The distinguished pro-life campaigner, Phyllis Bowman, died in hospital at the age of 85 last week. As founder of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Right to Life pressure groups, those she worked with admired Mrs Bowman for her intelligence and courage. Mrs Bowman had been ill for several months and died at the Hammersmith hospital surrounded by family and friends.
Even during her illness, the campaigner continued to work, dictating letters and directing activities for Right to Life, despite struggling to breathe without the help of oxygen. Many tributes have since been left for Mrs Bowman, including by Lord Alton of Liverpool, who compared her efforts to those of Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa. The Catholic Peer said: “For half a century Phyllis has been an indefatigable champion of the unborn child and for the sanctity of human life.” He went on to call her an ‘inspiration to the next generation’. Mrs Bowman began her career as a Fleet Street journalist for the London Evening Standard, which Lord Alton said never left her short of things to say. Although originally in favour of the legalisation of abortion in 1960, she changed her mind when she understood the reality of the changes, both of the practice and the reality this would have on society. She was then involved in the formation of the Protection of Unborn Children, rising from the role of Press Secretary to national director. After divisions within this organisation, she moved to form Right to Life in 2003. The Right to Life Charitable Trust provides financial and practical support for pregnant women in difficult circumstances, cares for the sick and elderly and carries out educational work in schools. Ken Hargreaves MBE, ex MP for Hyndburn, Chairman of Right to Life, said: “I joined the pro-life movement in 1969 as a result of encouragement from Phyllis Bowman. She was an inspiration to all involved, always leading by example and motivated by her love of God. “No appeal from a girl in distress went unheeded because she understood that there are always two victims in every abortion, the mother as well as the unborn child. “She campaigned fearlessly and took every opportunity to speak up for the sanctity of human life in the tireless work that she did, despite so often being in very poor health, and she had the total help and support of Jerry, her beloved husband.” The pressure group worked closely with MPs and Peers, including Ann Widdecombe, former Conservative Home Office Minister. Miss Widdecome, who was also a close friend of the campaigner, said: “She is probably already getting the heavenly hosts organised.” She went on to say: “The biggest tribute we can pay her is to ensure her vigorous defence of the helpless unborn child unabated.” Although born Jewish, Mrs Bowman’s pro-life convictions led her to the Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nicholls, paid tribute to her ‘generous service and unfailing witness’. The Requiem Mass for Phyllis Bowman took place on Tuesday in Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Acton High Street.