Chichester Humanists is a local branch of West Sussex Humanists and represents the interests of the non-religious residents in and around Chichester.

Each month we discuss issues concerning religion and belief, ethics, equality, human rights and science, including current events.

We liase with Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council on matters concerning equality of religion and belief, and monitor Council activities, including proposals for new "faith" schools.

We are keen to campaign on behalf of non-religious residents who feel disadvantaged because of their beliefs, e.g. access to a community school, discrimination at work or through the delivery of local services.

We organise events and displays, invite prominent speakers, and give talks to local organisations, including schools and colleges.

We meet once a month in Muchos Nachos140 Whyke Rd, Chichester PO19 8HT (tel: 01243 785 009)

Meetings are from 7.30pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Instead of membership subscriptions, there is a £3 entrance charge for meetings with speakers (usual concessions).

If you would like to meet some local freethinkers and have a chat, please come along and join us at the next meeting. Look out for the poster above.

For more details, email Julian.

Being freethinkers there are many things secular humanists will not agree on, but there are some matters on which we do take a firm and unanimous stand. We do not condone prejudice of any sort. Nor do we hate religious people. Such views are entirely contrary to any humanist philosophy and we reserve the right to exclude any person promoting them.

Abortion Rights talk 21st November 2011


Kate Smurthwaite began by stating her position that a woman's body is hers alone and she has responsibility for it. A foetus is part of her body.

She went on to explain the two methods of abortion: drugs between 9 and 12 weeks, surgical between 12 and 24 weeks.


Drugs have minor side effects and are taken in two stages, 24 hours apart. Kate explained the bizarre current practice of requiring women to attend surgery for each dose, sometimes resulting in a miscarriage on the way home. This is one of several obstructive practices enshrined in UK law.

Although Northern Ireland is part of the UK, abortion is illegal there. Women travel to the UK at their own expense and distress, and must pay around £2000. Around 100 women travel to the UK each week from NI and Ireland.

Kate moved on to the politics of abortion and described Nadine Dorries' failed attempts to impose further delays on the abortion process (currently 3 weeks) by requiring women to undergo additional "counselling" from anti-choice organisations such as Life. She also wants abstinence to be taught to girls in schools (but curiously not to boys) despite research showing abstinence does not work. Currently, women receive regulated, unbiased counselling from repsected organisations such as the BPAS and Marie Stopes (the latter was replaced by a pro-life organisation on the newly formed government advisory body, in order to provide "balance").

Pro-life organisations wrongly argue that aborting damaged foetuses discriminates against the disabled. They would allow sextremely disabled babies to be born, whose parents will watch them die in agony. Where is the morality and equality in that?

Kate ws concerned at NHS spending cuts and reorganisation that may result in poorer services and a postcode lottery (even now, women need to travel long distances to receive abortions due to local provision of services, e.g. from Sheffield to Bournemouth).

Teenage pregnancy rates are at their lowest in 20 years, largely due to Labour policies. This achievement is being in threatened in a number of ways, including pro-life (anti-choice, anti-abortion) groups spreading misleading information and giving free lessons in school. Kate's organisation, Abortion Rights, regularly plays a mystery shopper by ringing or visiting pro-life organisations and has been appalled by the lies being told about abortion, e.g. fatal breast cancer, mental illness.

The position in the US is getting worse, abortion being a political football. In many states, women have to overcome even more obstacles than in the UK, e.g. watching disturbing videos of abortion. Pro-life organisations are encouraged into schools. Kate commented on the crime wave in New York coinciding with an increase in the number of unwanted children.

Kate discussed the need for some abortions later than 24 weeks. There are a number of reasons why these may be necessary, e.g. abnormal foetus, woman unaware of pregnancy (older women or young girls), domestic violence (sometimes brought on by pregnancy).

Various other issues were raised by those present. Pro-life religious fundamentalists ssupporting the death penalty. Sex education in schools should be taught before children reach an age where it becomes embarrassing.The number of women dying from back street abortions is unknown.

Kate ended on a positive note. Due to the international availability of abortion drugs (from a responsible provider in Holland), back street abortions are reducing (though it still costs £100, precluding poor people). As Prof. Michael Sandel detailed in his Reith lecture of 2009, empowering women is the key to progress in the world.

When asked what we can do locally, Kate encouraged everyone to join Abortion Rights (it only costs £20). Members receive a monthly newsletter and can take action locally.

We thanked Kate for her most informative presentation. Despite the emotive content, we enjoyed the evening.

NOTES used for Spirit FM radio interview

Humanists believe:

  • the world is best explained using reason and shared human experience
  • moral decisions based on evidence and consequences (happiness vs harm)

BHA position         

  • pro-choice (not pro-abortion)
  • it is better if every child is a wanted child
  • abortion is not the best way to avoid unwanted children but is needed as last resort
  • improve sex education, contraception, education & opportunities for young women
  • current law is permissive: it does not impose abortion on anyone
  • opposes changes to the law based on doctrine rather than evidence, e.g. defeated attempts by religious groups to prevent parts of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology  Bill 2008
  • reduce unnecessary delays in obtaining an abortion
  • supports unbiased, regulated counseling currently provided by BPAS, etc.
  • wants equal rights for women in Northern Ireland and the EU

Humanist views

  • although Humanists have differing views, most are pro-choice
  • have respect for life rather than “sanctity of life” (has no meaning for non-religious)
  • quality of life is more important than life itself (supported Assisted Dying Bill)
  • a foetus does not become a person until well after conception
  • the interests of the woman come first but all options should be explored (adoption)
  • women should be able to terminate severely damaged foetuses
  • restricting abortion will lead to more suffering overall (illegal abortion)
  • the earlier the abortion, the better (there should be no unnecessary delays)

The Facts

  • most women want to avoid abortion (no evidence used instead of contraception)
  • doctors vary in opinion but give medical interests of the woman the most weight
  • 90% of abortions are performed less than 12 weeks (2% of abortions after 20 weeks)
  • 20 million unsafe abortions are conducted around the world each year
  • 1.25 billion women cannot access abortion services
  • 20% of all pregnancies end in abortion (1 in 3 women has an abortion in lifetime)
  • abortion is very safe (no link to breast cancer, no increase in depression)
  • pregnancy has a death rate equivalent to that from general anaesthetic
  • 10% of doctors are conscientious objectors
  • 83% of the UK are pro-choice (including some religious groups)

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Remembrance Sunday Campaign

The Chichester Observer made a video and wrote an article covering the laying of a Humanist wreath after the main religious ceremony. A transcript of the speech can be downloaded here.

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