Tuesday, 17 May 2011


My name is Phyllis Bowman, and in 1966 I became one of the founder members of the Pro-Life movement in the United Kingdom.

David Steel's Abortion Bill had already received its Second Reading with a huge majority – and the media then (as now) were backing it.

I was a Fleet-Street journalist and had many friends among the Medical Correspondents of the day.  Many of them came to a press conference I organised (11.1.’67) at my club (‘The Wig & Pen’) where I had three professors of obstetrics and gynaecology who were backing our "No" campaign.

They were Ian Donald, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Queen Mother Hospital Glasgow (see picture right). He became a world name through developing ultrasound and pioneering its use in medicine; Professor James Scott, who held the Chair in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Leeds University and John McClure Browne, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Hammersmith Hospital, London.

In addition we had Aleck Bourne FRCOG, who was almost a household name: some years before he had aborted a fourteen-year-old girl who had been raped by four Guards soldiers. When he had the girl admitted to Queen Charlotte’s Hospital (where he was a consultant) for the abortion, the police heard of it and went to the hospital to stop him.  (He told me that he was always convinced it was pro-abortion activists wanting to force a ‘cause célèbre’ who had deliberately “shopped” him.)

Aleck Bourne (who was only about two-saucepans high) was a man of great courage and integrity, whether one might agree with his action or not. When he heard that the police were at the hospital he rushed the girl into the operating theatre and carried out the abortion. He then went down to the police, waiting in reception, and gave himself up.

He was sent for trial and was ultimately acquitted as a result of the judge extending the law which allowed termination only in the case of a woman dying to assert that a patient who had been raped could well commit suicide. Many lawyers have always regarded this as quite a wrongful interpretation.

Be that as it may, the case was used as the basis for “case law”. A thriving business flourished in which any woman who had the money could get an abortion in a private clinic. David Steel, a Liberal MP, presented himself as a champion for the under-privileged. He claimed that he was fighting against “one law for the rich and another for the poor”. His campaign in demanding a complete change in the law, referred constantly to “the martyrdom of poor Aleck Bourne”.

Aleck Bourne, however, had become more and more horrified by the monster his case had unleashed. At our press conference he urged that the law needed tightening, making it unlawful for doctors and psychiatrists to receive private fees for recommending or carrying out an abortion; that would stop one law for the rich and another for the poor – thus preventing the practice of abortion on demand.

Not surprisingly, David Steel (who very evidently wanted to introduce abortion on demand) was horrified by his intervention and, of course, vehemently opposed his ideas. All references to Aleck Bourne as a martyr were dropped. Instead, we were attacked for dragging “such a frail old man” to speak at a press conference – the implication being that he was verging on senility!

Nonetheless, the press conference with Aleck Bourne won major headlines in the national and major regional newspapers. The journalists could see for themselves that he certainly was not senile. The prediction that the Steel Bill would be little more than a “license to print money for the shady end of the medical profession” was also highlighted throughout the country – and so began our fight back.

However, major figures in the Labour Government ensured that the Bill reached the Statute Book (to the point that some Labour MPs were virtually blackmailed into not standing against it, even though they might not vote for it).

Labour was not alone: leading Tories, such as Margaret Thatcher, also backed the Bill – although in fairness she ultimately admitted that she had made a dreadful mistake referring to the manner in which the law had been extended and now seemed to cover the whole of human life.

Since then I have fought unceasingly against the anti-life movement – which very soon showed that the majority of its leaders supported the legalisation of euthanasia and ultimately extended their aims to cover embryo research, including inter-species fertilisation. Today, we are fighting on all fronts… against abortion… euthanasia… embryo experimentation… family rights, including distorted sex education (which, when dire, causes more abortions to take place).

In 1999, a group of us founded Right To Life – because we felt a “lean machine” was needed which could react quickly on the political front.

I am starting the blog because we desperately need to shine a light on the issues of the day covering the right to life and the family. The Pro-Life movement in the UK was the first in the world – and we made many mistakes. However, we were learning as we went along. Today, I want to use my knowledge and over forty years’ experience (so far!) in avoiding mistakes and developing the movement on forceful and properly informed lines.

We need your help…