10 Rillington Place and the pro-death campaign
In 1950, Timothy Evans was hanged for the murder of his wife Beryl and baby daughter Geraldine. However, it later emerged that the real murderer was their landlord, John (‘Reg’) Christie, who lived at the same property in west London — 10 Rillington Place, the name of a chilling 1971 film on the subject.
The Evans/Christie case fuelled the campaign to abolish hanging, but although a law to abolish hanging, had it been already in force, would have saved Evans, it would also have meant that serial killer Christie, convicted of six murders, would have been spared the death penalty.
Capital punishment would be partly abolished in 1965 (1973 in Northern Ireland) and finally abolished for treason in 1998; in 2004, the 13th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights became binding on the UK, prohibiting its restoration as long as we remain a party to the convention — regardless of Brexit.
Many voters still favour the reinstatement of capital punishment, but are largely ignored, and when Tory party deputy chairman Lee Anderson made such a call, it was greeted with horror by the opinion-forming classes.
Killing unborn babies
In 1967, under Roy Jenkins, the same ‘reforming’ Labour Home Secretary who presided over the abolition of the death penalty, capital punishment was introduced for innocent unborn babies, via David Steel’s Abortion Act.
This was a tragic irony, and in a little-noticed detail of the Evans/Christie case, buried along with Beryl Evans and baby Geraldine were the remains of a 16-week unborn baby boy. In addition to killing these, as well as his own wife, Christie also murdered three prostitutes – the very group of women that tended to seek backstreet abortions in those days.
They were less likely to be ‘poor, overworked wives’, and even less likely that the backstreet abortionists were ‘compassionate females’ simply ‘doing a favour’ for their distraught neighbours, as portrayed in the 2004 film Vera Drake — highly praised and seen as a warning against the restriction of abortion.
Often, it was callous men like Christie; he pretended to be proficient in this deadly trade in order to lure prostitutes to their deaths. He had carried out an abortion on Evans’s wife before strangling her and baby Geraldine, and of the three prostitutes he murdered, one was six months pregnant.
According to the 1999 official (HMSO) report 10 Rillington Place, a perished Higginson’s syringe was found at the property when police searched it for abortion equipment, and witnesses said Christie’s wife had claimed that Evans or his wife Beryl had asked Christie to do an abortion; Beryl was found to be 16 weeks pregnant.
After murdering his wife, Christie offered his services as an abortionist to strangers and acquaintances alike, and as to motivation, it was likely that after using abortion as a lure for prostitutes, Christie strangled them for sexual gratification, as revealed by forensic examination of the bodies.
All this might seem like a sad footnote to history, but it has been thrown into stark relief by the modern mania for knocking down all laws against abortion.
As reported by pro-life organisation SPUC, on 28 November, amendments that would remove abortion from the criminal law were tabled to the Government’s Criminal Justice Bill; during the Bill’s second reading, Labour MPs Dame Diana Johnson and Stella Creasy, both abortion advocates, stated they would try to use the Bill to liberalise abortion law. Dame Diana’s amendment (‘New Clause 1’) states:
“For the purposes of the law related to abortion, including sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, no offence is committed by a woman acting in relation to her own pregnancy.”
According to SPUC:
“This would mean a woman could carry out her own abortion at any time, for any reason. While the explanatory note claims that the amendment ‘would not change any law regarding the provision of abortion services within a healthcare setting, including but not limited to the time limit’, more than half of abortions are now carried out by a woman in her own home, under the pills by post policy. A woman who took abortion pills at home at any stage of pregnancy, even just before natural birth, and so ended the life of a full-term baby, would not commit any offence.”
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SPUC also notes that ‘New Clause 2’, tabled by Ms Creasy, ‘is in some ways even more extreme. While it provides “that no offence under these regulations or any other legislation is committed by a person complying with the requirements of subsection 1 of the Abortion Act 1967”, thus “apparently keeping the restrictions on grounds and time limits specified in the Abortion Act, in addition to repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, Ms Creasy also seeks to repeal section 60. This section deals with the crime of concealing the body of a dead baby who dies before, during or after birth.”
They add that “[t]his section is currently used when infanticide is suspected but cannot be charged due to lack of evidence.”
Warning against the ‘home abortion’ being used to cover up the death of an unborn child is far from a hysterical over-reaction, for it has already happened: the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act has been invoked against women carrying out self-abortions over the legal time limit of 24 weeks, as in the case of Carla Foster, jailed after admitting that she lied about the stage of her pregnancy to abortion provider BPAS; they sent her pills through the post with which she terminated her pregnancy at 32-34 weeks — well over the limit of 24 weeks, at a stage at which most babies are viable.
Crime against humanity
At the post-War Nuremberg Trials, abortion was rightly regarded as a crime against humanity; in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN enshrined the right to life from conception; there is no ‘right’ to abortion, and indeed, the 1967 Abortion Act does not give women this ‘right’, but exempts from prosecution those carrying out abortion in certain circumstances.
Even so, the vast majority of abortions are for ‘social’ reasons, many involving lack of support; but rather than advocating more help for needy pregnant women, activists have been campaigning — successfully, as it happens — for ‘buffer zones’ to be enacted across the country. They are allegedly needed to prevent ‘harassment’ of women and staff, but such harassment is, of course, already illegal, and the fact that there is no evidence of pro-life vigils harassing anyone is suggested by a BBC report, illustrated with a Getty Images photograph of a pro-abortion demonstration.
Thanks to the lamentably low standard of mainstream media coverage of the abortion issue, we now see peaceful pro-lifers repeatedly arrested for silent prayer and subsequently acquitted — clearly, the process is the punishment.
In a clear example of double standards, it is the silent prayer of the pro-lifers that is routinely targeted by police, even while the obstructive tactics of environmental campaigners are tiptoed around, and mass demonstrations featuring calls for the destruction of Israel are treated with kid gloves.
In the Carla Foster case, more outrage was expressed by abortion advocates about the fact that women are not allowed to extinguish the life of an unborn child whenever and wherever they choose, than for anything the baby might have suffered; indeed, the response from abortion providers and campaigners was not to call for more careful consideration of abortion requests, but for the complete decriminalisation of abortion, despite the dangers to women as well as babies.
That case stirred much public concern, and one would think that abortion advocates would show some awareness of this. But instead of insisting that abortion providers see women face to face and double-check the length of the pregnancy, the abortion movement has doubled down on sweeping away all legal protections — such as they are — for women and for babies.
In 1966, Timothy Evans was awarded a posthumous pardon for the miscarriage of justice that cost him his life, but if we followed the logic of the pro-death campaign, 70 years after hanging John Christie, we would give him a posthumous medal for his services to women’s autonomy — even though after his deadly interventions, his female victims would never make another choice.
Ann Farmer writes from the United Kingdom.
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