. Dorries was going to introduce the original amendment which Pro-Life MPs had made clear they would not support. This was cleared up by colleagues around her – and a little more tick-tacking gave the “go-ahead” to Pro-Life MPs!

However, by that time a very high number of groups and MPs were more than a little tired of Mrs. Dorries. A considerable number of sympathetic MPs abstained from the vote and a number actually voted against her.

I personally can see no justification for them voting against her; the amendment simply sought to sever the links between money-making clinics (whether they describe themselves as charities or not) and counselling services. It certainly did not achieve what RTL had wanted, but it satisfied the needs of both LIFE and CARE. The empty gesture by SPUC writing to all MPs urging them to vote against the amendment was ludicrous, adding a farcical note to what was already a ridiculous scenario. It did nothing to help the situation and simply gave pro-abortion MPs grounds for ridiculing the lobby. It certainly did not influence any true Pro-Lifer.

However, not only did the whole Dorries campaign dismay her parliamentary colleagues and Pro-Life groups, it also gave Andrew Lansley (the Health Secretary) the opportunity to introduce to the Conservative Party  whipping by the back door on a Pro-Life issue. In a letter to all Conservative MPs, Ann Milton (Mr Lansley’s junior minister) made it clear that the Department of Health was opposed to Mrs. Dorries’s amendment. In comparison, previous Conservative Government Ministers have explained reasons why the Department of Health might be concerned about amendments: they have never before expressed opposition as Department policy. Surely, Department policy means Government policy. Moreover, we have heard from a number of MPs that some of the Conservative Whips used the letter in seeking to persuade them to vote against the Dorries amendment.

To my mind, this can only be described as a hole-in-the-corner method of back-door whipping.  It hardly reflects the previous integrity of the Party on the issue. For over forty years, the Conservative Party has maintained a proud tradition – protecting a free conscience vote on all votes to do with Life issues. Thankfully, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Liam Fox MP (the Defence Secretary) and Stewart Jackson MP both issued statements making it public that they had no intention of following Mrs. Milton. Other Government Ministers, such as John Hayes and Alistair Burt, stood with them.

However, we need to go back in history when discussing Mr. Lansley.

Before the General Election, Right To Life (with CARE and LIFE) sent a joint letter to David Cameron (then Opposition Leader) expressing our concern about the manner in which Mr. Lansley was abusing his position as Shadow Health Minister, in promoting abortion on demand and calling for a change in the law to allow abortion on the agreement of only one doctor (instead of two as at present).  We reminded Mr. Cameron that previous Conservative Governments had always held a neutral position on abortion amendments.

In his reply, he defended Andrew Lansley on the grounds that the Conservative party always maintained a free vote on Life issues and assuring us that the party had most certainly not changed its position: Mr Lansley – he told us – was as much entitled to exercise his right of conscience as was any Conservative MP. We accepted that.

However, Anne Milton’s letter to all Conservative MPs changed the situation radically. It  made clear that the Department of Health was opposed to Mrs. Dorries’s amendment.

In comparison, previous Conservative Government Ministers have explained reasons why the Department of Health might be concerned about amendments: they have never before expressed opposition as Department policy – and, surely Department policy means government policy. Moreover, we have been told by a number of MPs that some of the Tory Whips used the letter in seeking to persuade them to vote against Dorries. It was a “first-time” for Tory Whips and hardly reflects the previous integrity of the Party on the issue.

The only time in the past that a Conservative Government whipped on an abortion amendment was in 1990. A group of Labour MPs sought to introduce an amendment to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill (now Act) to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.  Consequently, the Northern Ireland MPs of all parties asked for a joint meeting with Lady (then Mrs.) Thatcher when they stressed that all the political groups, the churches and a huge majority of the people in Northern Ireland, were opposed to the current abortion law. They urged that it should be left to the people of the Province to decide whether they wanted to change the law or not.

Lady Thatcher said it was the first occasion on which she had known the NI Parties to unite on any issue. Consequently, out of deference to the democratic rights of the people of the Province, the Government adopted an official policy opposing the Labour amendment and Conservative MPs were whipped. However, it was perfectly straightforward; unlike the back-door whipping we saw on the Dorries amendment.

Margaret Thatcher was never my “bowl of goulash”, if you understand what I mean! Moreover, she certainly was not sympathetic to the pro-life cause. She voted for the Abortion Act in 1967 and subsequently always supported it. However, to be just, she had a great respect for the conscience vote of her MPs – and never allowed any Ministers or their officers to conduct themselves as we saw on the Dorries campaign. In addition, although she was straightforward about her views, at no time did she ever seek to influence her MPs by announcing how she would vote on an amendment. (As a footnote, I would add that in her memoirs and in speaking publicly, Lady Thatcher has said that she considers she made a tragic mistake in supporting liberal abortion.)

The Conservative Party conscience vote on life issues continued to be protected throughout the Leadership of John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and, even, Michael Howard. It is tragic that Mr. Cameron seems to be changing the party tradition. It is essential that people write to him expressing concern about the Conservative Conscience vote on Life issues. That we must seek to protect at all costs.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Demos's Report – not worth the paper it is printed on...

When Demos decided to provide accommodation and servicing to the Falconer ‘Commission’ on Assisted Dying, the Reverend George Pitcher, then the Daily Telegraph Religious Editor, wrote:
“Demos and its newly appointed Director, Kitty Ussher (a former MP) should be ashamed of themselves. Demos established over a decade a fine reputation for non-partisan analysis and discourse. That it has been co-opted by this shallow attempt to suggest that Falconer’s ‘Commission’ somehow bears the integrity of the House of Lords is not only shameful, but cheap and rather nasty.”
However, even more “cheap and nasty is the latest Demos effort – a Report entitled The Truth About Suicide. It sets out to present itself as an academic exercise to unearth evidence to help in the development of strategies for “suicide prevention”. In fact, it early shows itself to be what most commonsensical people would describe as a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink document, part of a concerted campaign to try to make British society believe that euthanasia/suicide is here and should be recognised as a  legitimate option.

Demos does not of course dirty its fingers by using terms such as “legitimate options” – but the first two sentences of its Conclusions tell us almost everything we need to know:
“This report has presented new evidence, collected from coroners and primary care trusts (PCTs), that at least 10 per cent of suicides that take place in England involve people with either a chronic or terminal illness. It is likely that this figure may be a significant underestimate, as we also found anecdotal evidence that some coroners currently choose not to include relevant health information within their inquest records, which are frequently the main input to PCTs’ suicide audits.”
When I first received the The Truth About Suicide I e-mailed it directly to a close personal friend, Alison Davis, and her carer, Colin Harte. Alison has spina bifida and is wheelchair-bound as well as being doubly incontinent. In fact, she is just the kind of person who the euthanasia lobby likes to present as wanting nothing more than death. Alison knows from personal experience how people will presume that because she has so many disabilities she would prefer to do without treatment. In fact, Alison is a great pro-life fighter and is national co-ordinator of  “No Less Human”, a national group of people with disabilities and their families and carers. When Alison and Colin read the document he e-mailed me to say that all one needs to read is the opening paragraph of the Conclusions which I have quoted above. As soon as I read the words I knew that we could expect every euthanasia lobby group to use exactly the same sentiments to open their press releases echoing their support for the Demos Report.

Indeed, just  as we could all have predicted, on the very day of publication of the Demos Report, Dignity in Dying (DiD) issued a press release – showing they had received the Report  well in advance of we lesser mortals who received it on the day of publication. The DiD press release had the heading: “One Suicide A Day Due to Chronic Illness”. What more could they want, I ask you, particularly as it was DiD which set up the the Commission on Assisted Dying, Chaired by their dear friend, Lord Falconer, and housed by Demos! The DiD press release continued:
“At least 10 per cent of suicides in Britain are linked to terminal or chronic illness and account for over 400 deaths each year... A study published by Demos reveals that in many cases people decided to end their own lives due to physical rather than mental illness. The report, The Truth About Suicide, also found that some people are killing themselves at ‘a younger age in order to avoid severe symptoms and greater pain in later life’... The report found that in 4,390 suicide cases last year, 10 per cent concerned people ‘experiencing some form of serious physical illness as an influencing factor’.
The significance of the claims is that they have formed the basis of the persistent DiD campaign over the last few years seeking to justify changes to the laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, Parliament has done its homework and has persistently rejected – by a substantial majority – all attempts to change the law. They recognise how dangerous it would be for the disabled, the elderly and the fragile – quite apart from turning doctors into killers rather than curers.

It is, of course, not surprising that some people who are very ill will commit suicide – particularly when they have just learned of the illness, as the Demos Report admits. Given time, they come to terms with the situation and the majority change their minds. But before then, they are at their most vulnerable and at the greatest danger of being open to pressure or manipulation. Moreover, there is no telling whether those who committed suicide had done so because of their illness, because they were depressed, because they had been abandoned at their time of need, or for any number of other possible reasons.

Earlier this year, when combatting the campaign waged by BBC personnel using programmes to promote the legalisation of euthanasia, SCOPE – the leading disability rights charity representing people with cerebral palsy – carried out a survey among disabled people to obtain their reactions to the euthanasia campaign. The SCOPE poll found that 70% of disabled people were concerned that a Reform of the law on assisted suicide would create pressure on vulnerable patients to “end their lives prematurely”. They also found that 3% of the 500 disabled people questioned in the ComRes Poll feared that they would personally come under pressure to commit suicide if the law were changed. Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of SCOPE said:
“… while high profile lawyers, doctors and celebrities such as Terry Pratchett and Patrick Stewart grab the headlines, the views of the thousands of ordinary disabled people, who could be affected by this issue are rarely listened to.”
It is interesting that when the BBC carried a series of programmes promoting euthanasia for patients with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), I telephoned a programme research team to ask would they be interested in interviewing Pam Vack an RTL member suffering from MND. The researcher immediately snapped at me: “Is she a Catholic?“ It so happens that Pam is not a Catholic.  In any case, I asked what had her religion to do with it, adding: “Aren’t Catholics permitted to express an opinion on BBC.” I was adamant about leaving Pam’s details (including contact numbers), but neither she nor RTL heard anything more. We all need to remember that “ordinary disabled people are rarely listened to” because they are rarely given the opportunity to be listened to by the BBC and other media outlets following their example. SCOPE however is not the only group of major importance to disagree with Demos on the credibility of the Falconer Commission on Assisted Dying.

Virtually every disability human rights group in the country is opposed to the legalisation of euthanasia: they recognise the dangers, and they have checked and know what has happened in Holland, Oregon and other countries and areas where euthanasia is legal. All have refused to give any credibility to the Commission by submitting evidence (in comparison with Demos which not surprisingly is submitting its report, The Truth About Suicide). In addition, the BMA and almost every professional medical body have refused to submit evidence to the Commission on the grounds that it completely lacked any balance. In June, the BMA annual conference passed a Motion with a substantial majority condemning the Commission as biased. The Motion supported the decision of the BMA Ethics Committee in refusing to give evidence to the Commission as did a number of other medical organisations.  However, Britain’s major euthanasia lobby organisation, the BBC, failed to cover the BMA Motion on any radio or television programme – despite the previous very extensive coverage it had given supporting Lord Falconer’s much discredited Commission. It seems pretty pathetic that the Commission has been reduced to seeking credibility by obtaining a Report from the group housing them, Demos.

It must be noted that a number of professional bodies – including the World Health Organisation (WHO) – have persistently called on the media to take particular care in the manner in which they depict suicide. Preventing Suicide, A Resource for Media Professionals, the WHO guidelines (published in 2000) warned that people who may be disturbed, depressed or vulnerable can be influenced into taking their lives by the way in which suicide is portrayed in the media. The Report states:
Suicide is perhaps the most tragic way of ending one’s life. The majority of people who consider suicide are ambivalent. They are not sure that they want to die. One of the many factors that may lead a vulnerable individual to suicide could be publicity about suicides in the media. How the media report on suicide cases can influence other suicides.
In its programmes, the BBC has breached every rule put forward by the World Health Organisation. WHO guidelines warn against publicising suicide stories where celebrities are involved, explaining the methods used, showing pictures of the dead, and the scene of the suicide, as well as presenting suicide as a simplistic and acceptable act. In particular, the guidelines refer to the way in which television can influence suicidal behaviour and refer to a study showing an increase in suicides up to 10 days after coverage of suicides in news programmes.For years RTL, with many MPs (led by Jim Dobbin and, in previous parliaments, by the “two Anns” – Widdecombe and Winterton), have been fighting the BBC pro-euthanasia bias – and at last we seem to have made some headway in the fact that BBC did not give the Demos Report the publicity they could have expected only a short time ago. Moreover, where the BBC goes – others automatically follow and it is interesting that in this case, we have not seen (or heard) any coverage gained by the press releases from either Demos or DiD in any other media outlet or newspaper. The only actual publicity I have seen was an article in the Guardian by Louise Bazalgette, the leading researcher and author of the Demos report.

Having failed to gain any credibility through the professional medical bodies, the Commission and DiD have also been reduced to having to rely upon individual friends in the medical and associated professions. The latest “expert” to hit the headlines was Mr Martin Green, a dementia expert for the Department of Health,  who claimed that patients “who were too frail to take their own lives were being denied ‘choice’ and ‘autonomy’ because assisted suicide is illegal in the UK.” It will be no surprise to anybody to learn that Mr Green was one of the individuals who have already given evidence to Lord Falconer’s Commission. In an interview arranged with Tim Ross, Social Affairs Editor of the Daily Telegraph (28 Aug 2011), Mr Green urged ministers to review the law and suggested that a referendum or a free vote in Parliament should be called to settle policy on the issue. Mr Green, the chief executive of the English Community Care Association, which represents nursing and care home groups, is one of the government’s three national dementia “champions” and has been advising them since 2009.

DEMOS have claimed throughout, that their Report aimed to help in the development of strategies for “suicide prevention”. Yet, remarkably, nowhere in the document do they so much as hint at seeking to find whether there was or not any increase of suicides following a television programme on the subject. Heaven knows, the BBC has given them ample opportunities. This to my mind, makes the DEMOS Report pretty vacuous, hardly worth the bother of reading.

In calling for ministers to review the law and suggesting a free vote in Parliament Mr Green had the gall to totally ignore the history of events in Parliament – which typifies the whole tactic of DiD and people like Lord Falconer who persistently carry on their campaign pretending that the issue has not been settled. Although Mr Green is perfectly entitled to his pro-assisted suicide views, as a Government adviser he is surely not entitled to ignore parliamentary debate and decisions in promoting his own publicity-seeking agenda. In a memorandum, Lord Alton of Liverpool (David Alton) reminds us that in his statements Mr Green:
“... ignores two House of Lords Select Committee Inquiries into assisted dying, along with two free votes: presumably because they reached a conclusion with which he disagrees. On the last occasion, the inquiry covered some 246 Hansard columns and two volumes of 744 pages and 116 pages respectively, 15 oral sessions, 48 groups or individuals giving evidence, with 88 witnesses giving written evidence, 2,460 questions asked and the committee receiving 14,000 letters. After consideration of all the issues raised, as on the previous occasion, proposals to change the law were rejected by a wide margin. When the last vote took place in the House of Commons on a free vote the proposal was defeated by 91 votes to 236. In November last year the Scottish Parliament reached the same conclusion defeating Margo Macdonald’s attempt to legalise assisted suicide by a huge majority 85 to 16 votes.
Lord Alton has been joined by Lord Carlile of Berriew in challenging the Spokesperson for Health in the Lords as to whether “Mr Green’s view represents the Government’s position and whether there are any Departmental advisors who reflect Parliament’s view – one which is shared by the BMA, the hospice movement, disability rights groups and most of the Royal Colleges.” They asked: Perhaps you would be good enough to let us know who they are and whether they will also be issuing statements to the media.”

Personally speaking, I think that Mr Green should be removed from his office as a Government adviser. As I said earlier, he is perfectly entitled to his personal opinions on all issues. In totally ignoring parliament to gain publicity, however, he has very blatantly abused his position. Moreover, as “a very caring person” concerned for people’s rights, he has to my mind a frightening idea of “care”. In the Daily Telegraph, he admits it would be impossible to police any law no matter how carefully drafted to prevent abuses – the very thing that disabled people are most frightened of. He says:
“… even with safeguards that seek to ensure patients remain genuinely committed to their decisions, it would be impossible to eliminate the danger of abuse entirely… It might be a small minority but you will never ever be able to eliminate risk and you should never pretend you can”.
In the Netherlands in 2005, 500 patients (0.4% of all deaths) were given a lethal injection without request (End‐of‐Life Practices in the Netherlands Under the Euthanasia ActAgnes van der Heide et al, New England Journal of Medicine 356, pgs. 1957, 1961 Table 1 [2007]).

However, don’t be led away imagining that the Demos Report and Mr Green’s published thoughts on the ‘right to die’ is the last we will hear from the euthanasia lobby before the publication of the Report from Lord Falconer and his Commission. That, I understand, will not be until nearing the end of the year. Before then, you can bet your shirt on publicly staged suicides and statements from individuals calling for “freedom of choice” being well-publicised at regular intervals. You can also bet your shirt on the euthanasia lobby stories ignoring the evidence, and behaving as though most of us were complete idiots who cannot see through their tactics.

So, its up to you to make sure that your MP and any other parliamentarians with whom you are in touch, or other friends are made aware of what they are up to. You can also ensure that they are given the facts and receive at least one copy of the Right To Life leaflet Facts on Euthanasia that “Dignity in Dying” Will Not Disclose To YouThe leaflets can be obtained from Right To Life, PO Box 26264, London W3 9WF. Telephone 020 8992 7657. E-mail:

Monday, 1 August 2011

"A Gigantic Slaughterhouse ..."

Two giants bestriding the scientific world stand out in my memories of the 80s and 90s when we were fighting the legalisation of the use of the human embryo as a guinea pig. They are the late Professors Jérôme Lejeune and Erwin Chargaff. How right their predictions were on the brutalisation of society’s attitudes towards the tiniest human (the human embryo) can be seen from the data published as a result of Parliamentary Questions tabled by Lord David Alton (see pg. 131) in the Lords before the summer recess.

The replies show that since 1991 when the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act came into force, 3,144,386 embryos have been created in UK laboratories. A total of 1,455,832 embryos were discarded in the course of treatment. 101,605 were given for research in destructive experiments. 764,311 were frozen for later use. And I am quite sure that is only the tip of the iceberg.

So far as the creation and destruction of human embryos are concerned, any that are deemed to be under par in anyway are simply thrown away without being recorded. During the same period from 1991 to 2010 only 94,090 embryos have been successfully implanted into women resulting in live births, demonstrating that at least 32 embryos are created for every one live baby born. The answers also exposed that 155 ‘admixed’ embryos (animal/human) have been produced, in the last three years since the 2008 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act came into force. This legalised the creation of a variety of hybrids, including an animal egg fertilised by a human sperm; ‘cybrids’, in which a human nucleus is implanted into an animal cell; and ‘chimeras’, in which human cells are mixed with animal embryos. The story made front page banner headlines in the Daily Mail – but it was no surprise to pro-lifers – like David Alton  who fought against both the 1990 and 2007 Acts when they were debated in Parliament. As long ago as 1987, it was predicted by the Scientific Advisory Committee to the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (APPPLG).

Professor Erwin Chargaff, an Austrian Jew who escaped the Nazi tyranny, predicted what would happen if we adopted the recommendations of the Warnock Committee on Human Fertilisation & Embryology... using words which make the headline for this blog. Chargaff was described in the Guardian’s obituary as “one of the giants of the world of biochemistry”. He was without doubt one of the foremost scientists of the twentieth century. I first heard of him when I received a telephone call from Professor Jérôme Lejeune from Paris stressing I should contact him. Jérôme Lejeune had first gained international fame in 1958 when he discovered that the Trisomy 21 genetic defect was responsible for Down’s syndrome, the first-ever genetic disease to be identified. He went on to make many further discoveries. He also was a world name – and I am proud to say that I had known him for many years.

When in the ‘eighties we formed the Scientific Advisory Committee to the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group he was one of the first people we invited and he accepted without hesitation. Their first task was to combat the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Report (1984), in reality a pathetic document which abounded in baseless claims and promises – but held overwhelming influence. Professor Lejeune had telephoned to tell me of a paper he had just read by Erwin Chargaff which completely opposed the use of IVF and the use of the human embryo as a  guinea pig. “You must ask him to join us”, I was told, “I regard him as one of the greatest biochemists ever. They cannot ignore him”. 

“They”, of course, were the public and international politicians. Chargaff was best known for his work in genetics, involving research into the chemical composition of DNA. His discoveries provided the groundwork for the greatest discovery of 20th-century biology – formulating the model of DNA, showing how genetic inheritance could pass from one generation to the next. It was for this that Francis Crick and James Watson won the Nobel Prize.

To this day, there is considerable controversy as to why Chargaff  was not included in the award (a fact noted in the Guardian obituary). In just the same way, Lejeune – often described as the “father of genetics” – was also denied the Nobel Prize. However, both men were far too open about the brutality developing in science and medicine and the arrogance of many scientists ever to have been considered by the Nobel Prize Committee. From the 1950s onwards, Chargaff had become increasingly outspoken about the manner in which molecular biology was running riot and doing things that could never be justified.

He believed that it was dangerous when “humans believe that the world is a machine, even assuming that humans can have full knowledge of its workings”. He warned that “the technology of genetic engineering poses a greater threat to the world than the advent of nuclear technology. An irreversible attack on the biosphere is something so unheard of, so unthinkable to previous generations, that I only wish that mine had not been guilty of it”. Lejeune’s views were also completely opposed  to the scientific elite of the day. Many of his dearest and closest friends were among his Down’s Syndrome patients and their families. The idea that abortion provided an answer to Down’s Syndrome was anathema to him as was the idea of using human embryos as guinea pigs to find a treatment.

At the time we first contacted him, Erwin Chargaff was Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at Columbia University and I was able to track down his telephone number in New York. He was then in his early ‘eighties and had just recovered from a serious illness. He would do anything to help us he told me but in coming to London he needed his wife to come with him as he was still too weak after his illness to travel alone. I will always remember his words: “I have seen it all before, my dear”. He and his wife, Vera, were small physically. Yet, they struck us all as giants in their determination to defend the human embryo. He was an Austrian Jew and had emigrated from his homeland to America at the onset of the Nazi era. His work in biochemistry won him many international awards, including the Pasteur Medal (1949) and the National Medal of Science (1974).

For all their achievements both Chargaff and Lejeune were men of great humility. Professor Lejeune was a devout Catholic – but I have no idea about the beliefs of Professor Chargaff: I know he was of Jewish origin but whether he practiced or came to any other faith I cannot say. However, I do know that both men stood in awe of the wonder of human life which they regarded as a great mystery. They also regarded embryos as much their brothers and sisters as the rest of us. The fact that the embryo was so tiny inspired greater awe in them rather than diminishing their respect and care. That the embryonic Einstein (no bigger than a dot) contained every attribute  necessary to make his achievements they both found overwhelming.

In comparison, when Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize for describing DNA one would have thought they were responsible for its creation rather than unraveling part of  a great mystery. Another Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Robert G. Edwards, the doctor who developed the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) technique, was equally arrogant as well as being very crude. Rather than evolving the technology to enable the sperm to fertilise an ovum outside the body he behaved as though he had actually created and invented life itself. Like Crick and Watson, he made it clear he could see nothing wrong in pouring embryos down the sink, aborting babies on whatever ground  and if there might be anything wrong with them  well, get rid of them and start again. In developing the procedure he practiced using his own sperm to fertilise ova and then poured the products away.

The Scientific Advisory Committee to the APPPLG were convinced that the prestigious journal, Nature, would not ignore a paper on the possible dangers and consequences of IVF and the use of the human embryo as a guinea pig, written by Erwin Chargaff. They were right. His paper, Engineering a Molecular Nightmare, was published May 21st, 1987. We used it very widely and every MP received a copy of a booklet published by the APPPLG, Upholding Human Dignity: Ethical Alternatives to Human Embryo Research to which the three contributors were Professor Lejeune, Professor Chargaff and Dr. John McLean (an English doctor of standing).

Professor Chargaff’s contribution was the reproduction of his paper from Nature  a quite deliberate act, planned from the beginning. It meant that the crude elements dominating the lobby wanting the human embryo as a guinea pig, could not, in effect, attack a journal of such eminence. Otherwise, there is no doubt that they would have been abused in every possible measure – regardless of what Lejeune and Chargaff had achieved throughout their lives. Nonetheless, they were ignored by a majority in Parliament who listened instead to the buffooneries of Robert Edwards, and the late Professor Ann McLaren who invented the term “pre-embryo” to bamboozle the public into believing that up to fourteen days the human embryo could not qualify as a member of the human family.

In his paper, Chargaff pointed out that the giant strides science had made in modern times were “composed of an infinity of tiny steps”. He expressed concern regarding unknown consequences of the process of  in-vitro fertilisation on the embryo: “In the normal conception the female egg is confronted with a very large number of viable spermatozoa”, he wrote. “FertilisatIon could then appear as a purely random event, or, alternatively, it could be looked upon as a process in which the egg selects the sperm cell with which to fuse. This is not a metaphysical quibble, though it may be an as yet unanswerable question...”

Whether it is an unanswerable question we have no idea. The powers that be have never bothered to do any long-term investigations. Although we know that the incidence of disability is higher in IVF babies, no research has ever been conducted to find out what other consequences there might be: it could be generations before we find out anything. “Helping a few couples condemned to childlessness towards getting a child may strike the obstetrical cytologist as such a laudable step”, he wrote, “but we can see the beginning of human husbandry, of industrial breeding factories.  ... Who can deny the scientific interest attaching to the production of chimaeras, to the study of human embryonic growth in an animal uterus? ... What I see coming is a gigantic slaughterhouse, a molecular Auschwitz, in which valuable enzymes, hormones and so on will be extracted instead of gold teeth.”

However, as the very reason the scientific world wanted to get its hands on embryonic human beings was to cannibalise them, their claims as to the miracle cures they would perform became more and more extravagant in order to blind the public. Newspapers and politicians lapped up their stories without ever checking the facts. Even today, the scientists involved in embryo production make exactly the same promises: their work will find cures for the incurable. Yet, in the last 23 years, the relentless and destructive experiments on human embryos have produced not one treatment or cure of any disease. Neither has the equally destructive work in producing human embryos for stem cells. There have been around 75 treatments developed as a result of stem cell work.

In every case – without exception – real progress has been achieved through the use of adult stem cells;  stem cells developed from adult skin or other  tissue or from umbilical cord blood – all of which can be done without any controversy or any form of abusive treatment of human life. The latest revelations have come almost at exactly the same time as a committee of scientists warned of “a nightmare ‘Planet of the Apes’ scenario”, in which work on human-animal creations goes too far.

Last year, more than one million experiments were carried out on genetically modified animals – mostly mice and fish carrying human DNA. As a result, the Academy of Medical Scientists set up a review to examine the growing number of any such experiments in which scientists add human genes or tissue to animals. Their Report called for a new body of experts within the Home Office to monitor the experiments. The Report’s co-author is Professor Martin Bobrow, a medical geneticist at Cambridge University, who said: “Society needs to set rules before scientists begin experiments that the public would find unacceptable. We are trying to get this out in the open before anything has happened. Martin Bobrow has served for many years on various committees of the Medical Research Council and from the late ‘eighties was certainly among those who opposed Lejeune and Chargaff. He opposed all their attempts to prevent scientists from using the human embryo as a guinea pig. He is quite definitely in the liberal camp. For him to call “Halt! – I find somewhat frightening, and cannot help wondering just what has alerted him and his friends on the Academy of Medical Scientists.

Moreover, the statement in their report that most of the experiments raise no ethical or legal concerns reminds me somewhat of George Bernard Shaw’s quotation: “The one thing you learn from experience is that you do not learn from experience.” However, so far as the pro-life movement is concerned we should rather keep in mind Abraham Lincoln’s summary:  “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time – but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. Today, each of us has a duty. We have to collect the evidence David Alton has given us through his parliamentary questions. We have to present it to our MPs  and we have to deliberately present any further evidence to them. We also have to bring to their attention the warnings from Professor Bobrow and his committee of liberals.

We know that we will not convince everybody – but in the ultimate we should at least try to convince a majority of  our MPs if only on the grounds of  the millions of pounds being wasted on so-called research in the present economic climate. Perhaps respect for human life will come later and bring with it love for our embryonic brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Just How Big A Discrepancy Is There In The “Official Figures” For Complications Following Abortion...?

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Marie Stopes International are not the only groups in this country who seem to ignore the facts regarding possible sequelae following abortion. The Department of Health and the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists are even worse, considering they have a duty to protect the health of the nation including women.

Nonetheless, it is not all bad news – as we can see from the Abortion Statistics for 2010. Thankfully, these indicate that an increasing number of young gynaecologists continue to refuse to perform abortions. This is very encouraging.

It began at around the Millennium when the Young Doctors Division of the BMA revolted. They were led by a young atheist and they put forward a Motion at the BMA Annual Conference requiring that hospitals should respect the conscience clause in the Abortion Act. The common situation at that time was that consultant gynaecologists would agree to abortions virtually on demand – and then require their juniors to carry out the operations! Our young atheist doctor had witnessed all too often the pressure brought to bear on colleagues with a conscientious objection to abortions being forced to do them; if they refused their careers in obstetrics and gynaecology ended.

However, the Motion at the BMA Annual Conference was passed with a huge majority. As a result, BMA officers who were anything but pro-life were compelled to demand that the Department of Health (DoH) should circulate all NHS hospitals telling them that they had to implement the conscience clause in the Abortion Act. Consultants either had to carry out the abortions themselves or make alternative arrangements.

This resulted in NHS-funded abortions being carried out in the private sector (or Independent Sector as classified by the DoH). It was followed by a gradual increase of young men and women entering obstetrics and gynaecology who had a conscientious objection to abortion. It also led to an increase in NHS-funded abortions being carried out by the BPAS and Marie Stopes Clinics. In the year 2000, only 29% of NHS abortions were done in Independent Clinics. By 2005, this had increased to 44% and in 2010, it had gone up to 59%. Only 37% were being done in NHS hospitals.

Tragically, this is not good news for the unborn baby: s/he can still be killed on demand. However, it is otherwise good news in that gradually we have very much more caring doctors serving our women and their babies. Muslim women – I am glad to say – are far more forthright in demanding to be cared for by a doctor of their own faith or by a Christian. The ones who are very slow in coming forward are the Christians. We should do everything we can to encourage Christian women (and others who are pro-life) to demand that they and their babies should be cared for by doctors who do not do abortions. This is possible under NHS Patients’ Rights.

Come to that, I know a considerable number of agnostic women who would not want to be manhandled by some gynaecologist who has just killed a few infants – albeit that they were unborn. You don’t have to be a believer to object.

Moreover, it is not all that easy for Marie Stopes and BPAS to hire doctors to operate their surgical programmes. That is why they are so keen on medical abortions such as RU486.

Marie Stopes’ witnesses actually had the nerve to complain to one Parliamentary Select Committee about the refusal of young doctors to do abortions and the problems it created. It also explains the drive at European and world-level to get Motions passed denying the right of nurses and doctors to conscientious objections in being involved in abortions.

One can also see quite clearly why we are faced with the drive to have abortions carried out in General Practitioners’ surgeries on the approval of only one doctor. And they are not sticking at doctors being in charge. They are playing safe and trying to get the law changed so that nurses can carry out the medical abortion procedure.

The claim that they are doing this for the sake of speed and the care of women is utter bunkum. Even the inadequate figures provided in the NHS abortion statistics show that medical abortions are more dangerous than surgical abortions. The NHS claims that total complications from abortions in 2010 amounted to 287 with 122 from surgical abortions and 165 from medical abortions. This, despite the fact, that only 43% (81,512) are medical procedures  as compared with 57% (108,062) of surgical cases.

Moreover, this is by no means the least of the DoH sins against women. In “Abortion Statistics for 2010”, at the bottom of the page showing complication rates by procedure and gestation, there is a footnote telling us “complications include: haemorrhage, uterine perforation and/or sepsis and are those reported up to the time of discharge from the place of termination”.

This is ludicrous. To my mind it amounts to criminal negligence in view of the fact that an increasing number of patients are discharged on the day of termination and a majority of others remain in the hospital/clinic for only two or three days at the most.

The Abortion Act requires notification forms (which includes complications) to be returned within seven days of the abortion taking place. However, when the law first came into force patients stayed in hospital for at least two or three days. Even then, responsible gynaecologists thought this was far too short a period to allow for the discovery of complications.

Quite often infections are not evident for days or even a week or more after termination; haemorrhages may not occur until a week or so (one doctor told me that a patient was admitted to his hospital haemorrhaging a full month after she had been aborted in a “charity clinic”).  Only last week, a woman contacted me saying that she was finally admitted to hospital for corrective surgery six months after her abortion in an “independent place” and, again, two months later for a further minor procedure.

Uterine perforation may consist of only a tiny “track” (like a “pin prick”) which does not become evident for some time – and may not be discovered until the woman’s womb ruptures during a further pregnancy. This also applies to weakening of the cervix which may not become evident until in a further pregnancy it is found that the neck of the womb is unable to contain the pregnancy to full term.

Furthermore, although all hospitals are supposed to check for Chlamydia in abortion patients, only 84% report having “offered” it to patients. The spread of Chlamydia in the body caused by abortion can result in horrendous complications leaving a woman infertile and suffering intense pain at periods throughout her life unless she has a complete hysterectomy. (I have known personally several women who were so afflicted. One of the girls to whom I was very close had started on a series of affairs following sexual abuse by her father from the age of 7).

When I look at the so-called number of complications following abortions I cannot help but recall that when the House of Lords Select Committee on the Assisted Dying For the Terminally Ill Bill visited Oregon they were informed repeatedly by medical witnesses that with more than 200 assisted suicide deaths there had been no complications. Professor The Lord McColl of Dulwich (Professor of Surgery, Guy’s Hospital, London) commented that if any surgeon or physician had said he did 200 procedures without any complications he would know there was something amiss.

“We come here and I am told there are no complications. There is something strange going on here.” [House of Lord Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill {HL}.Volume II: Evidence. Apr 4, 2005. p.334, Q.956.]

Looking at the DoH Abortion Statistics for 2010 the figures show a total of 287 complications from 189,574 abortions. That makes one complication for every 660 procedures, well over three times the number queried by Professor Lord McColl.

I reckon there is something even stranger going on in our neck of the woods, with the DoH and the rest of the pro-abortion lobby. However, it is no good us thinking that we will leave the protesting to the women who have suffered. Every one of us can do something. At the least we should protest to our MPs (and in letters to newspapers) about the total lack of care shown by the DoH in reporting only complications resulting from abortion up to the time of discharge from the place of termination. And I think we can also safely query – without looking foolish  just how many complications are overlooked at the time of discharge!

As I have already said, it is criminal negligence. No wonder they can claim such a low rate of complications.