Oxford Students for Life

Promoting a culture of life in the University and beyond

Month: January, 2014

The Poverty of Abortion

Today, hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates of all ages, races, nationalities, and beliefs will come together on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the 2014 March for Life. Every year, the March marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade, the landmark case that overturned all state laws banning abortion, and every year – a growing and powerful testament to the truth of the value of human life – the March is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on why we continue to fight for life.

“A country that accepts abortion is the poorest of the poor”, said Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In a 21st-century context, her words may strike us as odd, for they clearly reflect a very different understanding of poverty than is popular today. Poverty, to us, means hunger and homelessness – a lack of material necessities – and certainly, physical poverty is one of the greatest tragedies in human society. The root of this tragedy is the root of all forms of poverty: the exploitation of the weak for the benefit of the strong. It is this kind of exploitation in the economy that leads to material poverty, and this kind of exploitation in human hearts and in society that creates the poverty of which Mother Teresa spoke; moral and spiritual poverty, cultivated and perpetuated by a failure to appreciate the natural richness and beauty of human life. It is, as she went on to say, “a poverty to decide that a child must die so that [we] may live as [we] wish”; abortion is one of the greatest forms of poverty in society today, for it is the ultimate exploitation of the weak for the benefit of the strong.

Unborn children are voiceless; they cannot speak out to defend themselves. Unborn children are weak; they cannot fight back against their attackers. Unborn children are out of view; they cannot stand up and witness to their own humanity. They are entirely at the mercy – or lack thereof – of grown persons, who as such have a profound responsibility to protect them. It is not out of anger, hatred, or prejudice that hundreds of thousands of students and teachers, parents and children, relatives and friends will march today. It is out of charity; the same compassion and good will that moves us to give to the hungry, serve the homeless, and help those who have fallen down. Just as we are called to share our wealth and good fortune with those who are in need, we are called to devote our strengths to the weak and lend our voices to the voiceless. This is why we march: to stand up for the rights of those who cannot defend themselves, and bear witness to the true value of human life.


Pro-Life Heroes and Heroines, No. 2: Jack Scarisbrick

As he contemplates the task before him, Frodo admits to Gandalf: ‘I wish it need not have happened in my time.’ And Gandalf replies: ‘So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

Jack Scarisbrick was born in 1928. The great catastrophe of his adult lifetime was the 1967 Abortion Act, whose results have even shocked the man who steered it through Parliament. Most of us, faced with great catastrophes, like to sit around grumbling about the degeneracy of the times and wishing we had been born in nineteenth-century Paris, or something, when life was so much simpler. But Jack Scarisbrick did something with the time that was given him. In 1970, he and his wife Nuala founded LIFE, Britain’s biggest pro-life organisation.

The wisdom of LIFE is that they understand both the simplicity and the complexity of abortion. It is a simple matter because everyone has a right to live, even if they are very small. That is LIFE’s policy, and it motivates their invaluable work in education. But of course, few terminations are carried out for trivial reasons: every abortion represents an immensely complex human situation. And LIFE recognise this, too. Their trained counsellors offer support and non-directive counselling; their houses are there for mothers and children who have nowhere else to turn.

ScarisbrickJack Scarisbrick himself is something of a Gandalf figure, so genial and scholarly that you are tempted to underestimate him. Compared to, say, our previous pro-life heroine, he is an unusual sort of activist: a top-ranking academic historian who wrote the standard biography of Henry VIII and is Emeritus Professor at Warwick. Apparently his university colleagues have always been too embarrassed to bring up the subject of what Scarisbrick does out of hours.

He describes himself as ‘a rather unsubtle sort of chap’, an example of unconvincing self-deprecation so perfect that you can almost hear it being spoken with a twinkle by Ian McKellen. On the cause which has defined his life he is more forthright: ‘I believe that truth will out eventually,’ he says. ‘I think there is a deep sense of justice still lurking in the human being. We are creatures who have a response to the transcendent moral law; and a society which professes human rights is living a lie if it denies the fundamental right to life.’