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Defending the unborn

Published:Sunday | October 26, 2014 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
File A group of Christian youths drawn mainly from the Roman Catholic Church, march against abortion
Contributed Barbara Meara, chairperson of Right to Life's New York State Chapter.

Arguably, the social tide has turned globally. Conservatism is gradually losing ground, surrendering to progressive views.

The United Nations is involved with agencies, such as the UN Fund for Population and Activities; the World Health Organisation; and International Planned Parenthood, all arguing that abortion is "an international human right".

Euthanasia, the distribution of contraception in schools, and abortion have become mainstream topics for discussion.

At the epicentre of this discourse is Right to Life, an advocacy group at odds with liberal activists. In fact, with chapters in every American state, it remains unswerving and committed to overturning the legalisation of abortion.

Recently, Barbara Meara, the chairperson of Right to Life's New York State chapter, granted me an interview.

What is the mission statement of Right to Life?

It's very fundamental: The protection of all human life from conception to natural death.

How long have you served at the helm, and what got you involved in the movement?

As early as 1970 when abortion was made legal in the State of New York. Remarkably, it won by a single vote. The law was repealed in 1972, only to be vetoed by Governor (Nelson) Rockefeller.

Is Right to Life a political or religious-oriented organisation?

We are heavily involved in the legislative end of politics. As far as religion is concerned, we have deep convictions and have members of various faiths. I must point out, though, that we even have atheists who are equally committed to our cause.

What are some of the psychological and spiritual implications of having an abortion?

First of all, studies have shown that 65 per cent of women who have had an abortion were coerced in some way, either by a boyfriend, or they lack the resources to have a baby.

We also know that after abortion women suffer from guilt and other mental-health issues. Women blame themselves and have a very hard time forgiving themselves. These are psychological but also spiritual issues that must be addressed.

Also, the suicide rate is higher than women who have welcomed the birth of their child. There is also some correlation with abortion and breast cancer and premature births because of damage to the cervical area.

Extremist elements have sullied the image of your organisation. Is this an accurate statement?

We have issued strong statements that we are pro-life for babies and abortionists. Individuals who have committed violent acts against doctors and abortion clinics do not belong to our organisation.

How do you combat greater sexual awareness in a liberal society that emphasises individual choice?

We are opposed to how sex education is taught in schools. It has not helped students make better decisions. The prevalence of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) is alarming.

That said, we have seen a drop in abortions over the last four years. I believe that young people are becoming more aware of the issues at hand. For example, the Pain Capable Unborn Baby Act purports that babies do feel pain as early as 20 weeks in utero. Partial birth abortion is also a horrible procedure where doctors stick a scissors into the back of the neck before the baby emerges. It is just horrible.

Is abortion permissible when rape or incest has been committed?

If a girl is taken to a clinic for abortion because of incest, the baby is killed and she is taken right back to her surroundings. There is no easy answer but creating two traumatic experiences do not solve the problem. In the case of rape, women who decide to have the child fare better psychologically.

At what point does the concept of the soul is introduced into your philosophy? Is the soul already existing at the point of conception? On what grounds is this validated?

I lean on my faith for counsel. However, research has shown that within minutes of conception there is already activity taking place. By the 18th day, the heart is beating and by six weeks there is brain wave activity.

Do you give equal attention to the right to die movement and euthanasia?

We must pay more attention to the patient. To simply give a pill to end another life tells us that the person's life is no longer worthy and that's not a loving response. Everyone, including the chaplain, medical team and loved ones should be involved in exploring more compassionate options.

Many believe that euthanasia is a private or personal issue that should be outside the scrutiny of the wider society. Your response?

I disagree. We have to look after each other in a dignified and compassionate way. At the end of the day, it's all about compassion for all humanity.

What are some of the short-and long-term goals of Right To Life?

We will continue advocating for the unborn. You should know that we have 3,000 crisis pregnancy centres, managed by volunteers with the goal of offering options for women who are contemplating abortion.

Sadly, abortion clinics have mushroomed, especially in black communities where 35 per cent of abortions take place. This is not tackling the underlying causes that give rise to this problem, and clearly, it sends the wrong message.

n Dr Glenville Ashby is a social critic and president of Global Interfaith Council, NYC Feedback: or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby