(SPUC.com, May 28) A giant of the pro-life movement has announced plans to retire, and the Executive Committee of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has announced the identity of his successor. Christine Hudson, Chairman of SPUC’s Executive Committee, said: “The Executive Committee decided unanimously to appoint John Deighan to take over the reins of SPUC from September 2021."
Veteran campaigner John Smeaton is stepping down as the chief executive of SPUC, the world’s oldest pro-life organisation, which was established in 1967. He will relinquish his post in September 2021.
Christine Hudson, Chairman of SPUC’s Executive Committee, confirmed today that SPUC's new chief executive, following a year-long transitional period, will be John Deighan, who has been his deputy CEO for the past two years.
Christine Hudson said: “The Executive Committee decided unanimously to appoint John Deighan to take over the reins of SPUC from September 2021."
"John Smeaton has been a colossus of the pro-life movement"
Mr Smeaton, who has dedicated 45 years of his life to SPUC, said: “It has been a privilege to lead the organisation through many challenging times and I am delighted to be handing over to John Deighan who was the outstanding candidate for the post.”
Mr Deighan said: “John Smeaton has been a colossus of the pro-life movement for decades. Working alongside him for the past two years has given me invaluable preparation for my new position and the year ahead offers the opportunity to liaise specifically on that role with John whose shoes will be extremely difficult to fill.”
In addition to his role with SPUC, Mr Smeaton is vice-president of the International Right to Life Federation. He first became involved in SPUC when he established a branch in his home area in south London in 1974 and began to help at SPUC’s head office as a volunteer in 1975. Appointed general secretary of the Society in 1978, he was elevated to CEO in 1996. John and his wife, Josephine, have a grown-up family and live in North London.
John Deighan’s vision for the future
Mr Deighan, who is also SPUC Scotland’s CEO, comes to his new position armed with a strong track record in political campaigning and media engagement on ethical issues over almost 30 years at both the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments.
Following confirmation of his appointment he outlined his hopes for the future.
He said: “My vision is that ultimately I want to see an end to abortion and I am truly committed to that end. I believe the skills we have in SPUC can be harnessed coherently for that effort.”
He emphasised the importance of attracting a new generation of younger supporters, and also said:
“We need to continue attracting young people into the pro-life movement and to show the attractiveness of the pro-life message. That is a crucial part of my vision. Also key to this vision is that the pro-life message needs to be the central issue.
“For too long the pro-life issue has not been given the attention proportionate to its real importance as the human rights issue of our age. I have made youth work a key priority for motivating and building a pro-life movement which has a youthful and energetic dimension.
“The big strength we have always had is our massive grassroots community and how we mobilise those supporters to exert influencer on our political leaders. We are continuing to grow that community.
“Our youth conferences are probably the jewel in the crown of our yearly events. We have also grown our profile massively in recent on social media and that is where you get to young people. We are regularly reaching hundreds of thousands of supporters committed to our cause.”
He added: “I continually strive for ways to pursue SPUC’s aims and build support. The continual strong growth of our following on social media and our raised profile in key communities where we need to build support reflects that effort.
“I have greatly enjoyed my work as deputy CEO and believe SPUC is in an excellent position from which to build on our position as the leading grassroots pro-life organisation in the UK, with a powerful international reputation. I am determined to carry that effort forward at a time when society has never needed us so urgently.”
Emphasising the role of the organisation in the modern world he said: “SPUC is a major leader of the pro-life movement, both in the UK and around the world.
“Historically, we have shown that we have been willing to stand up even with the odds stacked against us. We have seen that historically in the time of the constitutional amendments in Ireland, in maintaining pro-life legislation in Northern Ireland for over five decades, and in the court cases throughout the UK and in Europe that we have participated in. When society has been damaged by a creeping culture of death we have stood up and witnessed to the dignity of every person and promoted fundamental rights like those of conscience, adequate care for the sick, rights for parents and much more. In so doing we have shown bravery, shown leadership and had a great effect.
“I think we have shown leadership and courage - and courage encourages others. When everyone becomes passive and accepting of the continual encroachment of the values that we see destroying our society, they need leaders and that is what has always attracted me to SPUC and it is that foundation which I am determined to build on and to adhere to that vision that we have supported.
“I am passionate about the pro-life cause and aim to ensure SPUC continues to be effective in communicating the importance of the cause to others. I will continue to work enthusiastically to create and develop opportunities for enhancing the effectiveness of initiatives to promote justice for the unborn and the vulnerable. This is my pledge.”