Angela O’Brien

To the gestational approach and back - a top pro-life leader’s journey

Angela O’Brien
By Angela O'Brien
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Updated Aug. 23, 2012 at 9:45 EST to correct the name of Lord David Alton.

LONDON, July 26, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of the world’s leading pro-life advocates has issued a warning about what is commonly known as the “gestational” approach to pro-life legislation at a time when Canadian pro-lifers are debating ways to tackle Canada’s legal vacuum on abortion.

John Smeaton is the director of the longest-standing pro-life group in the world — the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).  A pro-life activist since 1978, Smeaton is regarded as one of the most influential voices in the pro-life movement.  The Oxford graduate is also a vice-president of International Right to Life Federation, representing pro-life groups in 170 nations around the world.

Late-term abortion bans, also known as “upper limit” or gestational laws, have been supported by many pro-life activists in the hope that such laws will reduce the total number of abortions: but Smeaton has a different story to tell.

In the 1980s, SPUC backed an upper limit bill. Smeaton told LifeSiteNews that he now believes they had been “wrong” to support the law – that backing the late-term abortion ban was not only morally problematic, but ended up damaging the pro-life cause politically.

SPUC had initially opposed the idea of a late-term abortion ban, but a Member of Parliament, Lord David Alton, pushed to introduce a gestational bill during the ‘80s, and after a lot of pressure, SPUC got behind the bill, and it was passed in 1990.

“It was quite wrong, but we did so, and then exactly what we predicted would happen happened,” Smeaton stated. He described how, after the upper limit of 24 weeks was instated, the number of late abortions actually increased, because the majority of politicians had voted to introduce new and broad exceptions to the abortion law.

Smeaton said he is certain that in the current political climate politicians will always vote for exceptions to any abortion limit because of the “overwhelming view” that disabled babies have no right to life.

“It doesn’t work,” he says, about gestational legislation. “It hasn’t worked in Britain: we now have abortion up to birth not only for disabled babies but for other reasons too, and the number of late abortions has increased enormously.”

Smeaton said he has had to “face up” to the fact that he was the deputy chief executive of SPUC at the time. “I played my role in it and argued for it, and I was completely wrong,” he declared. But not just because of what it led to, he says, “but because you cannot vote for intrinsically unjust legislation, and you cannot campaign for it.”

Smeaton argues that “contrary to an opinion widely held by members of the pro-life movement,” legislation that aims to prevent some abortions but authorizes others, is intrinsically unjust because it still endorses the murder of the unborn. 

As a Catholic Smeaton looks to the teachings of his Church for guidance on the issue. He says that Catholic teaching is spelled out in in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae (73), where the pope wrote:

In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to “take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it”.98

In the next paragraph of Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II goes on to explain that, in situations where it is impossible to completely overturn a permissive abortion law, “a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions” can be supported. An elected official, whose opposition to abortion is well known, can licitly support a proposal that aims to “lessen the negative consequences” of the permissive abortion law. “This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law,” the pope declared, “but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.”

But Smeaton argues that this does not apply to bills which explicitly allow abortion in certain circumstances, which gestational bills do, since the pope had already condemned such legislation. “Because Pope John Paul II used the word ‘never’ in the first paragraph it is irrational to suggest that the second paragraph contradicts the first,” he says.

“Such qualification in the second paragraph would amount to a preposterous contradiction,” Smeaton stated. “Whatever the legislation, limiting the harm of an existing pro-abortion law, that Pope John Paul II may have in mind in the second paragraph, it is grotesque to suggest that such legislation would include laws…which themselves legitimize or tolerate abortion.”

An example of such a law, that could licitly restrict the number of abortions, was suggested by Geoffrey Cauchi, President of Alliance for Life Ontario. Under his proposal, 24 hours before procuring an abortion, a woman must be informed of all the procedure’s risks to her, its effect upon the unborn child, and the physiological characteristics of the child at the time of the abortion. Cauchi says such a law would probably significantly limit the number of abortions, but unlike a late-term abortion ban, it would not endorse abortion at any point.

“Well-meaning pro-lifers argue that a law permitting abortion up to, for example, 16 weeks, is ‘better’ than a law permitting abortion up to 20 weeks,” Smeaton says, “and that voting for such a law would save lives.”

Nevertheless, he declared, “campaigning for, or voting for such legislation, on the basis of the argument that one is seeking to limit the harm of an existing worse pro-abortion law, or to replace a situation where there is no existing law on abortion, represents a preposterous misinterpretation of Evangelium Vitae 73.”

“Also, voting for ‘better’ intrinsically unjust legislation in order to save lives runs completely contrary to the moral principle: One may not do evil so that good may come of it.”

Smeaton concluded, “For those who find it hard to resist the temptation to support restrictive, intrinsically evil, legislation, I can tell you that from our experience in Britain and Ireland, that SPUC and the pro-life movement have made far more progress since the Society has sought to adopt an ethically correct approach to legislation.”

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Congressman: Give us Nucatola or we’ll subpoena

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Dr. Deborah Nucatola has become awfully shy since she became the first national Planned Parenthood figure featured in an exposé of its practice of harvesting, and allegedly profiting from the sale of, the organs of aborted children. Within hours of the video release by the Center for Medical Progress, she removed her social media accounts. 

Now, she is considering dodging a call to testify before a Congressional committee investigating whether she admitted to breaking the law during her covertly recorded cameo with actors posing as agents of a human biologics company.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee called her to address the committee by month's end. 

Roger K. Evans, Planned Parenthood's Senior Counsel for Law and Policy, responded by saying that asking her to speak to Congress "no later than July 31 ... is short notice given the number of questions raised." 

He instead offered to substitute Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley in Nucatola's place.

Faced with the possibility that Planned Parenthood would refuse to send its star witness, at least one congressman has said he will take steps to ensure the abortion provider shows up.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA, responded to Evans' letter by saying that the committee has called Dr. Nucatola to the witness stand before the end of the month, and she will comply or face the consequences.  

“If they say no, we’ll subpoena her,” the pro-life Republican said. 

The committee is focused on whether the process Dr. Nucatola - the doctor seen in the first video, eating salad and sipping wine - amounts to a violation of federal felony law forbidding the sale of human organs for "valuable consideration." 

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Why selling ‘baby body parts’ has captured America’s attention (VIDEO)

By Pete Baklinski

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A key player in last week’s startling video exposé of Planned Parenthood says that it took 30 months of strategic planning from numerous pro-life organizations to give the story the hard-hitting power with which it has walloped the abortion industry over its practice of harvesting the body parts of aborted babies. 

“We are seeing the fruit of a lot of careful thought, a lot of disciplined activities, and a lot of undercover work,” Rev. Frank Pavone, executive director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews in an interview in Washington. 

Since breaking Tuesday of last week, the story has trended first place in social media platforms such as Facebook and has been given top priority on mega news aggregation websites such as Drudge Report. The first of now two undercover videos has been viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube. 

Pavone said that this is not the first time Planned Parenthood has faced the heat for what many considered to be a barbaric practice of harvesting human organs for profit. Similar investigations in the late 1990s into the practices of Planned Parenthood found that aborted babies were being dissected alive, harvested, and sold in pieces for research. 

“Now this is fresh evidence. Now this is evidence going to the highest levels of Planned Parenthood. We know that people at the national level of Planned Parenthood are aware of and are admitting that these baby body parts are being harvested, that transactions are taking place, that money is changing hands. And so, this is catching the attention of the American public because it brings the abortion issue down from the abstract level to the concrete,” he said. 

“This is not just about viewpoints, it’s about victims. It’s not just about beliefs, it’s about bloodshed. When people see and hear terms like ‘eyes, livers, hearts’ it’s like, ‘What are we talking about here? This is ghoulish disgusting activity,’” he said. 

Pavone praised pro-life activists such as Operation Rescue president Troy Newman and Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher for helping the exposé along, giving “strategic input, guidance, and advice.” Pavone highlighted the hard work of lead investigator David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress for going undercover to film meetings with high profile Planned Parenthood employees and attending numerous Planned Parenthood conferences.

Pavone believes the story has received so much traction in social media outlets like Facebook because it gives people a platform to express outrage over the injustice of abortion in response to mainstream media’s unwritten rule of silence and apathy on abortion. 

Traditional media outlets are “in the pocket” of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, he said, adding that they “don’t want to say a bad word about Planned Parenthood.”

“Social media has become the engine for those who feel so frustrated that things we have known for years that the abortion industry is doing, and yet we can’t seem to get the word out, now these people are taking this and running with it. And I think you’re seeing years and even decades of frustration being channeled in productive ways to say, ‘We’ve got to shout this from the rooftops.’ And social media is the perfect rooftop,” he said. 

When asked what the undercover videos released so far reveal about the abortion industry and the people who work in it, Pavone responded: 

When an abortionist dehumanizes the baby that he or she is about to kill, the abortionist also dehumanizes himself. And this is what we are seeing in these people. We see it in Deborah Nucatola sipping the wine and eating the salad and talking about the body parts. We see it in the newest video [about] Dr. Mary Gatter. We saw it in [jailed abortionist] Gosnell.

What’s wrong with [these people]? There are two things wrong. Number one, these people are dehumanized. They are deeply damaged by the abortions they perform. Because when you perform your first abortion, a voice of protest rises up within you saying, ‘No. Stop. You can’t do this.’ But then if you ignore that voice, and go ahead and do that abortion, then the next time you have to explain to yourself, and to everybody else, why you ignored that voice. And so, the voice of protest gets buried under layer, and layer, and layer of excuses and rationalizations. And in doing that, you are becoming disconnected from your own conscience.

How can these people talk about this with apparent peace on their face? It’s because they are disconnected from themselves, from their own conscience.

Pavone said that new undercover videos to be released in the coming days will continue to shed light on the gruesome practices happening at Planned Parenthood abortion centers across the nation. 

“We want to defund Planned Parenthood and get them to stop what they are doing. This is a very concrete way of doing that. We want to end Planned Parenthood because they are the largest abortion business in the world, and we want that to stop,” he said. 

Already a Congressional investigation is underway, but so far, Planned Parenthood is refusing to cooperate with the demands of the Committee investigating. 

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The Planned Parenthood scandal shows the power of exposing abortion’s grotesqueness

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By Jonathon van Maren

July 23, 2015 (UnmaskingChoice) -- If there’s one thing that confuses me about how many pro-lifers decide on strategies to change hearts and minds on abortion, it’s the fact that they seem to believe that we have to approach the most controversial issue there is without controversy—that somehow, we have to take an issue that people have incredibly strong feelings about and ensure that none of those feelings surface during a discussion.

As our postcard campaign nears our record-breaking mark of one million postcards delivered to one million homes, reactions have been widely varied—we have phone calls from people “horrified” by the postcard, who don’t seem to realize that the action depicted is much more horrifying. We have people who demand to know what they are supposed to say if their children see the picture of “the dead baby”—who don’t seem to realize that with their own words, they have admitted that we live in a country where dead babies are tossed in garbage cans behind government-funded clinics. We also have people who call us to thank us for the information, and express anger that such barbarism could be happening in Canada. We have people who phone to tell us that the postcard has changed their vote, and the votes of their neighbors. And we have people like the old man who wanted to shake my hand because he was encouraged to see that “some people cared about things.”

Huge numbers of Canadians have no idea that abortion decapitates, dismembers, and disembowels a pre-born human being. Huge numbers of Canadians are being exposed to that tragic and horrifying fact.

By the polling numbers, we see many people influenced against abortion—even if they don’t like us, the image stays with them, and they like abortion even less. Even if only ten percent of people were influenced against abortion because of postcards depicting abortion imagery, I would point out that that is still a far bigger number than any other pro-life strategy even claims to impact. For the first time, statistically significant portions of the population are being exposed to the reality of abortion—and they are reacting to that reality.

Pro-lifers are often tempted to run scared because they believe what the pro-abortion movement says about our best evidence—that it will “turn people” off. It will, of course. In the words of one abortion activist: “Your pictures turn people off of abortion.” If people get angry with us, but are still influenced against abortion, we have accomplished exactly what we set out to do. That being said, people only focus on the angry commenters that they see—a handful of social media posts, and the same tired news story from each and every single media outlet. I’m not sure if most journalists are unimaginative or just lazy, but most seem unwilling or incapable of even visiting a few websites and trying to find out what the rationale behind the strategy is. Most of them, I suspect, have pre-written stories and just call around to get the quotes they want. We know, for example, that reporters have specifically ignored people who have received the postcard and offered to comment positively—that is not, they openly say, the story they are looking for.

The abortion movement, on the other hand, can’t decide whether the imagery we use is extremely effective, or very ineffective. Canadian abortion blogger “Fern Hill” is usually babbling the talking points about how what we’re doing is so counter-productive, and that we’re obsessed with “gore porn,” and then calling us a bunch of names. (If pro-abortion groups really did believe that what we were doing strengthened support for abortion so much, I suspect that they’d be a lot less angry about what we’re doing—after all, we’re just doing their job!) But a couple of days ago, after responding to pictures of the dozens of lovely young women on our staff by snapping that they were all one unplanned pregnancy away from being pro-choice (such a depressing world these people live in), she tweeted an article at me that I found interesting.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

It was a piece on David Daleidan of the Center for Medical Progress, the man behind the recent exposes of Planned Parenthood. He’s captured video of Planned Parenthood employees casually discussing not only the abortion procedure, but also how to best pillage the corpses of these dead children in order to sell their body parts for profit. The videos have horrified people across North America, and reaction has been swift. Amanda Marcotte, a pro-abortion blogger who often writes for Slate, has responded to the new scandal in an article called “Grossing people out can have short-term impact, but does it matter in the long-term?” She quotes Michelle Goldberg over at The Nation:

Further, it’s a way for the anti-abortion movement to focus the abortion debate on the graphic details of rare, late-term procedures, about which there is less public consensus than there is about early abortion. It serves the same purpose as the ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” and as blown-up pictures of bloody fetuses. It induces disgust, a very politically potent emotion, since most people associate things that are gross with things that are immoral. In his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt describes how researchers asked students at Cornell University to fill out surveys about their political attitudes while standing either near or far from hand sanitizer. Those standing closer to it became temporarily more conservative. If something that minor can affect people’s politics, then a video like this one is sure to have a visceral impact.

Amanda Marcotte goes on to say that while abortion imagery and exposes are very potent, that the impact of them is not long-lasting. Why? Because, she writes with hilarious immaturity, most things in life are gross—sex, going to the bathroom, surgery—and we all get over those things, don’t we? So surely abortion pictures will also be forgotten.

She’s forgetting something—abortion pictures aren’t powerful because they’re “gross.” Abortion pictures are powerful because they show the results of abortion—a dead, butchered human being. The power in the imagery is that people recognize that, and something in them responds to this injustice. It’s why even the people angry with our postcards have responded to the media by talking about the postcards depicting the “dead babies” or the “slain babies” or the “torn-up babies.” No-one thinks that what they’re looking at is a removed appendix. No one thinks that what they’re looking at is bodily waste. Everyone knows, almost immediately, that what they’re looking at is a dead human.

That is why the impact of abortion pictures doesn’t just disappear. One more piece of evidence? Almost everyone I know in the pro-life movement was convicted to join the pro-life fight because they saw a picture or a video of abortion, including myself. As Marcotte herself pointed out, that was what convicted David Daleidan as well. We now have over forty young people on our staff, all convicted by seeing what abortion does to babies and what they can do about it.

The movement is just getting started.

Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.

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