BY PIERS MCGRANDLE
PRO-LIFE CAMPAIGNERS this week condemned as "barbaric" the suggestion that the Birmingham woman carrying oetuplets should have six of her babies put to death by a process known as selective pregnancy reduction.
SPUC's director Phyllis Bowman said: "The question being raised by the doctors here is whether they should kill some of the infants to try to save others. The objective is good, but the meanskilling is unacceptable. The woman's doctors should do all they can to protect her health and ensure that as many as possible of the babies survive.
"Arguing for selective abortion to try to save some of these eight babies does not justify its use when a mother of twins is in need of financial help to raise them both."
SPUC's comments were echoed by LIFE's Professor Jack Scarisbrick, who said: "Medicine is a very inexact science. No one can predict exactly what will happen to this pregnancy. Certainly it seems unlikely that eight live children will be born and survive.
"But selective reduction of six of the eight would not only be barbarous: it could cause a catastrophic miscarriage of the whole pregnancy."
Meanwhile the consultant treating potential motherof-eight Mandy Allwood this week called for her to be left in peace, for fear that excessive public interest could harm her and her babies.
Miss Allwood, who is 14 weeks pregnant and has been told that she could earn £1 million Ilan survive, has signed a contract with the News of the World.
However the consultant at the heart of the storm, Professor Kypros Nicolade, has urged the newspaper to withdraw from the deal, saying that it could affect her judgment.
"There is a potential indirect danger to the babies, and also there is the problem that it will be very hard to make calm, rational tiedshins about a matter of life and death."
What next? Page 7
What next for the life campaigners?
After weeks of unprecedented exposure, pro-life groups have made an enormous impact. PIERS McGRANDLE asks if they can keep it up-and how?
NEW DEVELOPMENTS in foetal pain. The incineration of 3,000 embryos. The abortion of one healthy twin. The conception of octuplets and pressure on the mother to abort. Looking back, the summer of 1996 has been a remarkable period for the pro-life movement in this country.
Pro-lifers have always had a PR problem in this country. Whereas the pro-abortion lobby have always been seen as urbane, liberal, tolerant, pro-lifers are perceived to be the opposite fanatical, absolutist, insensitive, out of touch.
In the same way that the Orangemen are mistrusted on the mainland for their dourness, earnestness and inflexibility, so the pro-life movement has been seen as a haven for embittered fanatics.
Unlike America, where the whole issue is highly charged and unapologetic, pro-lifers here have always been sidelined. In the States, it matters deeply whether a candidate is pro or anti-abortion; in this country it assumes secondary importance.
Similarly, it takes great courage for any professional person to be overtly antiabortion. Whilst few people are actually comfortable with the notion of abortion, any polite conversation about abortion usually ends with "the number of abortions is unusually high, but the alternative is so much worse". It is the easy way out, the quickest cop-out, the passing of the buck, but most otherwise gentle and considerate people do it.
Nevertheless, few would deny that the last few weeks have been a defining moment in the history of the British pro-life movement. For a start, media attention to prolife issues has been astonishingly prolific.
Open a national newspaper today and the news pages and editorial columns are obsessed with embryology, medical ethics, the right-tolife issues and Church reactions to the latest medical issue. Only this week, the press has been pursuing the case of Mandy Allwood, expecting eight babies following fertility treatment, who is intent on selling her story to the tabloids.
But and this is the important factor what has been vital to the pro-life movement is the largely sympathetic coverage that such issues have received. After years of being ostracised by the bien-permant mainstream press, people from the most unlikely quarters have been offering their support. It is no real surprise when High Tory newspapers like the two Telegraphs adopt a completely Catholic line; it is a surprise when the Independent has Dr Wendy Savage and Libby Purves voicing their deepest concerns.
Crucially, with the sympathetic support of most of the media, and a changing mood in the country at large, half the battle seems won. But where does the pro-life movement go from here, and how can it capitalise on its newfound support?
Parliament. seems the way forward. The leading pressure group SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) is at the moment in the process of intensifying its political campaign against abortion at Westminster. Its aim is to amend the present abortion law; to tighten the grounds for abortion with the aim of stopping abortion on demand. SPUC has already drafted three Bills which the All-Party Parliamentary ProLife group have agreed to try to introduce if one of the MPs is lucky in the ballot.
Phyllis Bowman, national director, explains: "We are very fortunate that at this time there arc three Fleet Street editors willing to give a fair hearing to the prolife movement; the first time that it has been so for nigh on thirty years. The Daily Mild (Paul Dacre), The Daily Telegraph (Charles Moore) and The . Sunday Telegraph (Dominic Lawson) have all called for Parliament to reconsider the present law with the aim of making it more restrictive."
The other main pro-life group LIFE have profited from the furore. Spokeswoman Nuala Scarisbrick explains: "The publicity has been created by the abortionists and by the law as far as embryos are concerned, but what we as a group have done is respond effectively to the publicity that has been created".
LIFE has plans for the autumn, including giving support to David Amess's 10minute rule to ban the freezing of embryos.
LIFE also backs a more aggressive campaign to enable parents to adopt children. Phyllis Bowman adds: "There is no shortage of people willing to adopt. A number of our members put down to adopt disabled babies or babies with severe problems". Adoption would appear to be one answer the number of couples marrying late, coupled with a increasingly low sperm count among young men, has led to a rise in the number of childless couples marrying late".
ARLIAMENTARY affairs aside, pro-life groups will now have to strike a note of clarity and sanity into the whole sorry mess.
Reaction to the two seismic events the five year deadline for the disposal of unwanted human embryos and the news that doctors agreed to abort one, but not two babies has been charged but confused.
What else can you expect but confusion? It was inevitable that we should have reached this stage. Advances in medical technology would cause great perplexity in any country; in a society like ours, which has yet to reach any consensus on the matter, the result is one of angry chaos. Recent events seem to have galvanised the nation in an unprecendented way. Horrible realisation has finally dawned that children in the womb can be seen as commodities.
No longer can they be seen as separate living entities (with the rights that it entails); instead, they are perceived as being important to the psychological and emotional fulfilment of their parents. If the presence of a child is seen as a hindrance to such a development, then the answer is easy. After all, it's only a commodity.
Speaking to pro-lifers, one gets the impression that they resent the lack of full support from the Catholic hierarchy. As one person said: "The American Bishops produce excellent material intelligent and well produced. What we need here is a strong united statement from the Catholic hierarchy and from all Christian leaders".
What will be needed over the forthcoming weeks and months is a concerted, aggressive campaign by the pro-life movement to educate the British public, to re-establish in their minds the notion that human life is sacred and cannot be destroyed. This is a moment of truth; it is up to pro-lifers to seize it.