BY ED WEST
A CATHOLIC doctor who dedicated her life to battling against the legalisation of abortion and euthanasia has died at the age of 86.
Dr Peggy Norris died at a residential home in Guernsey on Saturday evening from a suspected heart attack. She will be best remembered for organising the biggest pro-life rally in British history, and for her tireless work for Human Life International.
She was also the public face of the unsuccessful campaign against moves to kill Hillsborough victim Tony Bland by depriving him of food and water. The ruling later led to a radical change in Britain's homicide law to allow euthanasia in certain circumstances.
Born in the village of Dangaan, Co Offaly in 1921, Peggy O'Meara studied medicine at University College Dublin before qualifying as a doctor. She first became active in ethical issues after working for the United Nations, helping victims of Nazi experiments.
"That had a huge influence on her," her daughter Margaret Leck said. "An awful lot emerged from that; there was a feeling of 'how could doctors do this?"' Dr Norris joined the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life, established by Dutch doctors after the war, and founded its British section.
She was also actively involved in the Catholic Marriage Advisory service, and the pro-life movement in the 1960s. In 1972 Dr Norris organised an anti-abortion rally in Liverpool, the largest in British history.
She later started the antieuthanasia group ALERT, as well as the Medical Education Trust, and worked for Human Life International, travelling relentlessly on behalf of the group.
"She was a very popular speaker with her lovely Irish accent," said ALERT's Elspeth Choudary-Best. "She was an outsize character. The last time I spoke to her, I knew she was unwell, because it was the first time she hadn't been upbeat or cheerful."
Mary Kenny, a Catholic Herald columnist, said: "She was lovely, a lovely, kind person hearty, kind-hearted and practical.
"Once when I was unwell she went out of her way to look out for me. She qualified as a doctor in the 1930s or 40s, when most women would have been steered towards nursing, and she came to her work not just as a Catholic but as a doctor. She thought euthanasia would compromise medical ethics."
Dr Norris received a papal blessing from John Paul II in 1995.
She was married to James Patrick Norris, with whom she had six children.