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“Veteran of the pro-life movement” John Cotter dies aged 71

Right To Life UK trustee and UK pro-life veteran, John Cotter, died peacefully in hospital in the early hours of Friday 2 December 2022.

Only a couple of weeks ago, John was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and had begun chemotherapy, but just days later he suffered a serious stroke from which he did not wake up. A priest and his two sons, John Jnr and Michael, as well as the nurses of Haematology Ward 2A, were with him when he died.

Veteran of the pro-life movement

John was born in Newarthill, Glasgow on 13 April 1951. He married Marilyn in 1975 in St. Winin’s, Kilwinning.

John’s journey to becoming involved with the pro-life cause began in 1981, whilst he was working in Toronto, when his eldest son, John Jnr, was born. John Jnr was unwell and had to be nursed in the special care baby unit.

Whilst their baby was being cared for, it struck John, very forcibly, that whilst their son was receiving the best possible care to enable him to live, just a few floors away in the hospital, babies were having their lives deliberately ended through abortion, and he was determined to do something about this injustice.

In 1983, Marilyn and John welcomed another baby boy, Michael, who was born in Irvine in Scotland. That same year, John’s family returned to live permanently in the UK.

John had not forgotten his vow to dedicate his life to fighting for the right to life of the unborn child, and all vulnerable human life from conception to natural death. 

In the years that followed, he went on to help to run a number of grassroots and political campaigns. The work was entirely voluntary and he spent countless hours of his spare time working on the many facets of the movement, and it was always with the full support of Marilyn and their sons.

John was also one of the key people who founded and ran a pregnancy support service that helped a large number of women facing unplanned pregnancies over the years. Dozens of children who have gone on to be adults are here today because of the help their mothers received from the service.

Although the formation of such a charity was already being planned, the push to launch the charity earlier than anticipated came during a Mass that was held for the unborn in a Liverpool church – the main celebrant was Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Kelly. 

At the end of the Mass, a nun approached John and said, “All very well, but babies are still dying. What are you going to do about it?” Weeks later, the pregnancy centre was formed, and that same wonderful nun, Sr. Margaret, became a member of the group, and friend, until she died. 

John was also a beloved Granddad to his four young grandchildren. He was a school governor, a keen golfer and an avid Celtic supporter.

He also took a keen interest in supporting people with disabilities. His daughter-in-law, Amy, had a vision to create an accessible sensory support centre that children and adults alike could visit and enjoy, and in 2012 they both set up the Sensorial charity and opened the premises in 2016. This social enterprise has expanded over the years, and now offers a remote service where they go to visit schools and centres to provide activities to those that need it the most.

Instrumental in the founding and growth of the work of Right To Life UK

John was instrumental in working with the founder of Right To Life UK, Phyllis Bowman, to set up the charity Right To Life UK and was a Trustee of the Charity from its inception through to his death.

As a Trustee, he took a very active role in supporting the team running the organisation over the years.

Most recently he has been working directly with the team, giving hours of his time to support the work of the organisation’s leadership team as they have rolled out a major transformation and growth program at the Charity. 

Right To Life UK has sent a wreath on behalf of the supporters of the organisation, which will be displayed at John’s funeral to commemorate his years of dedicated service to the pro-life movement.

John’s funeral will be held at 10am on Friday 23 December at St Lewis’ Church, 86 Mustard Lane, Croft, Warrington, WA3 7AZ. It will also be live-streamed online – you will be able to access the live stream by clicking this link.

Responding to John’s death, Lord Alton of Liverpool KCSG, said “John was one of those deeply committed people who quietly get on with whatever needs to be done without seeking the limelight for themselves or expecting recognition”.  

“Over the years we undertook the annual Right to Life sponsored walk together and he would talk about his belief that, in whatever way we can, we each have a duty to keep on working to save the lives of babies in the womb”. 

“John put that belief into action every day of his life through his tireless voluntary endeavours, including being an indispensable part of the team which oversees Right to Life’s work and activities”.  

“John would undoubtedly have said that the best tribute we can now give him is to persist in his life-saving and life-affirming work. May he rest in peace.”

Chris Whitehouse KCSG, a trustee of Right To Life UK, added “John is one of the unsung heroes of the pro-life movement. Always there, reliably supporting the cause behind the scenes, humbly ensuring that the organisation runs smoothly whilst others are its face. He leaves a big pair of boots for others to fill. He passes now to his eternal reward.”

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Losing John so abruptly has been a major shock for the team at Right To Life UK”. 

“John Cotter was a veteran of the pro-life movement here in the UK. He cared deeply about the unborn and women in crisis pregnancies, and put this compassion into action, working tirelessly over a number of decades on efforts to support women and help save babies”. 

“Many of our supporters will know of John from some of the many projects he worked on in the pro-life movement over the years. For our team, we have had the privilege of working directly with John on an almost daily basis for a number of years. He has, without question, given so much of his own time supporting our team in our work to protect and defend the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death”.

“John has truly been a rock for everyone in our team and we will miss him so much”.

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.