Wednesday 27 March 2013

40 Days for Life and so called ‘turnarounds’

This article published in The Guardian yesterday highlights the actions of members of US based anti-abortion campaign 40 Days for Life in the UK. Laura from EFC takes a deeper look at what’s behind the ‘peaceful’ prayer vigils they carry out.

As we approach the end of 40 Days for Life’s most recent spate of prayer vigils it was good to see an article highlighting the negative impact of the misinformation they give out to pregnant women about abortion. 40DfL are often able to hide behind their claim that they are merely praying peacefully outside clinics which provide abortion, but unfortunately they are also providing dangerous medical information to those entering or passing by the clinics. The Guardian article notes:
Flicking through a 40 Days leaflet...saturated in emotive language about "your tiny baby", its pseudo-medical statements imply that abortions often cause "serious physical complications" – a tactic that has earned them the moniker 40 Days for Lies among counter-protesters.
We have written before about 40DfL’s links with crisis pregnancy centres which give misinformation to pregnant women. But there was one part of this particular article which stayed with me. A man named Joseph who represents 40DfL claims to have persuaded a girl of 12 not to have an abortion after confronting her outside a BPAS clinic in London:
"She was 12 years old," he says excitedly, "and she didn't even know who the father was. Dead set on abortion. Now she's gone inside for an ultrasound, but she's agreed to come along with me afterwards. We have a clinic where she can get the loving help she needs to carry her baby full-term."
There are serious issues with this. First of all, at 12, this girl is legally unable to consent to sex and this case becomes a matter of child protection. Beyond that, we know that those young women who have been given the space and support to make their own pregnancy decision (free from pressure and coercion) are more likely to have positive outcomes whether they choose to continue or end the pregnancy. We might also question if it is appropriate to enforce one’s own moral views on a young woman who may have little to no support to raise a child, or a desire to do so. The 40DfL doorsteppers aren’t trained counsellors, they have no knowledge of this young woman’s life experiences, desires and needs, only an ideological desire to ‘save her baby’. As the author of the Guardian article points out, the effects on these so called ‘turnarounds’, AKA real women with real lives ‘will be lifelong’.

Except, you see, this 12 year old didn’t actually exist. Following the publication of the article BPAS confirmed that they hadn’t actually seen anyone of that age in the clinic.

This means that 40DfL thought that the fabrication of a 12 year old girl ‘dead set on abortion’ would be a compelling story to further their cause. That the public would understand and warm to a campaign which attempts to convince women to forgo professional medical advice for biased and misleading information based purely on the desire to prevent abortion. This imaginary figure may not exist, but unfortunately the tactics used to coerce and stigmatise other vulnerable women do. And I for one am shocked that 40DfL would gloat about them.

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