Thursday, 8 January 2015

Ali's 60th birthday

Ali isn't here to see it, but the 60th anniversary of her birth cannot pass unobserved.

Many recognised that Ali was "one in a million" - though perhaps "one in a billion" might be more accurate. The soundtrack of The Christians' "One in a Million" accompanies the YouTube slideshow (above or here), showing Ali in each of the decades of her life.  I have memories of listening to The Christians' album, from which the track is taken, on a number of long car journeys with Ali.

There is not enough time, within the space of a song, to show the range of interests and the many friends Ali had during her life. This is merely a snapshot of some aspects of her life. But even from the first photo of Ali as a baby, the warmth of her smile, and her joy and love shine through - often masking serious difficulties she was experiencing in her life.

When Ali was born her parents were encouraged to leave her in the hospital and "go home and have another."  Thankfully, they refused.  Ali's life demonstrates that human beings should never be "written off"and that the richness of a life does not depend upon the ease with which it is lived.

Like many, I remember Ali with much love and gratitude.  She was more than "one in a million."

At Covent Garden on Ali's 50th birthday (8 January 2005) to see the ballet Cinderella

Monday, 5 January 2015

Suffering for what we value: the legacy of Alison Davis.

I was invited to speak at last year's national conference of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).  The video of my talk "Suffering for what we value: the legacy of Alison Davis" has been recently posted by SPUC on YouTube .

This is the talk referred to by Francis Phillips in the previous post

A precis of the talk was given on John Smeaton's blog  and the text of its conclusion, which said a little about Ali's death, was given in a previous post.

The title of the talk encapsulates something that was crucially important for Ali - recognising the (infinite) value of a human life, and being willing to suffer for it.

If anyone would like a pdf file of the text please contact me at and I will be happy to email it to you.

The infinite value of each human being

Just before Christmas the Catholic Herald published an article by Francis Phillips, which highlighted Ali's recognition of the infinite value of each human being.  Some people dispute whether one can ascribe infinite value to each human being, but for Ali it was a deep conviction.  The first part of Francis Phillips' article discusses the recent  - and shameful - Supreme Court judgment that midwives are not protected by the 'conscience clause' of the Abortion Act. Ali had fully supported pro-life midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, who had been fighting for several years for their right to refuse any involvement with abortion.   The full article can be read here.  Below is the second part of it:


Alison Davis and the infinite value of life

Alison Davis

[Part omitted.] 
It is ironic and very sad that such an ominous judgement should be handed down in the same month as the anniversary of the death of a great pro-life champion, Alison Davis, who died on December 3 2013. Alison, whose life and achievements were remembered in a talk given by her long-time carer, Colin Harte, at the SPUC conference in September, was an improbable champion of life. Born with spina bifida and for many years a keen feminist and supporter of “a woman’s right to choose”, as well as being an atheist, her attitude gradually changed when she learned that disabled babies like her were sometimes starved and drugged to death after birth. 
Protesting about this brought her into contact with SPUC in 1981 and for many years she helped organise their Handicap Division (later to become No Less Human.) As a disabled person herself, Alison always rejected any political strategy that meant “bargaining” over the relative worth of a baby’s life; she could not accept that “healthy” babies’ lives might be saved by lowering the legal age limit for abortions, but at the expense of those whose lives were judged “incompatible with sustained survival”. For her, especially after she became a Catholic in 1991, each human life had infinite value. 
As Colin Harte said in his speech, Alison was steadfast in her belief “that human beings have a value that is intrinsic, incomparable, sacred, priceless – infinite.” Thus she was adamantly opposed to the David Alton Bill of 1988 that had accepted the strategy of “chipping away” at the Abortion Act to gain what is known as incremental protection of the unborn. Colin told me he believes that one day Alison will be acclaimed as a great saint of the pro-life movement; the spiritual and physical suffering she endured in her life, and which she came to see as “the greatest privilege possible in the world” were eventually to lead to her witness of a holy death; she chose to forgo painkillers at the end so as to be able “to pray, to suffer and to love” for others as long as she was alive. 
Perhaps, as a result of this undermining of the right of conscience in the recent Supreme Court judgement, we should now start to pray to Alison Davis on behalf of the unborn – especially those diagnosed with a disability