LIFE (UK organisation)
LIFE is a UK-based "pro-life and educational" charity. It was founded in 1970 by Professor Jack Scarisbrick and his wife Nuala in response to the Abortion Act 1967, which greatly extended access to legal abortion in the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland).
LIFE National Headquarters is situated in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. The organisation holds a National Conference approximately every eighteen months, and publishes a quarterly magazine, Life Update. LIFE has in the region of 12,000 members in the UK. Its patrons include well-known pro-life parliamentarians such as Lord David Alton and Jim Dobbin MP.
LIFE was founded to provide an alternative to those faced with a crisis pregnancy and the charity’s work is informed by the principle of respect for the lives of all human beings, both born and unborn. LIFE was one of the first pro-life organisations in the UK to pioneer this two-pronged approach of opposing abortion yet also providing viable long-term alternatives.
Other areas in which the charity has expanded its work include its UK-wide sex and relationships education programme, and the provision of fertility treatment that accords with the charity’s views on the status of the human embryo, while the 1990s saw the creation of a professionalised and centralised LIFE Housing department able to co-ordinate closely with local authorities and social services.
LIFE also has links to pro-life groups in other countries, notably Malta, Sri Lanka and the Republic of Ireland. Although access to abortion is heavily restricted in Northern Ireland – much more so than in the rest of the UK – there are a number of active local LIFE groups in the region. The possibility of the extension of the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland has long been a source of heated debate (Abortion in the UK), although the British government has recently stated that there are no plans to amend the law in Northern Ireland.
Although it co-operates with faith groups in some areas of its work, LIFE has no religious affiliations, and its views on ethical issues are not based on the teachings of any religion.
Inclusion in the Sexual Health Forum
In May 2011 the Conservative government caused controversy when it appointed LIFE to its advisory group the Sexual Health Forum, replacing the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). Ann Furedi, the chief executive of BPAS, said: We find it puzzling that the Department of Health would want a group that is opposed to abortion and provides no sexual health services on its sexual health forum. LIFE did subsequently note that they work in schools to promote healthy sexual attitudes and behaviour.
LIFE has an absolutist view on abortion – believing that it is always wrong to intentionally perform an abortion. Their website states that "The most important and influential part of LIFE's ethos is our opposition to all abortion on principle." However, following the Principle of Double Effect, LIFE does accept that in the small number of cases where the continuation of a pregnancy poses a direct medical threat to the life of the mother, it may be permissible for doctors to intervene in a way that ends the life of the unborn child, as long as the death of the child is a foreseen, rather than intended, outcome of the operation.
LIFE opposes all medical technologies that involve the destruction of human embryos. In line with its views on the fundamental value of human life, the charity is also opposed to all forms of legal assisted suicide and euthanasia.
In accordance with its charitable status, LIFE does not undertake political campaigning in its own right. Nevertheless, the organisation has been associated with the Alive and Kicking Campaign, an umbrella group of pro-life organisations pressing for wide-ranging abortion law reform, and the Care Not Killing Alliance, a coalition of anti-euthanasia campaigners from many different backgrounds, including pro-life organisations, parliamentarians, medical professionals, and religious groups.
Pregnancy care centres
LIFE’s nationwide Pregnancy Care Centres aim to provide a sympathetic “safe space” where women can access free pregnancy testing and confidential counselling. These crisis pregnancy centres are not part of the NHS, and the counsellors may hold professional counselling qualifications, or they may be volunteers with no such qualifications. LIFE also offers information on pregnancy and abortion and provides practical and emotional support, although they are not able to provide referrals to an abortion provider.
For obvious reasons, the majority of those who visit Care Centres are women, but LIFE counsellors do sometimes find themselves talking to men. They too can be adversely affected by abortion, for example if their partner has an abortion without their knowledge or against their will.
Apart from these face-to-face services, LIFE also runs a National Helpline, staffed by experienced counsellors and skilled helpers. A more recent innovation is “Text-to-Talk”. This service allows clients to access LIFE counselling services with more complete anonymity.
LIFE's pregnancy care centres have been criticised for providing inaccurate information about abortion, and for using frightening and emotive language. LIFE reviewed many of its procedures and protocols in the wake of these criticisms.
The Zoe’s Place Trust
|This section relies on references to primary sources. (August 2013)|
The Zoe’s Place Trust (Registered National Charity No 1092545) is a daughter charity to LIFE, and runs two specialist hospices for terminally ill children aged 0–5. One of these can be found in Liverpool, close to Alder Hey Children's Hospital, while the other is in Normanby, Middlesbrough which was opened by Ann Widdecombe in 2004. LIFE’s insistence on the unique and equal value of each individual human leads the organisation to view abortion for disability as a particularly serious and unfair act of discrimination. Abortion for disability represents about 1% of all abortions in the UK, with c.2000 abortions of disabled unborn children each year. The Zoe’s Place baby hospices are intended to function as a highly visible and highly practical “alternative” to abortion for disability.
LIFE houses were originally opened in the 1970s as a response to requests from women facing homelessness if they continued with their pregnancies. LIFE supporters opened houses in various locations across the UK in order to provide a home for women who found themselves in this vulnerable position. Nowadays, LIFE Housing provides a support service to pregnant women, mothers of small children and families who are in need of support, so as to enable them to access independent living and successfully maintain their tenancies. They may not necessarily be living in a LIFE house.
LIFE Housing receives a limited amount of government funding, and as such undergoes regular assessments and audits, and is regularly reviewed by the Supporting People Authorities. LIFE Housing operates in 30 local authority areas, and is funded by 23 Supporting People Administering Authorities.
LIFE is opposed to conventional in vitro fertilisation (and other assisted reproduction techniques that result in embryo destruction). However, in accordance with its ethos of providing alternatives to practices that it believes to be unethical, LIFE has its own Fertility Care programme, based on NaproTechnology and using insights from natural family planning methods such as the Creighton Model. These kinds of techniques involve identifying and then correcting the underlying causes of a couples' infertility, rather than bypassing problems by the creation of embryos in vitro. This service is only offered to married couples.
Nationally, on average, about 1 in 5 couples who use IVF treatment end up with a child. The Life Fertility programme has similar success rates, and has helped more than 100 couples to give birth since its inception in the late 1990s. Many of the people who access the programme have been through repeated unsuccessful IVF treatments.
The Fertility Care programme also offers counselling and advice for couples who are still unable to conceive after treatment.
LIFE employs a number of Regional Education Officers (REOs), who spend most of their time visiting schools and universities. REOs give talks, presentations and conferences on a range of subjects of concern and interest to the charity: not just abortion, but also euthanasia, embryo experimentation, assisted reproduction, and sex and relationships education.
Speakers seek to provide a clear and reasoned articulation of the charity’s principles. However, talks are not didactic and students are encouraged to ask questions and express their own opinions. The charity's speakers currently come into contact with around 40,000 students annually.
Sex and relationships education
LIFE’s interest in sex and relationships education (SRE) stems from their desire to promote lifelong monogamous marriage, on the reasoning that stronger and more permanent interpersonal relationships will ultimately lead to fewer abortions. LIFE also feels that helping young people to avoid damaging or exploitative relationships and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is a good end in itself.
- Williams, Liza (17 June 2009). "Liverpool Women’s Hospital midwives walk for Zoe’s Place". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
- "Zoe’s Place fundraisers are in stitches". Herald & Post. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
- "Parliamentary Briefing Note". Retrieved 2009-12-17. See Para 3.2.
- Anti-abortionists on sex education panel... to fury of the left
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/24/abortion-sexual-health-coalition Anti-abortion group drafted in as sexual health adviser to government
- "Info for students". LIFE.
- "About us – LIFE". LIFE. Retrieved 2009-12-26.
- "Zoe's Place Liverpool".
- "Zoe's Place Middlesbrough".