In September, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children held its national conference in conjunction with the annual meeting of the International Right to Life Federation. Conference participants were thus treated to international experts from all corners of the globe who spoke about the challenges to defend human life at all stages.

SPUC, which describes itself as the world’s first pro-life pressure group, held its conference at the Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire, England, several hours north of London. Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition and vice-president of the IRTLF, welcomed participants. In his comments, Hughes reminded pro-lifers that they must be both focused and compassionate and that, despite the difficulties they face, they must remain vigilant and hopeful. He described the long journey to restore legal protection to the unborn as part of the gift the cause gives to vulnerable people.

In another session, Hughes described the situation in Canada, noting that in 2008 abortionist Henry Morgentaler was given the country’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada. Despite this, he focused on signs of hope, including the growing number of youth involved in the movement, new forms of activism, including the 40 Days for Life vigil, and the largest ever National March for Life this past spring.

Other IRTLF board members who spoke included president Dr. Jack Willke, who described numerous signs of hope that are occurring around the world and how abortion contains the seeds of its own demise; Dr. Talmir Rodriguez, a legislator from Brazil, who explained how he used his background as a medical doctor to debunk many pro-abortion lies; Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad from the Philippines, who said that international agencies and non-government organizations were lobbying the Filipino government to weaken protection for the unborn and that it has already capitulated in some areas, such as funding contraception and sterilization; John Smeaton, president of SPUC, who outlined the history of the pro-life issue in the United Kingdom and the lessons learned, including the impossibility of holding the line on gestational limits to abortion; William Saunders, senior counsel for Americans United for Life, who reported that every branch of government in the U.S. is controlled by abortion supporters and described how President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress were using health care reform to promote and fund abortion.

There were numerous other international and British speakers.



Rev. Arnold Culbreath, urban outreach director of Willke’s Life Issues Institute, went into depth about the Obama presidency and the effects of abortion on black America. Noting that he is not anti-Obama and prays for the president daily, Culbraith expressed his disappointment that America’s first black president not only supported, but promoted, the leading cause of death among blacks in America. Noting that blacks account for just 13 per cent of the population, he condemned the fact that nearly 500,000 of the 1.3 million surgical abortions done in America annually are procured by black women. He said there is a disproportionate number of abortion facilities in minority communities.

But Culbreath warned against despair. He said, “If we lose heart, we lose the battle.” He said the aggressively pro-abortion stance of the president is an opportunity for dialogue, both in the broader public and within the black community. He added: “You must lovingly and caringly draw people in and then drop the truth on them.”

Fenny Tatad, wife of IRTLF board member Kit Tatad and executive director of the bishops-legislators caucus of the Philippines, told the conference about the battle to uphold the sanctity of human life when facing deception. She described how the media spread pro-abortion lies, but will not allow pro-lifers access to provide their side. She also noted how pro-abortion NGOs and international organizations will work with local politicians to get anti-life language inserted into legislation that has nothing to do with abortion, but creates openings to promote abortion, contraception and sterilization.

Tatad said it was obscene that the reproductive health budget was “bloated” at time when many legitimate medical needs are unmet in her country. She held out for special criticism the Obama administration and its reversal of the U.S. ban on the use of American taxpayer money for overseas abortions. Tatad said pro-abortion forces have more resources and are more aggressive in promoting their cause because of the change in the U.S. funding rules.

Catholic author Fiorella Nash (The Cassandra Curse and Fr. William’s Daughter) called for a pro-life feminism that does not pit mother against child. She criticized feminists who attack pro-life women, condemning their attempts to marginalize and silence “the very people who claim to speak and campaign in their name.” She said it was time to create pro-life women’s groups to “develop a new women’s movement which embraces and celebrates the dignity of women, the sanctity of life and the need for men and women to work together.”

She wondered about the silence of feminists over Red China’s one-child policy and its use of coerced abortion. “What happened to universal sisterhood?” Nash wondered.

She also spoke out against in-vitro fertilization and cloning for the commoditization of women and children and the implicit pressure it puts on mothers to have perfect children.

Various SPUC representatives addressed recent issues in the United Kingdom. Pat Buckley noted Ireland is having a difficult time holding the line against abortion, with the European Union applying pressure to change the law. In December, the European Court of Human Rights will decide whether the Republic of Ireland can maintain its pro-life constitution or whether it must permit abortion, at least in some cases. In Northern Ireland, Liam Gibson explained, SPUC is fighting to maintain the continuation of Northern Ireland’s opt-out from British abortion law.

Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, reported on recent legal cases that were expanding euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Antonia Tully of the Patients First Network described how her group helps patients and families navigate the health care system to protect against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. She noted patients must assert their rights and not succumb to dubious medical advice.

CLC’s Jim Hughes told The Interim afterward that the conference was informative and inspirational. He noted that such events are worthwhile not because one learns how groups around the world are dealing with many of the same issues faced by the Canadian pro-life movement, but the because of “encouragement that is provided by knowing that we are not alone in this fight.”