Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I spent this weekend up at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, attending this year's National Conference of the Society For The Protection Of Unborn Children.

Though it was a bit of a trek getting there. Not much fancying the £58.10 return train ticket, I booked a cheaper coach from Victoria. Over an hour after departure we had made it only as far as Golders Green tube station! Between this, my train from Nottingham and cab from Alfreston, I was in for a long, albeit good, Friday. I like travelling.

The other plus side of this was that I missed the first evening's speeches, walking-in at the back just as the closing Q&A's were starting. I've never much been one for sitting in an audience listening to someone talk for ages at the front (hence my lifetime in and out of church) so maybe coming here hadn't been such a smart idea in the first place?

Well, I guess I really had three motivations for attending:

1. Abortion is a subject that really makes me feel negative. That's why I don't express that opinion much. I know I won't be sensitive, and that won't help anyone. I've been out on several silent group-protests around parliament though. A baby can't stand there holding an 'Abortion stops a beating heart' placard for itself, so I have to in place of one of them, or it doesn't happen.

2. My mum attends this weekend every year, though she accepted a lift up by car this time. Clever old Mum.

3. Sentimental one this – the Hayes is the conference centre where my mum and dad first met on a writing week in the 1950s, so I kinda' wanted to take the opportunity to visit it with her.

Anyhow, despite all those reasons, the highlight of day one still had to be walking about the complex and unexpectedly passing the legendary Terry Waite several times, who was present for a completely different conference!

And what a conference that one must have been. The following morning I accidentally went into their dining-hall and found myself downing my breakfast cereal while chatting to the guy who had set-up The Big Issue in 1991!

Anyhow, SPUC's morning speakers were impressively attention-holding too. Dr Talmir Rodrigues, a Federal Parliamentary Deputy from Brazil, and later Rev. Arnold Culbreath who spoke charismatically on 'The Dangers Of The Obama Presidency'.

After that we broke-up to go upstairs and each choose a workshop to attend. I selected 'British Victims Of Abortion: Dealing With The Hard Issues'.

Well, you know what that 'hard issue' is, and in respect of it we were given the following stats:

- 1% of rapes result in pregnancy.

- Nearly 80% of rape victims who had abortions said afterwards that they regretted it, and that it had actually increased their trauma.

- None of the rape victims who went on to have their baby expressed regret afterwards. Well, I guess you probably wouldn't.

I don't know where they sourced those stats from.

We also watched a recorded interview with Rebecca Kiessling who was conceived in rape, and feels just a tad forgotten when she hears pro-lifers making an exception for it.

After lunch, SPUC's National Director John Smeaton spoke of the legality of the unborns' right to life, and introduced various colleagues to speak of different cases. His own blog-post on this is here.

For the second optional workshop I selected 'Youth Activism', during which I made a note to keep an eye open for a film called Bella.

After that I went to a fringe meeting, more of a discussion really, on maximising the current potential of the internet. This was probably the only meeting at which I found myself expressing some quite definite opinions. Twitter cannot last. It's just too simple.

After the evening meal there was a Ceilidh dance, so I took along the book I'm currently reading – Douglas Adams' The Salmon Of Doubt - and sat there reading almost constantly. Dances!

Though on both nights I found it hard to get to sleep, once off I slept extremely well. The rooms at the Hayes are absolutely lovely. When, in the Bible, Jesus speaks of his father's house containing many rooms, they might well turn out to be just like these ones.

On Sunday morning we heard speakers from the Philippines, Australia, Canada and America, before a first-rate closing speech from Dr Jack Willke, President of the International Right To Life Federation.

He asserted that abortion "contains the seeds of its own destruction", citing the many changes that have taken place over the decades since it started becoming legalised, eg. ultrasound images, and the regret of many of those who have been through it. Obviously intended as a positive note for the future to finish on, this was my favourite speech of the conference, containing as it did so much reasoning that I hadn't heard before.

After that we attended a later-than-planned service just before lunch. Ex-gangster Rev. Frank Brookes had been going to preach out of Habakkuk, but since pushed for time elected to share his terrific testimony instead.

After eating, my mum and I found a few minutes to finally go wander about the grounds a little.

On the outskirts of the building we located a tunnel that she had discovered years ago with my dad. It had been dug as an escape tunnel by German prisoners of war ten years earlier during WW2. It's boarded-up now with a plaque on it, but I was pleased to stand there and make the connection 50+ years after my dad's visit.

After my mum had left in her lift, I made a quick recce of the rest of the grounds and took a few more photos.

Then it was time to catch the coach back down to London, together with many of the excellent speakers from the weekend that I had just enjoyed.

In fact, despite stopping-off at a service-station and helping to unload at SPUC's head office, I actually made it home before Mum did!

So a long good weekend too.


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