This article appears in the May 2006 edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly
The "Alive and Kicking" Campaign
These are very difficult times for God's little ones. The fragile elderly, the terminally ill, the disabled, all those living on the margins of our materialistic society, far from being cherished, are instead often under threat. The quest for physical perfection acknowledges few boundaries; increasingly the weak or vulnerable are cast aside in the process. In such a context it is hardly surprising that the unborn child, helpless and tiny, has become the most marginalised of all God's creatures, with too few voices raised in his or her defence. We are more likely nowadays to hear emotional rhetoric about the rights of animals than in opposition to the abortion of our fellow humans developing in the womb.
Since the law was passed in 1967, abortion numbers in the UK have tripled and continue to rise. The recorded total so far is over 6.2 million, a number that is almost impossible to comprehend. There are no memorials to any of the victims; most of them are unknown, recorded as quick ticks on abortion referral papers. But 6.2 million is a horrifying figure which cannot be ignored; it equals 10% of our current population, and is 5 times higher than the UK casualties of two World Wars. And every single day another 600 lives are aborted. If we look at abortion worldwide, there is no disease, no natural or man-made disaster which could ever result in such colossal loss of life.
It has been confirmed by opinion polls, that both the public and Parliament are unhappy with the high number of abortions in the UK; the majority would be pleased to see attempts to reduce these figures. This is the initial objective of `Alive & Kicking': to respond to the new compassionate mood in the nation and to try in the first instance to halve the yearly total of 200,000 abortions.
This is why a number of concerned groups, including the Guild of Catholic Doctors, have come together to form `Alive & Kicking', a campaign in defence of the unborn child. This is, we believe, is the first time that a formal alliance of this kind has been set up to address the big ethical issues surrounding abortion; we hope that many more groups and individual members will sign up to this campaign.
As part of this campaign to reduce the annual numbers, it will support initiatives aimed at a substantial reduction in the current abortion time limit of 24 weeks. This, in itself, would save many lives but is only one aspect of the campaign. One of its purposes, for example, is for the existing abortion law to be applied more rigorously, ensuring that abortions for social reasons are not permitted. Evidence suggests that abortion is currently on demand rather than respecting strict protocols, as was originally promised. If the developing baby is to have any protection at all in the womb it is vital that the law, unjust as it may be, is at least applied properly. The important role of doctors must be maintained. It was originally intended to provide protection both for the woman and the baby, and not as a pro forma gesture, as is the present practice.
It is also campaigning for women to have the right to know about the medical and psychological risks of abortion. Women deserve to be made properly aware of the many alternatives to abortion provided by those working in pregnancy crisis care centres. It takes time to explore these alternatives carefully. A recommended cooling-off period after pregnancy should be established before an abortion is permitted.
The discriminatory nature of abortion for disability must also be addressed. It is a little known but shameful fact that a disabled baby can be aborted in the UK right up to the moment of birth.
The campaign believes there is an absolute moral duty to do everything possible to reduce the numbers. If only some lives are saved, then that must be done. The role of the Guild of Catholic Doctors and the Christian Medical Fellowship is crucial if it is to succeed in informing the nation of the grave consequences of abortion. Sadly, if not entirely surprisingly, the BMA indicated last year that it would not support a reduction in the time limit. It is vital that their spurious arguments are debunked; and that the public are made aware that there are doctors who do believe in protecting all human life, regardless of age or disability. Doctors' views in this area are extremely significant, so it is essential that the pro-life voice of the medical profession is heard.
The late Cardinal Basil Hume at the "LIFE" Annual Conference on 20 March 1999, articulated precisely the thinking behind this approach. He said, "But as a long-term strategy for the pro-life cause, it will surely be necessary, without compromising our ultimate aim, to engage in a dialogue with, and to co-operate with, others in seeking to change the law, even if all that can be achieved at first is a limited improvement. It may well be inevitable that, in this country, progress can only be made step by step."