The second report comes from the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, England. It is funded by all of the member countries of the Commonwealth; Canada’s contribution to their budget of $9,074,000 (for 1980-81) was $1,616,000.
This organization’s stated purpose is to gather and to analyze information on topics of concern to Commonwealth governments, to prepare reports, and to submit recommendations for action to the highest levels of the governments of Commonwealth countries.
Their report, Emerging Issues in Commonwealth Abortion Laws jolted me out of my usual “ostrich” approach and made me suspect that frequently the experts know less – in fact, care less – than I do.
It is co-written by Rebecca Cook, former head of the Law Programme for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and by Bernard Dickens, law professor at the University of Toronto. Prof. Dickens is considered the medical legal authority on abortion in Canada. He makes no secret of his pro-abortion stance and has often said he is working for abortion on demand here.
First, the report gives a lengthy analysis of abortion laws as they have developed in the Commonwealth. Then we are told that work must be done to bring all countries into line so that all reach a state of “advanced” law. Needless to say, the definition of “advanced” appears to apply to countries that allow abortion virtually without restriction. Not surprisingly, those countries with “backward” laws are many of the developing nations in Africa and Asia.
Much space is devoted to distinguishing between contraception and abortion. In 1981, a British Minister of Health, Dr. Gerard Vaughan, used the technique of in vitro fertilization to argue that the “morning-after pill” is contraception rather than abortion.
(In this technique, fertilization of an ovum by sperm takes place outside the mother’s body; therefore, Dr. Vaughan argues “conception” does not take place until the fertilized ovum is implanted in the mother’s womb.) This argument has now been extended to change our understanding of conception through ordinary sexual intercourse also.
This view, that early abortion techniques are contraceptive rather than abortive, is now widely promoted. Many countries practice “Menstrual Therapy” techniques (MT) as a routine health procedure. MT, a nicely unemotive term, is used to cover all methods of early abortion such as vacuum aspiration, dilation and curettage, the use of prostaglandin drugs, etc…
In many developing countries, India and Bangladesh are prime examples, MT techniques are routinely administered by “Lady Family Planning Visitors” and “Family Welfare Visitors” and are done before pregnancy can be proved.
I wonder whether the women submitting to these procedures are properly informed as to their nature and purpose. I suspect they are being told that it is merely a form of birth control, not one of early abortion.
There are many instances, in this report, of the author’s use of their Planned Parenthood background and bias in presenting facts. Here, I will mention only one.
Commenting on the 1982 Seychelles Abortion Act, the authors praise the provision in that Act which allows for abortion if the unborn baby is suspected to be handicapped. This, they state, “displays admirable sensitivity to the relation between the parental environment and a child’s potential to experience relative normality or handicap.”
It is alarming to read to the number of countries which now have been persuaded to allow abortion if the baby is suspected of a handicap, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, or if the baby may cause a lowering of the standard of living of other family members, or if the baby is the result of contraceptive failure. That Singapore allows abortion, for no other reason than that the mother wants it, is truly frightening.
It is terrifying to realize that Commonwealth governments are sponsoring, and being misled by, biased reports such as these which applaud such “progressive” moves. This “report” is, in fact, barely-disguised polemic and propaganda. It seems to me that we should be able to expect such documents be prepared by more neutral observers than Miss Cook and Prof. Dickens.
A meeting of Government Health Ministers was held in Ottawa during the first week in October. This report was presented to, and debated at, this meeting. I have been unable to find any press coverage of this meeting at all and, as abortion is currently a “hot” topic in this country, I wonder why there has been no publicity.
The better way
After such gloomy reading, I attended a workshop in Toronto given by Drs. John and Evelyn Billings, the discoverers of the Ovulation Method of Family Planning.
Natural Family Planning does not depend on chemical or mechanical domination of the woman’s body. The Drs. Billings stress that family planning relies on the couple’s first recognizing, and then controlling, their fertility. The practice of Natural Family Planning brings dignity and respect into the partnership and enhances the responsible relationship.
Dr. John Billings opened his talk by saying that only people who love babies should be involved in family planning counseling. He points out that, medically speaking, the principle behind artificial contraception is completely false. In medicine, drugs should be used to correct an imbalance in a system and, hopefully, to cure. The use of the pill, for example, has completely the reverse effect in that it is using a drug to attack normal physiological functions.
The Billingses travel the world together, teaching and helping. Dr. Evelyn was being interviewed on television in Australia by a skeptic who noted that they had nine children and commented that they were not a very good advertisement for their method. She told the skeptic that, indeed, they were living proof that it works as, after they had had their nine, she could have had nine more.
They report that Natural Family Planning has been tremendously successful in developing countries. It is cheap; it is not difficult to learn—women with little-or-no formal education have easily mastered it. In fact, “uneducated” people find it easier to accept than do “educated” people.
The Planned Parenthood attitude is that all pregnancy is due to a failure in contraception, Dr. John points out. We need, and should demand that our government recognize the Billings’ type approach to family planning as basically humane, and reject the Planned Parenthood power-struggle technique of dominating and of subduing women’s bodies by sex-technology, and their implicit goal of family banning.
It is a myth that contraception reduces unwanted pregnancies. We have all seen the escalating rates of abortion, disease and sterility. It is a myth that Natural Family Planning is unreliable, for some time now its validity has been scientifically proven. Arguments against Natural Family Planning are purely social.
Dr. Billings swiftly demolished the argument of those who say “it won’t work with an alcoholic, demanding, abusive man.” Speaking from experience, he told of one woman in such a marriage.
He taught her to recognize her own cycle and to learn when she was fertile. Before learning this, she had been constantly terrified that she would get pregnant, and so she repeatedly refused her husband. Once she understood her own biology, she was more able to respond to her husband without fear.
Her fear of pregnancy had contributed to her husband’s feelings of rejection and so to his abuse of her. When she no longer rejected him all the time, he stopped abusing her. What had been a very unhappy marriage, then gradually was turned into a cherished partnership. It took a lot of hard work, but look at the reward.