The Portal December 2017 - Page 21

THE P RTAL December 2017 Page 21 The Life Charity Jackie Ottaway and Ronald Crane meet the Revd Deacon Stephen Sharpe and Anne Scanlon W e met in the cafe at the Institute of Directors in central London. All went well, apart from the fire alarm sending us all scurrying out of the building half way through our interview, but there was no fire. It was a false alarm or a drill; not quite sure which. We had looked the Life Charity up on Google. It is very impressive and really practical. Is that the original idea, providing practical help as opposed to standing on the side-lines and shouting, we wondered? Stephen said, “We have been around for about almost 50 years and the USP of the organisation is that we feel it’s not appropriate to oppose abortion without providing real practical alternatives, so that’s what we do. We are opposing abortion and all the issues around that; we provide a practical alternative, whether that’s housing, financial support or practical support. If we are going to oppose IVF we need to provide alternatives to IVF, which we do through Life FertilityCare. So that’s the USP of the organisation. “Jack Scarisbrick, who established Life all those years ago, basically set up a group of charities and it was motivated by the d esire to oppose abortion, under any circumstances, which we do. If we are going to say to women and their families who have babies born with disabilities or life limiting conditions that there is a better way than abortion, we have to ensure that there is a better way and that we can provide that support. So that saw the launch of “Zoe’s Place”, which specifically works with babies and was one of the first dedicated baby hospices in the UK. off and Google ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ an inaccurate term used to describe the diagnosis of a life limiting condition and then have to face the pressure and the presumption by the medical profession, and sometimes society as well, that you’re going to have an abortion. “Sometimes the pressure amounts to coercion. What we are trying to do, and this is the key to our counselling, is to create a quiet, calm space for women, partners and families to reflect what’s happened in these circumstances, including unplanned pregnancy. They should have time to reflect what is right and wrong. So that’s what we do; that is at the heart of what we do - creating that space for women and their partners and family to reflect on unplanned pregnancies and the possibility of a baby with a life limiting condition. “There is schizophrenia in society on so many issues. The proponents of the Parliamentary bill which covers this matter want to end the lives of people who are not perfect. It’s the same as Downs Syndrome. I don’t particularly like to use this language; but it is as though we are hunting people with Downs Syndrome. What happens when we can diagnose autism or schizophrenia? Will those people be hunted and removed because they are not considered ‘normal’ in society? That’s one of our biggest challenges and I think we come back to this overwhelming secularism “They are a separate charity to us; our sister charity. in the consumer culture. We are particularly driven by the agenda in Northern Ireland and are bringing forward our own baby unit, “We have lost sight of the dignity of each human one that intervenes even earlier than “Zoe’s Place”, person, which we get by being made in the image of whereas the agenda in Northern Ireland is being GOD. That’s the root problem. Anne and I have been driven by life limiting conditions. having a discussion this morning about what is the most important aspect of our advocacy work. We “We are looking to establish the first such project debate it regularly and the answer is it’s probably our over there so we can support both men and women. work in schools. We are highlighting the importance One of the tragic things in society is the lack of of life; we are highlighting the importance of life from support for women in these circumstances. Suppose conception. you are a couple in Northern Ireland and are expecting a baby. All is going well, and then you are given the “Most say from conception to death, but we don’t tragic news that not all is well with your baby. You go need to do that. Just ‘from conception’ - end of. It’s all