Friday 29 June 2012

Choice Henry Ford Style. A mixed bag of news from the BMA annual policy meeting

There is some contradiction in how outcomes from the BMA's policy meeting are being reported:

Christan Concern happily reports that on Wednesday the British Medical Association voted in favour of independent counselling for women seeking abortions and against a motion that sought to change the organisation's stance on assisted suicide from "opposed" to "neutral".

The BMA's own website reports that a motion was passed to supprt non-directive counselling for women seeing abortion, but that this could be provided by company providing the abortion. Apparently doctors and medical students "were not convinced enough by the arguments that counseling for women should be independent of the abortion provider".

Right. So what exactly do doctors and medical students think that Marie Stopes PLC whoops, I mean that charitably minded, woman-centred organisation named after a famous eugenicist, are going to say to women seeking to pay them several hundred pounds to remove a baby from her womb. "Here love, let me show you some lovely photos of your baby at nine weeks in this book by Lennart Nilsson... let's see - oh yes: little fingers and toes, and he can suck his thumb. But you do realise that despite the fingers, toes, beating heart, brain, voluntary movement and so on - he really is a blob of cells - so don't worry, we'll take care of the rest..."

It was noted at the meeting that the proposal was similar to Nadine Dorries' failed amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill earlier this year, which attempted to stop those with a financial interest in a particular abortion from pretending to provide "non-directive" counselling for the woman in question.

Sadly, the vote was taken against independent counselling even after Yorkshire GP Mark Pickering said: ‘I want to assure you this motion is not a pro-life stitch up … For women who were certain that they wanted an abortion, this motion would not affect them. When I see women as a GP one of the most common phrases I hear is “I feel I have no choice” … Every women should simply know that if she wants to she can get counselling.’

Dr Pickering said that he had proposed the statement to increase choices for women considering abortion. The BMA's definition of choice appears to echo Henry Ford's "you can have any colour as long as it's black"... You can have non-directive abortion counselling - as long as it's provided by the organisation with the greatest motivation for you to have an abortion.

Some choices are more important than others...

Better news comes in the form of a vote against a neutral stand on assisted suicide or "legalised dying" as the BMA website prefers to put it.

In what sounds like a lively debate, the Chairman of the BMA Welsh Junior Doctor's Committee said ‘I do not consider the killing of patients, for whatever reason, is justified.’ while Baroness Finlay maintained ‘Neutrality does not bring balance to the debate. It will tell Parliament that we see this as an acceptable option.’ BMA medical ethics committee chair Tony Calland continued this argument as he urged representatives to maintain the status quo.
He warned: ‘A change from our current position of opposing a change in the law to one of neutrality will be seen as removing objections. It would be seen as a green light.’
If a parliamentary bill were to be tabled shortly afterwards, Dr Calland warned that the BMA would not be able to pass any reasonable comment because of its neutral stance.

You can read more about it on the BMA news page and  on the Christian Concern website

Saturday 23 June 2012

Cool, stylish and ... modest

I'm intrigued by Mogue:  a new website with a strapline that reads “Modesty,  A virtue whose time has surely come”

Modest, fashionable and attractive...

The editors describe the site as "a semi professional blogazine that puts modesty in Vogue. Mogue influentially bridges the gap between fashion and culture. Mogue influences education and awareness, confidence and substance in one’s self. ...From knee lengths to ultra flowing to short sleeves to long sleeves to hair to headwraps to sunglasses to shoes, Mogue has it covered.  Literally.
“The secret parts of your body that are meant to be kept secret are kept secret. The opposite is not frumpingness [sic],  but we can still be on trend."

I have to admit that I was expecting Mormon-style prairie dresses and headscarves, but "Mogue" does a great job of digging out fresh, fashionable, and quirky clothes from both the high street and designers. It also highlights modest wear on the catwalk - there's more of it than you'd imagine.

...on the other hand, this might be modest, but it's just not a good look

I think having a modest wedding fashion section  could be a real winner, as many women find it difficult to find a modest yet beautiful wedding dress. When Mr AE and I married I had no end of trouble finding an affordable modest wedding dress:  in the end I bought a short-sleeved dress and had it re-made to have long, elegant sleeves. It was lovely but I would have preferred to have had a choice of ready-to-wear dresses that weren't revealing. I was disappointed in Mogue's offering : unfortunately all of the wedding dresses in the "Mogue Bridal Atalier" are really cleavage-revealing: I'm not sure which bit of "modest" the designer didn't understand.

But there's lots more to Mogue than bridal wear: they scour the global catwalks in search of modest fashion trends. One unexpected factoid I came across is that Russian haute-couture is, as a rule, astonishingly modest by fashionista standards, as well as interesting, classic and innovative. The pictures I saw did not match up to my preconceived notions of "Russian" and "fashion".  Having seen the photos, I want some!

Russian fashion manages to be stylish and modest

On balance, I think this site is worth keeping an eye on. It's interestingly counter-cultural and I wonder whether the concept of modest fashion that's actually fashionable might have a chance of catching on.

Friday 22 June 2012

Can we blame liberal nuns for the Gates' Foundation's "philanthropy of death"?

The excellent Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute has started a campaign to raise awareness of a "Family planning summit" to be hosted by Melinda Gates in London in a few weeks time. The summit is co-sponsored by International Planned Parenthood Federation (the world's largest abortion provider) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (slogan - apparently intended without irony: "Population matters"). Pro-lifers have applied to register at the summit in order to provide a counter-voice to the dominant pro-abortion, pro-population control, pro-contraception agenda, but have been refused entry. As a result, C-Fam have started a petition attached to an "Open letter to Melinda Gates"  on which I have signed and would encourage readers to consider doing the same. 

The letter raises many pertinent issues, including asking whether the summit will consider support for healthy childbirth programs. For me this is crucial - so much money and effort is spent on contraception and abortion services under the umbrella "women's health" when the Cinderella services - midwifery, neonatology,  ante- post- and peri-natal care are barely given any consideration. When pregnancy and childbirth are dangerous simply for want of cheap sterilisation equipment or vitamins or simple equipment like pinards / fetoscopes or simply more trained birth attendants, women may be far more easily seduced into believing that abortion is their "only" option. 

A pinard is cheap and as effective as ultrasound for ante- and peri-natal  foetal monitoring
Photo credit: "Midwifery Elective Adventure"

I visited the Bill and Melinda Gates' foundation website and read Melinda Gates' address to TED xChange 2012: The Big Picture  which is described on its website as "a platform for sharing game-changing ideas [for] solving the world’s biggest problems? Climate change, global poverty, the AIDS/HIV crisis — solving these problems will demand big thinking and unprecedented international cooperation. ... and the world is invited to join the conversation." Presumably this invitation isn't extended to pro-lifers.

Melinda Gates' speech gave me some insight into her background: on the subject of contraception she says that while she considers herself to be "a practicing Catholic" she believes that "we can insist that all people have the opportunity to learn about contraceptives and have access to the full variety of methods. I think the goal here is really clear: universal access to birth control that women want. And for that to happen, it means that both rich and poor governments alike must make contraception a total priority."

Now when third world women talk about wanting opportunities, I don't think that they're thinking about  the "opportunity to learn about contraceptives". But Gates' talk is subtle, if illogical - she gives examples of  "happy endings" stories of  poor women who started up businesses, or managed to educate their children privately, because (she suggests) they restricted their family size. I wonder whether she talked to elderly people in countries with low birthrates - China, Italy - about the impact on their lives of having only had one child. I wonder also about the changes to human relationships in a society where the majority of people are the willful first-borns. Historically most political and military leaders have been first-born or only children. Parents with larger families will understand why almost immediately. Second, and particularly subsequent siblings have a different perspective on life; are more likely to be team players. A healthy society needs foot-soldiers and farmers as well as generals.

Here's the telling bit: Melinda Gates' had a Catholic Education. Or should I say a "Catholic" education. Referring to the religious sisters who educated her, she says: "you know, the nuns who taught me were incredibly progressive. And I hope that they’ll be very proud of me for living out what they taught us about social justice" [emphasis mine].

So can we blame this whole sorry debacle on liberal nuns?

Are confused leftist nuns to blame?

Most depressing of all was the slogan on the Bill and Melinda Gates' Foundation website: "ALL LIVES HAVE EQUAL VALUE". Yeah right - tell that to the millions of babies who'll never be born thanks to the Foundation's "philanthropy".  For an organisation deeply involved in contraception and abortion behind the "womens' health" smokescreen, that really is a slogan FAIL.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Your vote will be recorded in eternity...

An American family member drew my attention to the excellent "Test of Fire: Election 2012" video by a group called Catholics Called to Witness about this November's presidential elections. Both the Holy Father and Cardinal Dolan are quoted in an attempt to remind American Catholics that their first duty in voting is to God and His law. I liked the following quotations - "Many issues are at stake, but some issues are non-negotiable" "Marriage should be reinforced not redefined" "Your vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity" and "Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?"

This is exactly the sort of thing that we need in the UK right now.

Friday 8 June 2012

Don't let your faith be an excuse for stupidity

I'm feeling disturbed after a recent conversation with someone who was discussing a medical situation. "I prayed" she said "and told God that I would accept whatever the consultant said". As it turned out, the consultant - who was obliged to give her patient a choice of care - gave inaccurate information and railroaded the patient into a course of action that was far riskier for the patient but more convenient for the doctor, and which contravened all best practice guidelines including those issued by NICE and the consultant's professional body. The patient was aware of this but chose to ignore it because having told God that she'd do whatever the consultant said, she felt that she'd left things in His hands.

 Leaving oneself in God's hands does not mean checking your brain at the door. Faith and reason are not in opposition. Our God-given brain and intellect carry with them a responsibility to make decisions regarding ourselves and our children in as prudent and well informed a way as possible. I despair at the idea that people may feel that they are putting themselves in God's hands by ignoring the safest option and putting themselves in the hands of a doctor whose motivations may be rather less noble.

Monday 4 June 2012

A prince among bishops

Despite a busy schedule, Bishop Mark Davies generously drove from Shrewsbury to North Norfolk to join the National Association of Catholic Families' Walsingham Pilgrimage for the second year in a row. After celebrating Mass, he met with an audience of NACF parents and answered questions on topics ranging from the new evangelisation to Catholic education to the ways to avoid teenage lapsation. +Davies was, as ever, wise, humble and courageous - exactly what one would hope a Bishop to be. A holy Bishop. He received a standing ovation before leaving to bless the various children's groups and return to his diocese and busy schedule.

The homily that Bishop Davies gave is worth reproducing in full - and I have done so below with a link to the Diocese of Shrewsbury website. As every word is carefully chosen and not a syllable is wasted, it would be impossible to represent the importance of this homily with selective quotations. Please read it and then pray for this courageous shepherd.

‘The Future of Humanity Passes by Way of the Family’ 
Homily for the National Association of Catholic Families 
National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham 
“The future of humanity passes by way of the family” 
 We gather during this celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. We rejoice with many today not only in the Queen’s constitutional role carried out with unfailing dedication but also in her Christian witness of faith and prayer. However, it is significant that a family stands always at the centre of our constitution, at the heart of our national life. The Crown passes by way of a family! It was, of course, in this Norfolk countryside almost a millennium ago that a simple house was built to remind all generations of the centrality and holiness of the family revealed by God’s plan in the Holy Family of Nazareth. True, it was a monarch, King Henry VIII, not noted for his reverence for marriage, who saw both house and shrine destroyed four centuries ago. Yet Walsingham has now visibly returned in its Catholic and Anglican witness. Here we will always be reminded in Blessed John Paul II’s unforgettable words that, “the future of humanity passes by way of the family” (Familaris Consortio n. 86). It is a self-evident truth which too often is obscured in our consciousness today that the future of humanity, the future of society, depends on the family.
The Deputy Prime Minister was recently reported as saying he could not understand why Christians and other people of faith saw a legal redefinition of marriage as a matter of conscience: it would not he claimed impinge on religious freedoms. Experience, of course, might make us cautious of such assurances, even those given by a Deputy Prime Minister, that this agenda will not threaten religious freedom. However, our concern is not only with religious freedom but also with the enormous good which marriage represents as foundational to family-life. Today we see a government, without mandate, disposing of any credible consultation, seeking to impose one of the greatest acts of “social engineering” in our history by uprooting the legal definition of marriage. Marriage lies at the very foundation of the family. For all generations to follow one generation of politicians is setting out to demolish in the name of an “equality agenda” the understanding of marriage that has served as the timeless foundation for the family. The government is seeking to do this at the very moment when marriage as an institution has been more weakened than ever before. Yet it asks: why are people of faith concerned?
One of England’s greatest and clearest thinkers the now Blessed John Henry Newman famously distinguished what he called “notional assent” from “real assent.” It seems that most people in public life give a notional assent to the value of the family as that first and vital cell of society – and never more so than in those moments of social disturbance such as the riots of last summer. However, what is needed is not just a notional agreement to the importance of family but a real assent to the place of the family in our society as securing the well-being of generations to come. This involves the recognition of what marriage uniquely is. A recognition comes not only from faith but from reason which clearly sees that it is from the family that “citizens come to birth and it is with within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues which are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself” (Familaris Consortio n 42). In this way it is in the family that the future of society will be decided. So far from weakening and confusing the foundation of the family we invite our political leaders to give back to the institution of marriage and the family the recognition and confidence it deserves.
Here in Walsingham where across so many centuries of our history the sacredness of marriage and family were recognised in the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth, we wish to affirm in the words of Blessed John Paul II that “the Creator of all things has established marriage as the beginning and basis of human society” (Familaris Consortio 42)). May the gift of marriage and the family be held sacred by us all for the sake of every generation to come. 

Friday 1 June 2012

NACF Walsingham pilgrimage: we've arrived!

Tents are up, as is the papal flag, but there's still a lot of unpacking to do. Rain or shine it's going to be a memorable weekend - so many lovely families arriving. Will try to blog on the talks over the coming days. Now it's time for tea!