John Deighan has this month taken up his role as the new chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in the UK.
He takes over from John Smeaton, who served as chief executive from 1996. SPUC is the oldest pro-life organisation in the world, having launched in 1967 when abortion was made legal in England, Scotland and Wales.
Since 1967, nearly 10 million unborn children have lost their lives in Britain where abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Abortion was legalised in Northern Ireland in 2020 for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Mr Deighan, 55, was formerly chief executive of SPUC Scotland. Before taking up that post in 2015, he was Parliamentary Officer for the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference of Scotland.
In the build-up to the Scottish Parliament's decision to introduce same-sex marriage in 2014 he became well-known in the Scottish media as director of the traditionalist Scotland for Marriage campaign.
Christian Today speaks to John as he begins his national leadership of SPUC.
CT: How has your own Roman Catholic Christian faith inspired your personal pro-life commitment?
JD: There has been a two-way relationship between my faith and my pro-life position. The idea of abortion is shocking to me at an emotional and intellectual level. This has strengthened my Christian faith, giving me confidence that the truth it proclaims in relation to the intrinsic value of human life accords with reason. Reflecting on the revealed truth of the human person being made in the image and likeness of God, in turn, strengthens my commitment to the pro-life cause.
CT: What can SPUC realistically achieve in the political arena to reduce the number of abortions under your leadership in the next five years?
JD: We do have a challenge to reduce abortion numbers in a short time frame given the composition of Parliament and the stronghold that abortion advocates have over our political institutions. This is permitting a removal of almost all constraints on abortion, such as the current regime allowing home abortions.
However, I think we can make in-roads which destabilise the pro-abortion hegemony. The truth of the harm that abortion does to women, the reality of how many women are coerced to have an abortion, the facts of foetal development that are currently ignored, are examples of areas in which we can bring light to awaken the consciences of policymakers.
CT: There seems now to be a trend towards local authorities creating exclusion zones around abortion clinics. What can SPUC do under your leadership to uphold the right of pro-life people to offer women an alternative narrative to abortion outside clinics?
JD: There is a need to work with others in society who still recognise the need for supporting basic human rights. Abortion advocates have been so desperate to pursue their aims, that they will destroy the framework of genuine civil liberties. I suspect they cannot bear to have their consciences alerted to the terrible business of abortion that they advocate.
There are others beyond the pro-life sphere who still recognise the necessity of free speech, freedom of belief and the right of assembly, for a healthy democracy. We can be catalysts for mobilising such forces to ensure the liberties of all peoples are protected, including those who want the right to offer help to women at abortion clinics.
CT: Nottingham University has been in the news for cancelling an anti-abortion Roman Catholic priest. What can SPUC do to uphold the freedom of speech and the right to oppose abortion on campuses?
JD: I am eager that we make use of the laws which do protect people from discrimination. I intend to do that in future and take cases where we can ensure that those who have pro-life beliefs are not victims from such intolerant actions.
CT: What is your message to Christians committed to the pro-life stance in the adverse cultural conditions now prevailing in the UK?
JD: I'd say to remember that God is in charge. If it seems the worst is happening, it will still be for the best. If we try to be the best instruments we can be for God's work, we will have done our duty. We can trust the results of our endeavours to God's hands.