Report from first SPUC European conference

 More than 140 people from 22 countries attended the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children's first European conference in London at the weekend. Dr Jack Willke, president of the International Right to Life Federation, presented the organisation's highest award to Irish MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon, after she had addressed the conference on Saturday. Lord Brennan QC's talk was entitled: "The value of human life: principle, protection, persuasion". He said: "The duty to protect life is not simply the right to life but the concomitant duty to protect those rights which arise in consequence of living. Life in this context is literally from conception to grave." Lord Brennan, who is president of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, emphasised the role of Catholic teaching on human dignity. He quoted from the Second Vatican Council: " whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonour to the Creator." Mr Jonathan Evans, a Conservative MEP for Wales, said that the protection of human life was not just a political issue but a basic political responsibility. He said there was a determined campaign in the European Parliament to promote universal access to abortion as a form of human right. The proposed European Constitution could be used to strip away national parliaments' powers to retain national laws in protection of the unborn. There was also pressure to legalise euthanasia and most MEPs supported the creation of human clones to provide stem cells. Professor Richard Wilkins, professor of law at the J Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA, warned of the dangers of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights which was likely to form part of a European Constitution. The charter could increase the EU's regulatory reach and restrict member states' domestic decision making abilities, he said. In the USA power had moved from states to the federal government. Significant power could also be taken from elected bodies and given to judges. The charter's provisions could help litigants to establish judicially created rights to abortion and assisted suicide throughout the EU. John Smeaton, SPUC's national director, said the pro-life movement had to make European democracy work for the unborn and for all vulnerable persons whose right to life was threatened by EU laws and regulations. Pro-life organisations needed to share their resources, evaluate each others' strengths and weaknesses and try to work more effectively together as far as was prudently possible. The membership of the pro-life movement was ageing so its message needed to be presented to young people. Mr Smeaton said: "European governments' policies promoting the culture of death [are] deliberately and comprehensively targeted at corrupting the young and at robbing future generations of a pro-life culture. We must defeat these policies by excellence in our educational initiatives, especially through the creation of training courses for speakers and through the production of first-class literature based on first-class research." Mr Smeaton pointed out how, in Poland, pro-life groups and the church had successfully campaigned to reduce the number of abortions and to tighten the law. Pro-lifers had kept easily-available abortion out of Northern Ireland for nearly four decades. He also said: "This extraordinary cost in human lives of IVF is a matter which is never drawn to public attention through the mass media and one wonders how many couples suffering from infertility are aware that in typical IVF programmes most of the embryos conceived end up dead or frozen." He said Catholic clergy did not talk and teach about contraception, abortion, marriage, divorce and family planning and this had caused a falling away from such teachings. Mr Smeaton added: "the European pro-life movement is on the side of the most vulnerable, the most ignored, the most forgotten members of our community whose lives are threatened by the culture of death. I am thinking here of the smallest embryos threatened by abortifacient birth control and IVF procedures. I am thinking here of the most severely disabled people in our society who are threatened with euthanasia. We must begin our work by defending the hardest cases because if we don't begin that way we will never fully convert our fellow-citizens on any other issue." Source: SPUC

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