Bill Sherwin is the Executive Secretary of the International Right-To-Life Federation (IRLF_, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. In Toronto to attend the Human Life International Conference of October 26-20, Sherwin dropped into The Interim office to discuss the IRLF’s latest concerns, especially the “pesticide against humanity,” the drug RU-486.
Interim: You were established in 1984. What occurred in that year to precipitate the formation of the IRLF?
Sherwin: There was a meeting of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Life, whose Executive Director is based in Belgium, and he brought together all these people from various Right-to-:Life groups. They decided that they needed some sort of a federation to co-ordinate pro-life action on an international basis.
I just happened to have finished with a campaign in Ireland that put the right to life of the unborn into the Irish constitution a few weeks previous to that….So I was kind of free and I had some ability in that area, and I built it up over two or three years campaigning. I took on the job and I’ve been completely absorbed with international activity ever since then.
I started with just myself in an office in Rome, and we’ve now built up to seven people working there.
Interim: What are the activities and accomplishments of the IRLF?
Sherwin: We’ve tried to counteract the new abortion drug RU-486. That’s been one of our campaigns over the last two years or so.
We’re also concerned with the proposed UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in which we have tried to have enshrined the right to life of the unborn child as well as all other children. This is very difficult because we’re coming up against government, against the whole international UN system who have decided that this is not going to be included. But we are determined that it will be included or else this convention will be scrapped, as far as we’re concerned.
Interim: Would you identify the parties working to exclude the right to life of the unborn child from the UN Convention?
Sherwin: This Convention is being prepared by the UN Human Rights Commission and on this Commission are the representatives of national governments and they decide what’s going to be in this Convention.
Some of the main groups who oppose the insertion of the right to life of the unborn child are France and other European countries. We’ve had trouble with the U.S. also, which is one of the chief governments involved, as you can well imagine. When the U.S. goes in a certain direction, it’s going to bring a large number of other government with it.
However, there’s a good prospect that the U.S. representative will take our part in this and will bring the other governments with it.
We’ve had trouble with the British government and with the Scandinavian countries. We have support from a number of Latin American countries and some European countries. It’s in the balance right now.
Interim: Why does France oppose the inclusion of the right-to-life clause in the Convention?
Sherwin: The French government is socialist at the moment. They’re completely opposed to us, as they have shown in the recent decision concerning RU-486. When the company [Roussel-Uclaf] refused to market the drug, the government insisted that the company market the drug. That shows you where they’re coming form.
Interim: What is the role of the IRLF in the decision of Roussel-Uclaf to withdraw RU-486 from distribution?
Sherwin: They spoke about opposition from pro-life groups, the possibility of a boycott of Roussel-Uclaf products. They talked about hassles outside their plants, which the French pro-life groups had organized. They had given out leaflets to the workers telling them what their employer was producing. One worker actually resigned because of this. They were causing a lot of trouble among the employees who didn’t want to be involved in something like this.
As you are probably aware, Roussel-Uclaf is a subsidiary of a German company. It’s owned jointly with Hoechst of Germany and also with the French government; Hoechst at 60 per cent and the French government at 40 per cent. Hoechst is in itself a derivative of the German wartime company called I.G. Farben, which manufactured the Zyklon0B [cyanide] gas for the concentration camps. The Hoechst company is very sensitive to any connection with this because they are a huge corporation, worldwide.
Interim: What is the connection between Hoechst and companies, pharmaceutical or otherwise, in North America?
Sherwin: They have a joint company called Hoechst-Roussel [which is based in the U.S.] The Canadian subsidiary is located in Montreal. They have said that they will not market RU-486 in the U.S.
There was a possibility that they would market it through another company that’s now marketing an IUD called Gynopharmen. This is a company with no assets and which can’t be sued and nobody can get anything from. This seems to be their tactic now, after the lawsuits against the manufacturers of the Dalkon Shield.
We have said publicly to these companies that we will hold them responsible for the marketing of this drug, regardless of why they’re marketing it. They’re not forced to market it, even if the French government insists on it.
Interim: What is the most serious danger society faces from RU-486?
Sherwin: The danger of RU-486a for society in general is that it’s going to make abortion more acceptable. It’s going to make it like another product that you can buy on the supermarket shelf. That’s what their objective is, regardless of what they say about it being subject to doctor’s prescription.
It’s going to desensitize more and more then conscience of the people, because if a woman can take this drug and go to her bathroom to perform her own abortion, in effect, it means that her guilt has been deadened. She is, in fact, responsible for this decision – more so than if she goes to a clinic. She can say: “I was pressured. The doctor did it, I didn’t want to do it. I was halfway on the table and I didn’t want to go through with it, but he pushed me through it and he finished me off.”
Whereas, this is a cold, calculated decision to take pill after pill after pill, whatever dosage is necessary to kill the baby with in her. If a woman kills her unborn child, as the Scriptures tell us, it’s the end of the age. It’s the end. When that comes, I think society is really dead….
And you don’t see any blood, but there are some pretty awful side effects…Just before I cam here, I heard of the case of a woman who had discontinued taking the drug and gave birth to a child whose legs were stuck together and whose face was badly distorted.
It’s not a safe drug. It’s very dangerous for women. It’s going to leave them maimed. According to Prof. Lejeune, it’s going to leave the DNA affected,….and upset the whole basis of her humanity. It’s going to affect the children who are born afterwards, even if she doesn’t take the drug again. Their whole genetic code is going to be out of line…
Perhaps that’s why Roussel-Uclaf and the French government have collaborated in making this decision that the French government will appear to take responsibility for the effects of the drug, because the government can absorb these things better than a company which is responsible to its customers. Customers can refuse to buy the drug, but it’s very difficult to hit a government. But we have decided that the French government is going to be held responsible.
Interim: What does IRLF plan for the future?
Sherwin: The plans for the future were outlined quite well during our Manila conference in June, 1988, by a man from Zambia who is involved in family life promotion there. He knows all about the involvement of the UN agencies like UNICEF and UNESCO and all of these bodies in promoting an anti-life mentality around the world. And they’ve been doing this for the past 40 years.
He said the objective should be for us ultimately to get UNESCO to produce a manual on family life promotion. We’ve go to take the citadels of the UN and of the governments in every country and get our philosophy put back on the agenda where it belongs. And get rid of the other demonic operation that is going on under Planned Parenthood in every country around the world.
Interim: Was the IRLF involved in producing the recent pro-life, pro-family letter of the Vatican to the World Health Organization (WHO?)
Sherwin: Yes, I was there actually when [the Vatican] released that in Bangkok, Thailand…We’ve got to get the principles enunciated in that document into each bishops’ conference in each country. There’s no point in having the Vatican produce these wonderful documents and statements and they being completely ignored by the bishops’ conferences – and not only ignored but undermined.
Interim: Does the IRLF have any contact with pro-life groups or individuals behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains?
Sherwin: Yes, I was in Poland just a few weeks ago and we had a conference in Yugoslavia last year which was one of the first in Eastern Europe.
Interim: How about the Soviet Union Itself?
Sherwin: We’ve been invited to go to the Soviet Union by the government to set up a group. After we got UN recognition last year in New York, the Soviet government [agreed to let us in]….They (the Soviets) said, come and visit our country and set up a branch of your group. As soon as I get the time, I hope to do that and to expand into other eastern European countries.
Interim: China is a very different problem, with it’s draconian abortion policy. Is there any organized opposition to it?
Sherwin: There’s no organized opposition to speak of, but there is general discontent with the policy among the ordinary people and even with the doctors who do the abortions. I was at a meeting in Hong Kong which was organized by a natural family planning group recently and they had many doctors from China there. They said they wanted a more humane method of family planning. They’re fed up with this barbarous abortion policy, this one-child policy….
Unfortunately, the Chinese government has since taken the position to introduce the RU-486 drug. This is another attempt to get away from the other aspect of abortion, but we don’t accept that this as any improvement whatsoever….It simply makes abortion more acceptable to society.
I visited China itself [when I was in Hong Kong and talked to many people who had never heard anything about the international opposition to abortion, and were very interested in our materials. So now we have channels of communication into China.
Interim: What’s the European eye-view of the Canadian pro-life movement?
Sherwin: We see it as one of the most effective national bodies. I see the co-ordination and co-operation between national groups here in Canada as being very helpful for other movements in other countries….That’s given us a lot of inspiration where there are sometimes not the best of relations between right-to-life groups.