Tuesday, 20 November 2012

An update to my last post on Maternal death.

Since posting this on the death of Savita Halapannavar, a few more things came to my attention which add more context to this story. Initially I added them at the bottom of my original post, but Mac at Mulier Fortis pointed out that it wouldn't be picked up by RSS readers and so it might be worth putting the update in a separate post. Seems like a good idea, so here it is:

This article in the Hindu Times quotes the president elect of the Federation of obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India, Dr. Hema Divakar defending the decision of the Irish doctors as being reasonable:

 Cause of death
 Delay or refusal to terminate the pregnancy does not in itself seem to be the cause of death. Even if the law permitted it, it is not as if her life would have been saved because of termination,” she said. “Severe septicaemia with disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a life-threatening bleeding disorder which is a complication of sepsis, major organ damage and loss of the mother’s blood due to severe infection, is the cause of death in Savita’s case. This is what seems to have happened and this is a sequence which cannot be reversed just by terminating the pregnancy.”

Pain and infection
Analysing the situation, Dr. Divakar said: “Based on available information, Savita would have reported pain and infection and doctors would have indicated a miscarriage as the 17-week foetus may not have grown as expected. Its growth would have been deteriorating because of the infection. Having understood that the baby was not going to make it, the couple would have asked for termination. But as Savita’s infection may have required aggressive treatment at that stage, doctors must have felt the need to prevent complications. The usual [practice] is to meddle the least till the mother is stable.”
Asserting that it is wise to wait in cases with such complications at 17 weeks, Dr. Divakar said: “As per reports, the baby’s heartbeat stopped after three days. But that was expected.” 
The blogger Thirsty Gargoyle points out significant discrepancies in the various timelines of events which are being quoted in the press.
How has the Irish Times ran two conflicting versions -- one written, one aural -- of the same story, and not noticed that they contradict each other? Did Kitty Holland not notice, the second time she interviewed Praveen, that his sequence of events had changed?
How has nobody picked up on the fact that the sequence of events as described by the Irish Times, with Praveen as a source, and RTE, dependent on the hospital's viewpoint, are completely at odds with each other?
He also posts the timeline of events from Galway University Hospital which RTE reports on here.

Sunday 21 October:
Patient presents to hospital complaining of backpain.
Patient is admitted with a threatened miscarriage to the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Unit.
Monday 22 October:
After 24 hours of admission, antibiotics are given.
Tuesday 23 October:
Patient transferred to theatre.
Spontaneous miscarriage occurs.
Wednesday 24 October: 
Post-theatre patient is transferred to Intensive Care Unit.
Patient remains unwell.
Thursday-Saturday 25-27 October:
Patient continues to deteriorate.
Sunday 28 October:
Patient dies in ICU.
Post mortem examination ordered by coroner.

One of the commenters on my last post, Katie, asked about normal management of pre term premature rupture of membranes (PPROM).
With the important caveat that I am not an expert and I don't wish to add to the speculation before the facts, here is the answer I gave Katie according to my understanding:

 The central issue here appears to be whether or not the patient was showing signs of infection. If not then it is quite typical, as I understand it, for management to be expectant. That is, to wait for labour to start, but usually within a given time frame and with close monitoring for signs of chorioamnionitis.

If infection is present, there seems to be agreement in most places that induction would be normal management. However, as the article in the Hindu Times I linked to above says, it could be that inducing a woman already in septic shock may dramatically worsen her condition.

This is why I say that crises such as these are managed on a case by case basis, taking a number of other clinical factors into account.

Here's one article I found which explains management quite clearly..
 This quote refers to PPROM in the second trimester, which was the stage of pregnancy that Savita was at. It explains that, in the absence of infection, such patients may even be managed at home ( actually, in some ways this may be safer, from an infection control point of view, because hospital environments are full of foreign pathogens):

"Chorioamnionitis occurs in 30-60% of patients with second trimester PPROM. The risk of infection increases with duration of ROM and an AFI less than 2.0 cm. Frequent exams are necessary to ensure maternal safety. Patients need to be educated about the warning signs of intraamniotic infection and need to take their temperature 3 times a day at home. These patients do not need to be cared for in the hospital if no evidence of vaginal bleeding or infection exists. They may consider admission for inpatient management at 24 weeks, which currently is considered the point of viability at most institutions."
A couple of other things. There have been frequent references to the open cervix being akin to "an open head wound". The state of the cervix is more significant in terms of the inevitability of miscarriage. It is the torn membranes that pose a risk of infection.

Secondly, many commenters have said that the doctors ought to have agreed to termination of the pregnancy because the patient asked for it. But patient request, particularly in extremis, is not always good grounds for making important decisions about clinical management.

A personal anecdote here:
In September 2007  I was in labour with twins. I had been told that Olivia, "twin one", was dead.
Because we didn't know what had killed her and whether twin two might be next, I elected to have an emergency caesarean section. The prospect of labouring naturally, knowing that I would have to birth my stilborn baby first and that the living one might be at risk, was too frightening.
Traumatised and in shock, I'm ashamed to say that at this point I begged the registrar to sterilise me.
She refused saying that I wasn't in a fit state to know my own mind on the matter..
I insisted that I did and pleaded with her again, saying that I knew for a certainty that I couldn't go through this again.
She firmly refused.
Days later I was longing with all my heart to be pregnant again and grateful beyond words for her "no".

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Maternal Death: When fools rush in. (UPDATED)

The desperately sad death of Savita Halapannaver along with her unborn daughter at only 17 weeks gestation is a grim blow to her poor husband and a salutory reminder to the rest of us that life, even with all the technological and medical advantages that our generation enjoys, is still fragile.

There will be an enquiry and an inquest and until then, the staff involved will not be able to speak about what happened. All we have to go on by way of information is the account of her devastated husband.

One can only imagine how dazed, confused and angry he must be. How does the human heart begin to absorb such a thing? To lose one's young wife just as she was looking forward to motherhood is a shattering reversal of fortune. It is completely understandable that he should be angry. Necessary even. Everyone's heart is moved to pity for the man who has had his life, his hopes and his love ripped away from him.

But as a midwife, my thoughts are also with the staff at the hospital where she died. I know that they will be in shock and grief. Maternity care is wonderfully fulfilling and challenging, it is also hugely demanding, physically, mentally and emotionally. No crisis is straightforward, even with the best clinical protocols in place, critical issues are dealt with on a case by case basis. Sometimes mistakes are made. Genuine errors, with catastrophic consequences.

What happens when you make a mistake at work? All responsibilities are stressful and burdensome at times, but imagine if your mistake potentially cost the life of two people who depended upon you for their well being?

I still recall with a chill the time when, as a student midwife, I infiltrated a perineum with lignocaine, anticipating the need for an episiotomy. We had learned how important it was to draw back the plunger to make sure the needle hadn't entered a blood vessel since, we were told, should lignocaine enter the bloodstream it could bind irreversibly to cardiac muscle and cause the heart to arrest. For some reason, amongst all the other dire warnings and 'thou shalt nots' my imagination was particularly seized by this picture. I turned over in my mind the horror of such a calamity happening in so banal a way.

So when, just after depressing the plunger, the labouring mother gasped weakly that she felt odd, that she couldn't see properly and was finding it hard to breathe, I was stricken with the thought that I had failed to do that vital check. I felt as though my brain was on fire and the joints in my knees literally began to give way. All I could think was that I had killed a mother just as her baby was entering the world.

Happily, it soon became apparent that I had done no such thing. The mother had merely been hyper ventilating and had become light headed. But I couldn't speak for fright. I handed over the scissors to the midwife who was with me. She took one look at my ashen face and understood that I had lost my nerve, but she didn't realise why until afterwards in the staff room when I told her how the bottom had fallen out of my world in that moment.

A friend of mine, tired towards the morning, having spent the entire night shift with a labouring woman, made an error that could very nearly have been fatal for the baby. A shot of pethidine for a multiparous woman in transition, very nearly fully dilated and ready to push her baby out, having laboured with no pain relief was now asking for something to get her over the final hump. After delivering the shot, he double checked the syringe and realised that instead of pethidine he had given her syntometrine. A drug which is given just as the baby is emerging, the effect of which is to cause the uterus to clamp down and cause the placenta to detach from its wall. A potentially catastrophic error of enormous magnitude. Obviously, until the baby is actually born, the last thing you want is the placenta to detach itself from the uterine wall.

Happily, unlike me with the lignocaine, he kept an extremely clear head. He quickly examined the woman, "encouraging" the cervix, now almost fully dilated, to open up all the way, and encouraged the mother to give a big push. This being her third or fourth labour a few pushes were all it took to get the baby out and everything ended well.

On another occasion I attended one of the monthly meetings held on labour ward where obstetricians highlighted some of that months difficult cases and peer reviewed the clinical management decisions. What went well, what some would have done differently etc.

One of the team put a picture on the overhead projector of a chubby stillborn infant. I stared at the greatly enlarged picture on the wall waiting for the awful account of whatever obstetric disaster had led to this. I remember the silence in the room as he paused before saying "This, is a healthy term infant, delivered by forceps at 40 weeks and 3 days. The only thing wrong with him...is that he is dead."

The senior registrar who had delivered the baby was in the room, with this evidence of her catastrophic failure before her, and us. And I felt the crushing weight, the awfulness of that. It seems that she had been called out in the night to this woman who had failed to progress in labour, attempted a somewhat difficult rotational forceps delivery, and in doing so ruptured the woman's uterus. The baby died and the woman had a life saving hysterectomy. Left with a dead baby and no hope of getting another one.

I don't know the extent of the senior registrars responsibility. But I shudder when I imagine how she must have felt.

So when the news of the hapless Savita's death emerged, my thoughts, as well as being naturally with her husband were also with the team of people who had been caring for her. No doubt they are shocked and traumatised too and many will be reproaching themselves for failures, real or imagined.

Despite the fact that actual hard information about this case is very thin on the ground, the story was quickly spun into a narrative in which she died because she was denied an abortion by staff so blinkered and hamstrung by religious dogma that they refused to act to save her life.

That she died owing to the denial of abortion on the grounds that Ireland "is a Catholic country" has been uncritically accepted and enthusiastically exploited by pro choice groups apparently seeking to make political capital out of this human tragedy. With the facts still far from clear, there has been an unseemly rush to appropriate the deceased young mother as an abortion rights martyr who died at the hands of Catholic doctors claiming that they couldn't help her because this was a "catholic country"

There are far more questions than answers at this stage, and no doubt there will be a proper enquiry which will thoroughly scrutinise the clinical judgements made in the management of this case. It is beyond grotesque however to witness the exploitation of such a desperately tragic circumstance by those who are evidently much more interested in abortion rights than sound maternity care.

A few sound bites from the subsequent feeding frenzy among the clear eyed apostles of evidence and reason:

Richard Dawkins tweets that " Irish Catholic bigotry kills woman"

Another shrieks that " Ireland's Roman Catholic Church murders Savita"

Yet another announces that a " European hospital tortures a woman to death over ideology. And adds for good rhetorical measure: "this is gender based violence"

The inflammatory and irresponsible title of this post "Woman dies in hospital because of catholic dogma" ( by a blogger whose stated aim is to promote reason, critical thinking and ethical atheism ) set the tone for the  hysteria which played out in the comments.

I weighed in with the caveat that all the information was not available. No one can assume to know all the facts in advance of an enquiry.

At this point it isn't at all clear whether Savita's E.coli infection had even been identified until it was already a galloping sepsis. In one of the audio interviews with the husband he seems to say that infection was initially ruled out and that she was given prophylactic antibiotics when she was admitted on Sunday.

That night she was told that she would lose the baby. On Monday she asked for an abortion because she found it distressing listening to the heartbeat and "just couldn't take it". Mr. Halapannaver doesn't say that she or anyone felt, at this stage that her life was at risk if management continued expectantly, it seems here as though her request for an abortion was in order to bring her distressing circumstance to a close.

Her husband Praveen describes her as being 'fine', albeit distressed, until Tuesday evening when she started to feel ill. The following day she is taken to theatre, and after that her condition rapidly deteriorates. He describes her as being critically ill on Thursday and on Friday Praveen is told she has an E.coli infection and she is put on dialysis. By Saturday she is in multi organ failure and on Sunday she dies.

In interviews elsewhere it appears that she didn't start antibiotics till Tuesday. Who knows what that means. Perhaps by Tuesday the lab report had come back and shown that she had an E.coli infection which was resistant to the antibiotics she was already on and her presription was changed?

In the absence of evidence of infection, abortion is not a typical treatment for pre term labour with ruptured membranes. Antibiotic prophylaxis is, as is very close monitoring ( bloods, temp, physical signs etc) . There is no real evidence yet that abortion would have made one bit of difference to the sad outcome in this case. It seemed to me as though pro choicers had seized upon this story to dishonestly claim that abortion would have certainly saved her life and that the decision of the team managing her care had been skewed by blind adherence to religious dogma.

I said that such a scenario as Savita presented with is not completely unusual and whether she aborted or not, what she most needed was presumably close monitoring and timely, effective prophylactic antibiotics. There are a number of similar cases of women who have also died of septicaemia following legal abortion. Had this unfortunate woman aborted, precisely the same risks of infection would likely have remained.

Here are some of the responses. I put them here because I think it is instructive how quickly the debate moved to personal attack. It demonstates the ugly tendency among those with political agendas, to cynically exploit a terrible human tragedy, beefing up the facts in order to score goals and, in this case, fashion a stick with which to beat pro life Ireland.

"I will never understand why is it so easy for christians to kill a full grown woman, with life, relationships, dreams, future"

"Claire, It worries me that you are a midwife. That actually proves how much an ideology can even blind a supposedly “knowledgeable” person. it’s quite telling that you insist on calling the fetus “baby”." ( Um, what kind of weirdo thinks that it's sinister to refer to a woman's unborn baby as a baby? Can you imagine your midwife or doctor referring to your 'fetus'?)

"Ahhh, a wonderful, pro-life troll with nothing better to do with their life than to verbally admonish a) a dead woman for even DARING to ask for the help denied to save her life and b) spout out more pro life rubbish that caused her death in the first place?"

"Be honest, Clare, you don’t care about the women, all you care about are the fetuses. You don’t care that what happened here stopped Savita’s beating heart. And, to be blunt, you are cruel and heartless."

"Everybody who treated her should be thrown in prison for murder. They knew exactly what would happen."

"Clare’s internalized misogyny is sad. Her gleefull recitation of misogynistic talking points designed to obscure the fact that catholic dogma straight up murdered this woman is expected."

"Clare’s obvious joy at the death of an innocent woman is sickening."

This gem stood out:
"Clare When you die the world will become a slightly more caring, humane place. Please hurry."

Humanity and kindness abounds among the hysterical Apostles of Tolerance! Wishing for the early death of a mother of six children is a strange way to demonstrate concern for the early death of the mother in question here.

That Savita has been claimed as an abortion rights martyr by pro choicers eager to make inroads into Ireland's abortion laws is simply repulsive to me. The protest they held outside the Irish embassy in London would have looked a damned sight more sincere were it not for their deafening silence over the death by post abortion sepsis of Jessie Maye Barlow . Or that of 18 year old Manon Jones.

In London alone, more than 100 mothers have died in childbirth over the last five years. That's more than 100 mothers who died in our capital city, none of whom were honoured by a single candle lit vigil outside an embassy, or Parliament, or the Department of Health as far as I'm aware.

While the UK trails at a pitiful 23rd in the global ranking league tables for maternal mortality, Ireland sits way above us in 6th place. Giving them ample reason to justifiably say that they are one of the safest countries in the world for a pregnant mother.

Hello abortion rights campaigners angrily denouncing Ireland's religiously motivated "killing" of women. Can you see perhaps why your sudden interest in Savita alone seems more than a little disingenuous to me?

Sepsis is now the leading cause of maternal mortality in the UK. So it's more than a bit rich when Brits congregate outside the Irish embassy in London to lament neglect of women in Irish hospitals.

It would be nice to see an outbreak of reason among the soi disant "Brights" such as Richard Dawkins and co. How about they wait for the results of the enquiry and set about getting our own house in order before lighting the torches and galvanising the mob for a lynching?

I have moved the update to a new post here.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Fr Alan James Fudge. First anniversary.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the death of Fr Alan Fudge, the much beloved pastor of St Charles Borromeo church in Ogle Street, London.
He made his final Passover at 3 o'clock in the morning of the 5th August 2011 as his companions recited the Creed. He died "Professing the Faith of Our Holy Mother the Church" as he had expressly hoped in an earlier letter concerning his wishes for his funeral.
With beautiful timing it was the day after the feast of St John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests, and just before the feast of the Transfiguration.  

The Mass yesterday was beautiful. The church was packed, and the Homily was given by the recently ordained Fr Ivano.  Fr Alan had attended his ordination to the diaconate in June last year, just two months before he left us. Fr Ivano reminded us that he has left very clear instructions for his funeral. One of these was that he wanted no panegyric, just a simple announcement of the Kerygma. The Good News of Jesus Christ in whom death has been conquered. Alleluia! 
In his funeral, as throughout his ministry as a priest,  Fr Alan preached Christ to us.

I was sitting near the baptismal font where he baptised our youngest Marie-Aibhlinn and over which he had lain in his coffin the night before his funeral at the Cathedral. To see him resting there had certainly made vivid the powerful symbolism of the baptismal waters. 
I thought about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea, about Christ's baptism in the Jordan, about Blessed John Paul II venerating his own baptismal font in Wadowice,  about all the souls Fr Alan brought into the life of Grace in that font and about my own death. I hope I die as holy a death as Fr Alan.

After Mass we went to St Mary's graveyard in Kensal Rise and prayed the Rosary together and sang the creed.

I was surprised he had such an ordinary little grave. I shouldn't have been of course. He wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life; when can I enter and see the face of God?
Ps 41:3

Friday, 3 August 2012

Responding to criticisms of 40 days For Life. Part One.

So here it is, as promised in my previous post, and slightly redacted here and there to remove personal details and irrelevant verbiage, my pro life apologia. Part one:

Dear A
I understand your concerns about the possible intimidation of women who are already in an enormously stressful situation. I would be horrified too if I thought that some of the reported accounts of what happens at 40 Days For Life were accurate. However I think it is a shame you didn't feel able to discuss this with me first, if only to give me an opportunity to explain a little more..

I think there is much about this issue and my involvement with it that you misunderstand. I try to keep in mind that people who hold contrary positions to my own usually do so out of the best of intentions. Often we want the same thing, but our vision for how to achieve that may differ considerably.

I too am greatly concerned about the rights of women, but I believe the rhetoric of choice, applied to abortion, is deeply misleading. Abortion hurts more women than it helps.

A woman doesn't 'choose' abortion like she chooses a home, a husband or a career. She chooses it like a trapped animal chooses to gnaw off its own leg to get away. This is the choice that confronts many women who choose abortion. For them, to choose abortion is to exercise a 'non choice'. They choose abortion precisely because they feel they have 'no choice'. Many of them are under enormous pressure from family, often a mother or a boyfriend to abort. They are told that unless they abort, they will get no support. Alone and abandoned they feel that they have no other option available to them.

For these women, an encounter with a pro lifer is often the first time they have encountered someone who has responded to their pregnancy as something other than an insuperable disaster. They are offered whatever help and support they feel they need, practical, financial and emotional. And that help is ongoing for as long as they feel they need it. Sometimes this will be many years. This is something that BPAS and Marie Stopes cannot offer. The only "help" on offer from such places is an abortion.

The decision to seek an abortion is not a straightforward one of choice. Many of the women helped by pro lifers are those who fall through the cracks of society. Some of these women are illegals, working in the black economy, with no access to benefits of any kind. Some are foreign students who have invested everything in the opportunity to study here and are without family or friend support of any kind. They can get an abortion free on the NHS but must pay for any obstetric care they receive. Where is the "choice" for women like these? For them, the idea of 'choice' is mere empty rhetoric, because they simply have none. There are many women such as these, who have been supported to keep their babies who would otherwise have aborted because they felt that they had no other choice.

A couple of months ago, one Sunday during an aggressive pro choice 'counter protest' outside the clinic, a middle aged woman got out of a car and approached a friend of mine wanting to know what was going on. When my friend explained about the vigil she became very emotional. She said that March was a very difficult time of year for her. More than 20 years previously, she had had an abortion and was still carrying the pain of that experience. She tearfully hugged my friend and said " I wish you had been there for me all those years ago, because no one was there for me then. I was all alone" This is a story we hear many, many times.

Many of the people involved in pro life work are themselves post abortive and have found healing in helping other women in crisis pregnancies, and also in helping other post abortive women who are struggling to come to terms with their experiences. Shattered by the pain of abortion, many of these women have become the most eloquent and impassioned defenders of everyone's right to life.

Having experienced a pregnancy full of panic, depression and feelings of being unable to cope, and having been helped through that by the unending kindness and patience of people like your sister D, whose goodness to me I will never forget, my heart is torn to pieces when i think about those women who find themselves alone, unsupported and afraid. And having subsequently lost one of the babies I so noisily complained about, I quail to imagine the depths of anguish that such women feel when their immediate crisis passes and they look back on what they have lost. This is how my pro life consciousness became activated. I suddenly saw that this was an issue of NON choice for many women. And that many, many women are silently carrying the unspeakable pain of abortion.

At least a woman who has had a stillbirth or a miscarriage feels that sympathy for her loss may be legitimately sought and received. The woman who has ended her own pregnancy is often left carrying the can for "her choice". This makes her suffering all the more ferocious.

The media has massively twisted what happens at 40 Days For Life. They have tried to present it as an American style 'protest' which it isn't at all. At all vigils there is a sign displayed prominently saying "we are here to help". And the help that is on offer is real, as many women will attest. No-one is judging, condemning or bullying but trying to offer a lifeline.

It is grotesquely wrong and unfair to conflate peaceful pro life outreach with the murder of abortionists. All pro lifers are appalled by violence, because we believe that all human life is worthy of our respect and protection. A few lone crazies do not represent any organisation or movement. It would be equally wrong to tar all peaceful Muslims with the 9/11 brush, or all atheists with the murderous purges of Stalin, Pol Pot or the French Revolution.

I don't want to see a return to "back street abortions", I am far more ambitious than that. I want a society where no woman ever feels she has "no choice" but to abort her unborn child. I want to promote a new way of looking at life. Abortion hurts women.

Despite the euphemistic language that surrounds it, everyone knows that abortion involves the ending of a human life, and that is why you quite rightly say that the decision to abort is "one of the most difficult and heartbreaking" that anyone is ever likely to face. 
It is always wrong, in my opinion, to kill a living human being. That is not to deny that some women face the most horrendous circumstances. They do. And there are no tidy solutions to some of life's grimmest problems. But far harder I think, to walk with a woman in difficult circumstances, and try to share some of her burden.

I don't feel the shame that you say is rightfully mine. I dont feel ashamed because I am so convinced of the inestimable value of every human life, and of our obligation to defend the weakest and most vulnerable members of our human society. This is a matter of conscience for me and although I am sad to lose your good opinion of me, it would be sadder by far for me to silence my conscience in this, or any other respect, in order to secure the esteem of friends.

All this said, I know that you are a wonderful person and that you see this issue in a very different light. I may not be able to convince you of my own good intentions, and I almost certainly will not be able to convince you to see things from my vantage point, but I hope that you will be able to find a way to accommodate, if not exactly celebrate, my 'diversity' in this respect.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

let the pro lifer be unto you as a heathen and a tax collector.

So. My book club of more than 10 years standing has ground to a sudden, juddering halt.
One minute we were rolling down the literary highway,  the next we were standing on the hard shoulder.
It was like having a blowout on the motorway.

I got an admonishing email from a book club buddy..
A VERY admonishing email. The kind that ends with a final deprecating "Shame on you"
Seems I've been rumbled. 
My involvement with 40 Days For Life would appear to be in the same category, pariah wise, as belonging to the BNP.
So my liberal minded book buddy had little option she felt, but  to call me out on my "behaviour". 
After all, as she put it, if I was a racist she would have a moral obligation to call me out on that too.  To remain silent she said, would  make her feel "complicit" in my actions, actions which in truth, she explained, horrified her.
Such is the heavy moral obligation incumbent on the right minded liberal thinker these days.
Liberal totalitarianism is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

So the email listed all the ways in which my "behaviour" represented such an affront that the book club really couldn't continue without addressing the issue and helping me see the magnitude of my error. And ultimately it seems,  my recanting.

The principal concerns were these:

That my presence outside the clinic is tantamount to bullying women who are at their lowest ebb,  facing "the most difficult and heartbreaking decision that anyone is ever likely to make"

That the right to safe and legal abortion worldwide is paramount, and that I, and 40 Days For Life,  put this hard fought right at risk.

That I open up the country to "more extreme elements", and increase the likelihood of violence such as the shooting of abortionists.

That I terrify women, making it more likely that they will "take matters into their own hands".  Her principal concern was, she said, above all for the safety of these women.

That for all the babies lives saved by 40 Days For Life , there are many others "damaged, destroyed and cut short" by their campaigns.

I won't go into all the too'ing and fro'ing, but suffice to say that it stirred up a hornets nest.
The next book club was slated as an air clearing session.
'Out' being better than 'in' after all. 
To be honest though, I didn't feel terribly enthusiastic about providing myself as a target for anyone to dump their disapproval on.
It's hard to enjoy the nibbles and Sauv Blanc when you feel like a counter revolutionary in a Maoist struggle session.
But along I went nonetheless, to face the music.

Oh, anyway, I don't think I have the heart to hash it all out here, but the long and the short is that the book club would now appear to be at an end. 
Having attended the 'air clearing' it wasn't quite the Star Chamber experience I was expecting. They didn't tar and feather me.
It was rather polite. And heartbreaking actually.
These are my friends of many years standing.
I'd been told that everyone was in agreement, but  in fact two or three of the book clubbers said they were on the fence on the issue and just wanted the club to continue regardless.
Having already sent two emails responding in detail to most of the indictments, I said very little. I felt I'd already said most of what needed to be said.
I felt that for me, the most significant question was whether I could continue enjoying the book club, and their company, despite feeling so 'disapproved of'.  Oddly perhaps, I felt I could. I wasn't expecting approval anyway.
And this seemed like one of those 'potential' moments, when the "tolerance in diversity" rubber really hits the hard road. I wanted to hang in there.
But the most significant questions was theirs.
Could they 'bear' me?

Well, at the heels of the hunt, the book club came to an impasse. Three of the book clubbers resigned. They felt that what had happened had made the book club itself untenable for them. 
And no one else has the heart to carry on.  

Having poured out my heart about the pro life issue in two emails, in which I answer the charges which were put to me, it occurs to me that it might be worth leaving the relevant parts of  my  responses here on my blog. In part because I know that my book club are not the only ones among my friends who are mystified or even angry or repulsed by my pro life activities. Some of them read my blog, others may stumble across it.
So I'm planning to post  my responses to the main criticisms shortly . Just for the record, so to speak.
More on this to follow.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The women Victoria Derbyshire didn't meet.

Clare and Stuart of the Good Counsel Network really do walk the pro life talk. In fact, they don't seem to do very much "talk" at all. They're too busy getting on with the business of walking alongside women who find themselves in the most desperate circumstances imaginable. In some cases they will continue to walk alongside them for years. Many of the women they help are those for whom the idea of "choice" is an ironically cruel slogan. Alone and with no means of support whatsoever, some of the women who come to them feel they have "no choice" but to end their pregnancies. This is a post I was sent about some women they have helped. I am happy to share it here.
One that got away - A Baby Whose Mum Chose Life after Visiting an Abortuary You will probably have heard by now about this programme at 10am today on BBC Radio 5 Live; "Victoria [Derbyshire] speaks to doctors, nurses and patients live from an abortion clinic [sic]. It is hard to believe that this will be anything other than a bit of pro-death propaganda. No doubt some of the tragedy of abortion may come through, but it will be presented as a necessary evil, and a better option than raising a child in difficult circumstances - ultimately a good thing for society, but hard. That's our bet anyway. If you are listening-in, please don't hesitate to give some feedback to provide balance. The details are: Call 0500 909693 [free from most landlines; other networks may vary]. Text: 85058 [standard message rate]. Email: Victoria@bbc.co.uk. Twitter: @vicderbyshire. If you would like to hear the other side of the story, the real help that women need, and what it is like for a woman who changes her mind at the abortuary doorstep, or what it is like for those who go through the abortion because they have no other choice, or if you want to hear from someone who spends her life providing real help to women in crisis pregnancies, read on. Robert Colquhoun of 40 Days for Life, has interviewed 4 such women at the Good Counsel Centre. Here are interviews with two women who turned around on the doorsteps of the abortuary, because Catholics were there to offer them help, when both felt had that they had no choice. http://www.divshare.com/download/17571772-a3d (10 minutes) & http://www.divshare.com/download/17571864-4dc (20 minutes) This third women has had an abortion and needs her vioce to be heard. Please send this link to everyone you know; http://www.divshare.com/download/17571931-cd3 (20 minutes) Finally here is Ronni a volunteer with Good Counsel; http://www.divshare.com/download/17571913-6ce (11 minutes) To give Mums-to-be a real chioce involves a lot of time, money and prayer, - we don't have enough of any of these to help all the turnarounds currently needing our help - if we all do our bit to help, even more lives will be saved. Please spread the word.
Clare and Stuart McCullough

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Gates Lift up your heads! Raise your arches! Let the King of Glory enter!

I have finally worked out how to upload video's to YouTube. Thrice woot!

Palm Sunday procession. Fitzroy square to Ogle Street.
It is a privilege and a joy to follow the Cross of Christ in the streets with my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Spin, Lies and Videotape: 40 Days For Life

On Monday 12th March, a man with a video camera came to Bedford Square, apparently to interview the people on vigil there with 40 Days For Life. There have been reports that he turned the camera around and fimed the clinic, or that he was filming a 40 DFL person with the clinic behind her, which have morphed into reports of him filming women, "sticking his camera in women's faces" etc.
Given the nature of what is happening there, and the attention that 40 DFL is getting- especially among 'pro choicers' for whom the good behaviour of those involved poses an interesting problem - those on the vigil are under intense scrutiny for anything with which the opposition could make hay.

Filming around the square, especially if done by someone apparently simpatico to the pro life cause, was always going to be potentially incendiary.
I don't know whether the camera was only trained on those who were being interviewed, or whether it swung around to take in the Square, including the clinic itself.  I cannot believe that anyone would be so enormously crass as to purposefully "film the women going in and out", as has been alleged.  Certainly that remains an allegation with no actual factual support. But no matter, this is what has been reported in the press, for as we know, a lie can travel twice around the world before the truth has got its boots on.
Nonetheless, even the possibility of such filming is naturally terribly upsetting and invasive for any woman visiting the clinic and for that reason, best avoided altogether in my opinion.
What we have seen is the pro choice lobby quickly taking full advantage of this incident and spinning it into a narrative in which 40 Days For Life themselves were filming women going in and out for the purpose of intimidating them.
A reporter from the BBC Today programme visited the square and asked about reports that women were "encircled and shouted at", a scenario SO depressingly spurious that it was plain, to me that there was some mischievous misrepresentation of the actuality going on.
During some ensuing Twitter conversations with the concerned and the outraged ,  I have put it to them that the cameraman was not himself part of the vigil, and that he was just  filming those who were.
How much authority, I wondered, are those who attend the vigil expected to have over other people who turn up and film in the Square?
A couple of days after this incident I was in the Square and a man from Reuters was spending lots of time taking pictures with his great big conspicuous Press camera. He wouldn't give his name and told me he didn't need anyone's permission and could take pictures whether we liked it or not.
The day before this ( a day after the filming brouhaha had broke) Sunny Hundal of the blog Liberal Conspiracy, visited the Square to interview people on the vigil.
He called his post "Anti Abortion Preachers Caught On Film"
Ironically, it might have been called "The Hypocrisy and Conceit of So Called Pro Choicers Caught On Film"
Take a look at the video. Watch where the camera goes at about 1.17 minutes in:

See that? It pans right around and films the clinic entrance itself.
The very thing 40 Days for Life are accused of doing.
Or at least accused of not stopping.
So I suppose they were doubly guilty for not also stopping Sunny himself?

Sunny is mostly the one holding the camera.
But then an interesting conversation developed. This time, not about the alleged filming of women, but about the accuracy of the fetal models which were kept in a small black box..
Most of the talking is done by a woman who identifies herself as Heather Wallace. She presents herself to them as being an expert in fetal development and someone who knows what she is talking about when she critiques the accuracy of the fetal models. Models which by the way, were  positioned with those praying on the other side of the road to the clinic.
The two men who she is talking to say little, and don't take much issue with her repeated insistence that "it doesn't look like that!" as she fingers a model of an eight week fetus.
In fairness to them, they have turned up to pray, and haven't made any claims of expertise for themselves in the area of embryology.
 Likely they were also mindful of the 40 DFL statement of peace and unwilling to be drawn into an argument.

 I sensed that her lexicon was not typical of a specialist and that she was likely to be pretty much bluffing about the extent of her knowledge in this area. I guessed that she was someone with probably enough tangential experience to give her the confidence to challenge, on the assumption that the men she was talking to probably wouldn't know any better.
 Besides, I believe an 8 week embryo does pretty well "look like that".
I left a question on Sunny's blog asking where Heather got her information from and what then, she thinks the 8 week embryo does look like.
Turns out she works in medical publishing.
And she never did come back to say what she thinks the eight week embryo looks like.
So in the interests of clarity and accuracy, I thought I'd post pictures of the model in question and show you detailed colour pictures of an embryo of the same gestation.
You can judge for yourselves whether or not you think  "it doesn't look like that!"
Here are some photos of the actual model Heather objected to:

Here are some photos of actual embryos of 8 weeks gestation:

Here is a fetus at 7 weeks and 4 days:

And here is one at 9 weeks:


This is a very good quality video of an ultrasound at 9 wks 2 days.

And finally, at 10 weeks gestation, still in the intact amnion, held in a gloved hand.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The stuff of nightmares, and fright flicks.

So how was your Christmas holiday?
Did you burn the bread sauce?
Argue with grandma?
Hit the Baileys and wail dementedly over the sherryless sherry trifle?

This story is about to cock your turkey traumas and internecine festive squabbles into a cocked hat.

This young mother lost her husband to cancer on Christmas day.
She is alone a week later, on new years eve, with her three month old baby, when two intruders, one armed with a hunting knife, try to break into her home.
She thinks she recognises one of the men as someone who had been stalking her.
She puts the baby in the cot with a bottle to keep him quiet. She picks up a "12 gauge" and a pistol. She calls 911 and asks the operator if she can shoot him.
The operator, while not exactly telling her that she can shoot, tells her that she must do whatever she can to protect her baby.
The men outside start to break down her front door as she stands waiting, with her gun cocked.
As soon as the first man sets foot over the threshold, she fires the gun and kills him. His accomplice legs it.
It all sounds too incredible, and nightmarish, to be true. But the recording of the 911 call is here, and the poilce appear to verify her story.
Oh and by the way, she's eighteen.

Talk about Mama Bear. 
As the spunky lady says, there's nothing more dangerous than a mother with her child.
Oh yes.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

...I'm always late posting Christmas cards

Wishing you all a year of Grace in 2012.

"May the Lord be with you always and, wherever you are, may you be with Him always, Amen." (Blessing of Saint Clare)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Veni, Creator Spiritus!

VENI, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.
COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.
Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.
Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.
Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.

Come Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

( One of the most widely used hymns in the Church, Veni, Creator Spiritus, is attributed to Rabanus Maurus (776-856). It is used at Vespers, Pentecost, Dedication of a Church, Confirmation, and Holy Orders and whenever the Holy Spirit is solemnly invoked. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who recite it. A plenary indulgence is granted if it is recited on January 1st or on the feast of Pentecost.)