Letter:Pope's message fails to address realities of life

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From Ms Ann Furedi

Sir: The latest encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life), claims to proclaim the value, dignity, grandeur and worth of every human life while condemning the "culture of death" which threatens civilisation ("Pope urges protest against abortion laws", 31 March). For the Pope, the culture of death is evident in the existence of abortion, embryo research and euthanasia which he sees as crimes against life which no human law can justify.

It is unfortunate, but predictable, that the papal condemnation of the culture of death has nothing to do with reality faced by millions around the world, struggling for life in the face of starvation or war. Nor does his declaration of a gospel of life address the needs of those trying to maintain some dignity and quality of life while facing pain or despair.

What is a woman carrying an anencephalic foetus which has no chance of survival after birth, or a foetus with such severe spina bifida that it will live only a short and agonising life, to make of the declaration that abortion "always constitutes a grave moral disorder". In what position does this place a woman whose own health is jeopardised by her pregnancy?

But the recent encyclical does not aim to address the real circumstances that life throws at us. The need to condemn human intervention against God and nature is at its heart. In condemning abortion, infertility treatments and euthanasia as unjustifiable crimes, the Pope criminalises those who try to take control of their lives by using modern medical techniques.

His message is that humanity should passively accept what life throws at us and that we should shun the scientific developments which enable us to shape our destiny.

Yours faithfully,



Birth Control Trust

London W1

31 March