I was visiting in Ireland and England during the period of the alleged rape case of the 14-year-old Irish girl. There were frequent comparisons in the media to the Bourne case.  What was the Bourne case?  J.S. Nepean

The Bourne case (1938) in Britain involved a 14-year-old girl who was criminally raped by several soldiers, and became pregnant.  Dr. Alec Bourne, out of sympathy for the girl, performed what he knew was an illegal abortion, and then turned himself over to the police.

At his trial the presiding judge, Macnaughton (who, according to one legal expert, “had more heart than head”) assured Bourne’s acquittal by his instructions to the jury; and he essentially rewrote Britain’s abortion law by altering the meaning of “life of the mother.”  He said:  “The words ‘Preserving the life of the mother’ must be construed in a reasonable sense.  They are not limited to the case of saving the mother from violent death; they include the case where continuance of the pregnancy would make her a physical or mental wreck.”

Over the next few years the ‘life of the mother’ exception was more and more freely interpreted to allow abortions.  Dr. Bourne saw to his dismay that he had opened a Pandora’s box, and he became a leader in the anti-abortion movement in the 1960’s.  He was a founding member of the Society for Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the world’s first pro-life organization.

‘Hard cases make bad laws’ may be a truism, but it is a fact that the rule of law was distorted in both the Bourne and the Irish cases.  The effects of the Bourne case are known.  In Ireland the number of pregnant girls and women who declare they’ll commit suicide unless they get an abortion (which the Irish Court says is their right) is likely to escalate rapidly.

I know that the Vatican has said that politicians cannot in conscience support pro-abortion legislation.  Could you quote the exact words so that I can use them in lobbying my Catholic M.P.?  B.E. Montreal

The Vatican Declaration on Abortion (1974) states: “Whatever the civil law may decree in this matter, it must be taken as absolutely certain that a man may never obey an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law approving abortion in principle.  He may not take part in any movement to sway public opinion in favour of such a law, nor may he vote for that law.  He cannot take part in applying such a law.”

The Declaration applies generally, not just to politicians.  No one may take part in any movement (e.g. abortion rights groups, or Planned Parenthood) which sways public opinion in favour of abortion.  It was for this reason that Archbishop Pocock withdrew Catholic Charities and support from the Toronto United Way Appeal when
Planned Parenthood was admitted as a charity.

Please settle an argument.  Did any NDP MP’s vote against the abortion bill in 1969?  L.S. Toronto

Yes, only one did so (but the Liberals with a majority had only two pro-life votes).  John Burton, NDP, MP for Regina East, both spoke out for and voted for the protection of the unborn child.

It is interesting today, when governments are taking over hospitals and controlling hospital boards, to note that John Burton was amongst those who foresaw the dangers in 1969.  He was one of the MPs who tried to pass an amendment to the Act which would guarantee freedom of conscience for doctors and hospitals in order that they would not be forced into doing abortions.  The amendment was strongly opposed by the Liberal government. John Turner pooh-poohed the need for the amendment (he also answered, “Oh no” when asked if ‘medicare’ hospitalization would pay for abortions.)  The amendment was defeated.

Time has proved John Burton to be right.  Doctors who wish to specialize in gynaecology-obstetrics find most doors closed if they will not perform abortions; anaesthetists are under great pressure if they refuse their services; nurses who refuse to work with abortionists are often either dismissed or demoted.  Many people see it as only a matter of time before hospitals founded by religious organizations are taken over.