Wednesday, 12 September 2007
SPUC Conference (Post 1)
This is the first of, hopefully, several posts on the conference.
On Saturday, I was working during the day. I was just about to leave the office at 4:30pm and shoot up for the remainder of the conference which started on Friday evening at Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds. Then I learnt of a fire at a supermarket in Corby town centre and had to go and cover it.
Upon arrival, part of the town centre was cordoned off by the police. Eventually, I got as close as I could and managed to find the member of staff who discovered it. I got some details off her and then the police kindly escorted me through the closed off streets to outside the police station. I interviewed the chief fire officer in charge and then went to the Corby office (not far away) to write up the copy and send it through to newsdesk.
It was 7:50pm before I could get off up the M1. Struggling to find the venue, I eventually got there at about 10:45pm with a lot of help from St Christopher. By then, the Ceilidh was in full swing but, I have to admit, I was too knackered to participate. The first person I spoke too was Robin Haig, the national chairman, who kindly offered to buy my a much needed pint.
It was a great atmosphere in the bar as ever and a good chance to catch up with staff, colleagues on the Executive Committee and SPUC supporters nationwide. I was told I had missed some excellent talks and was encouraged to buy the CDs. Katherine Hampton, the excellent conference organiser, kindly sorted out the key to my room despite the late hour and despite it being her birthday. Four or so pints later, I hit the sack, not without getting lost after going to get my bag from the car.
In the morning after breakfast, it was time for the penultimate session, a Silent No More (SNM) Awareness Campaign seminar. SNM is an offshoot of British Victims of Abortion (BVA) and it attempts to make the public aware of the devastation abortion brings to women, men and their families. It holds gatherings in public places nationwide featuring the voices of women and men who regret their abortion decisions. (More information can be obtained here)
Contributors included Cathy MacBean of BVA and John Edwards, Chairman of Nottingham SPUC branch, which hosted a SNM event in Nottingham town centre earlier on this year. These occasions involve very brave women (and some men) standing on the street and giving an account of their experience of abortion. One of the women, who gave a short address to delegates, said she almost wanted to run away when the event was about to start. But she stuck with it and movingly described how she was satisfied that she had spoken of her experience in public.
John gave practical tips on how to organise such an event and said the Nottingham speeches attracted quite a bit of media attention, including from the BBC's Heaven and Earth show.
The seminar also included an intriguing and very useful (for me) speech by Donna Nicholson, SPUC Scotland's Deputy Director. Donna was a journalist for around a decade and had jobs in both the religious and secular press and media. Her presentation looked at the language used by journalists in the US and UK when reporting on stories about abortion. She exposed the bias of many reports in the media on the issue, mainly due to reporters' lack of time or laziness to look at accurate information and language when writing on abortion. A lot of their research is basically rehashing press releases from abortion providers and looking back at achieve stories done by other reporters. She urged trainee reporters to be more accurate in the language they used. For instance, we should never describe abortion advocates as "pro-choice". It should always be "pro-abortion" because it is actually pro-lifers who offer more "choice" in a crisis pregnancy (i.e. help and support to keep the baby, adoption, financial help, support for babies with disabilities). This is compared to the pro-abortion lobby, which doesn't offer much more support than "have an abortion". (I apologise for not taking notes for direct quotes)
After refreshments, there was a general discussion, inviting members to put forward ideas for the betterment of the society. Conclusions from the session included the need to interact by broadcasting campaigning videos on youtube, for instance.
Following that, was the usual rousing speech by National Chairman, John Smeaton. More on that a bit later.