For 40 days last month anti-choicers ‘40 Days for Life’ stood outside MSI and bpas abortion clinics in London. Many people found the sight of these vigil-antis standing in judgment over women entering abortion clinics repellent and there was some discussion about setting up counter-protests. However, staff didn’t really want even more people out on the streets in front of their clinics. In the event ‘40 Days of Treats’ emerged, delivering daily treats by way of a non-confrontational 'peculiarly British' counter-protest.
Today, members of Abort 67* stand outside bpas in Brighton. Abort 67 could have been air-lifted out of Texas and dumped from the sky given how incongruous this kind of protest is in the UK. Vast billboards of dismembered fetuses are displayed along the road and some women and their partners have been shouted at on their way in to the clinic. It is understandable that this perceived ramping up of aggression and intimidation tactics has led some people to feel that it is no longer good enough to turn a blind eye. Twitter has been abuzz with call outs for people to join a counter-protest.
So, is it time to get out on the streets and show solidarity for women and clinic staff by protesting against these vigil-antis? Our concerns are:
• anything which increases the volume (of noise or people) around clinics may increase the discomfort of women seeking abortion (and the other sexual health services provided)
• counter-protests will give additional attention to anti-abortion campaigns
• we still live in hope that we can find more constructive ways to conduct debate about abortion in this country – ones which recognise most people in the UK think abortion should be an option for women. We don’t want to do anything that accelerates our progress towards a US style ‘abortion-war’.
• these people are fanatics. You won’t change their mind by reasoning with them or confronting them
That’s why we are calling on all those who want an outlet for their anger to help think of creative responses that:
- are supportive of women seeking abortion and clinic staff
- don’t give excessive attention to intimidating vigil-antis
- draw the attention of the local authorities to the distress this is causing women
- ask the question about whether this kind of protest is compassionate, caring or ethical
- ensure that the communities and congregations that are supporting this kind of protest are called out on this intimidating behaviour
- can be used to mobilise for positive support of abortion provision and rights
Answers on a postcard please...(or via twitter or comments of course)
*I am not linking to Abort 67 because a gory video opens up within seconds of clicking on the site and I wouldn’t want anyone to come across it unprepared. If you want to visit the site, Google it.