This evening Lord Alton, politician, peer, public speaker and pro-life activist, presented a talk for Oxford Students for Life, entitled ‘From the Womb to the Tomb: a Consistent Life Ethic’. The talk was a broad brushstroke treatment of many of the issues that our society campaigns passionately on – embryology, abortion, human cloning, assisted dying and euthanasia.
Lord Alton began his talk with a discussion on that seminal question as to where life begins, quoting leading embryologists, whose unbiased belief it is that life starts at conception. This led to a discussion on human cloning and human experimentation. The law allows experimentation on embryos up to fourteen day after conception (inadvertently admitting that something does begin at conception). However, Lord Alton argues that it is widely recognised by the scientific community that there is no scientific need for this experimentation. Where good science and good ethics go hand in hand, Lord Alton argues, we must celebrate. Yet human embryonic experimentation is neither good ethically nor scientifically. Lord Alton went on to quote C.S. Lewis, in whose fantastical science-fiction work That Hideous Strength argues prophetically for the progression and development in society of a kind of ‘technological brutalism.’ The mystery of life is gradually being turned into a commodity which we can manipulate as we please.
Lord Alton progressed to a discussion on abortion, including sex-selective abortion and abortion on the ground of disability. It was shocking even for those who knew the laws concerned abortion and disability to hear once more the horrific, lawful practice of the aborting of babies up to and during birth, because of disability, including a cleft palate or hare lip. 90% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are now aborted, creating, Lord Alton argues, a culture of eugenics, in which anyone who does not pass the ‘perfection test of life’ is excluded. The physical and psychological damage of abortion on a woman’s health was also sensitively discussed, as well as the confusing plight of fathers within this equation.
Euthanasia is also an important issue where the dignity and preservation of life are in debate. Lord Alton discussed the legalisation of euthanasia in the Netherlands, among other places, highlighting the flaws in their practices and the dangers they create for public safety.
Lord Alton concluded his talk with a challenge from William Wilberforce: ‘We can no longer plead ignorance. We cannot turn aside.’ There is no option but to hear the voices of those who are most vulnerable in our society and to fight the battle on their behalf. Lord Alton emphasised the importance of the younger generation in defending life. Our challenge is to fight for life by raising awareness, engaging in debate, imparting knowledge, promoting the cause in the political arena, showing compassion, and intelligently championing the cause of the most vulnerable.
Thank you Lord Alton.