Abortion is an extremely controversial issue and the laws surrounding it could have a life-altering impact on any of us. This edition of issue will delve into the minds of pro-life activists, as well as exploring suggested and implemented reforms to what we know as the 1967 Abortion Act. Personally, as an egalitarian, I am pro-choice and believe that as a basic human right, the law should enable us to make informed decisions concerning our bodies. I urge you to develop your own opinion on this matter and get involved with debates, whether on our online platform or with your friends. Some things are worth talking about.
On October 27th 1967, the Abortion Act was passed, legalising Abortion by qualified practitioners in the UK. Now, 50 years on, I wonder how relevant it is to modern day life and whether it is ample time for reform. This contentious topic is cause for much debate, particularly surrounding pro-life campaigners. Organisations such as Abort67 and many others are accused of harassment and intimidation and reportedly even set up a Facebook live stream opposite an East Sussex clinic. This alleged act is a huge violation of privacy,
risking identifying women who have come to an extremely difficult decision and are carrying out their legal right to abort.
In reaction to this, Ealing MP Rupa Huq coordinated a letter to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, calling for clinics to have a buffer zone to protect women from anti-abortion activists. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was amongst the 113 MPs to sign the letter that stated, “the protestors intention was not to change the law but to intimidate.” This perimeter of protection has already been voted in favour of by Ealing council thanks to pro-choice campaigners who have been supporting and protecting women in the area for 2 years.
I question whether this is enough. Scotland recently granted women the right to take the abortion pill in the comfort of their own home and I believe it is time to follow in our sister country’s footsteps. In much of the rest of the UK, it is illegal to take an abortion pill at home to terminate a pregnancy. This Victorian law passed in 1861 carries a lifetime sentence for the woman and any doctor who assists. It’s not surprising that going through an abortion is an extremely physically and mentally draining procedure that consists of taking a pill on two consecutive days. However, it is also abundantly painful and many women have to travel in excruciating pain, just to get home from the clinic.
In light of this, I realised that abortion is still an extremely prevalent and controversial topic and I wanted to know the motivation behind pro-life activists in our modern-day society.
On the day that marks the 50 year anniversary of the Abortion Act, a protest took place in parliament square, London, in an attempt to revert it.
Before the protest, I decided to find out more about the organisation planning it, Abort67. This pro-life activist group describe themselves as “a public education project that seeks to change how we view abortion.” The use of the word education implies that we, as a society, are falsely informed on this topic. This I find particularly interesting given the recent allegations against them surrounding misleading medical information. It is alleged that the organisation expressed the opinion that abortions can trigger breast cancer as medical fact. This insensitive and appalling act does nothing but add to the trauma and emotional difficu
lties a woman experiences post abortion and can certainly not be described as “a public education project.”
The more I learn about Abort67, the more frustrated I get. Historically, women have fought and are still fighting for equality, to have a voice, to have a choice. With an organisation such as this, I have to wonder why they believe the human rights of a woman should be downgraded. It seems as though they are caught up in “The Handmaids Tale” fantasy where women’s only roles are to bare children when in reality, the role of the woman has changed. More and more women are becoming working mothers and have aspirations other than motherhood. Careers and self-sufficiency are of ever-growing importance and the age of progression to parenthood is becoming older and older. Abort67s principles seem so backwards and old fashioned to me as a young female, I find it difficult to comprehend. I therefore decided to go along to this protest in order to gain a better understanding of the thought process of a pro-life activist.
I arrived in parliament square just after 11:00 am and was welcomed by 12 8ft posters facing in every direction. This intimidation tactic meant that there was no getting away from the graphic and grossly inaccurate images. It created an unusual atmosphere, there were families, children and tourists who were subject to images of aborted foetuses and explicit propaganda. The group handed out leaflets containing further images and nonsensical associations to British slavery, arguably the biggest crime against humanity to date. This severely offensive comparison has been cleverly put together in order to manipulate readers into believing that getting an abortion is “as bad as slavery.” It does nothing but reinforce MP Rupa Huqs opinion that protestors intentions were not to change the law but to intimidate. Abort67 state that they “support women through a difficult time” but I can’t see any support, only emotional manipulation.
Although the turn out seemed relatively lack-lustre, I was surprised to see the amount of young adults and particularly, young females attending and taking part. I caught one young man addressing a circle of protestors with such conviction and passion, stating that he could not stand by whilst “innocent children were being murdered.” This to me defined the group as a patriarchal organisation, where man preaches to women and tells them they do not have the right to make decisions about their body.
The group then burst into a rendition of “How great is our God,” an exceedingly popular Christian worship pop song. As an organisation that describes themselves as non-religious, this did take me by surprise. I now see Abort67 as a wave of extremist religious activists not dissimilar to the Westborough Baptist Church in America. This, by all means, is not an accurate representation of the Christian, or any, religion. The Bible or any religious text can be interpreted to coincide with almost any view which can be a beautiful thing but also leads to extremism.
An Activists Voice
I spoke to a 19 year old woman, to try to understand how someone of a similar age to me could have such opposing views.
Hello, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. To start, may I ask about your religious beliefs if any?
Yes, I am a Christian
And your family?
Yes, them too.
So would you say that your religious beliefs impacted upon your pro-life beliefs?
Abort67 is a non-religious organisation, abortion is not just a religious issue, it’s a matter of human rights that all should be concerned about.
This sentence is one that I heard many versions of throughout the day which I later realised was a quote from their website. I responded; I am aware that the organisation describes itself as a non-religious organisation but I’m interested in what motivates you to be here today.
Honestly, yes. One of the 10 commandments is ‘thou shalt not kill’ but this is my own personal belief and not that of Abort67.
Would you describe yourself as a religious activist?
Not a religious activist, no. A human rights activist on the other hand I would be more likely to agree, this is something I believe in very strongly and I can’t just sit by whilst innocent babies are being murdered.
That’s very strong, emotive language your using. Do you personally believe then, that all women who have had abortions are murderers? She hesitated
I believe that killing babies is wrong. There’s no debate within the medical community about when life begins, at conception. A zygote is the beginning of a new human life.
Ok, well that’s not really answering my question, are you saying that you think all women who have had abortions should be criminally charged? She hesitated again
Erm.. well when you think about It, ending a human life is murder at the most and manslaughter at the least in the eyes of the law. This is what’s happening when abortion procedures are taking place.
I felt as though we were getting nowhere. Every answer seemed pre-rehearsed like she was told to have these opinions rather than making her own. So, I decided to ask; what motivated you to take part in this event?
Because I believe in life, I believe that there is a huge injustice happening against our unborn and I want to do any and everything I can to prevent it.
Okay thank you, now moving on I was wondering if we could talk about the imagery your organisation uses? Do you think it’s appropriate?
We are trying to educate the public about the truth, I know the images used are distressing but we use them to awaken people’s consciousness so they know the violent act that abortion is.
What I mean is, in such a public place, with children off school, do you think its appropriate to have such huge graphic posters in every direction?
Well we put up warning signs around the square, if people don’t want to see the truth then they can take alternate routes.
And you think that’s enough? She didn’t respond.
You’ve probably been asked this loads before but I feel I must ask; in situations of sexual assault, do you still think abortion is wrong?
I sympathise greatly with the victims of such terrible crimes, but I would have to ask why the unborn child should be punished because of his or her fathers’ crimes? Killing the child will only add guilt to the mountain of other negative emotions the woman would be dealing with.
So speaking theoretically, am I right in thinking that if you were a victim of such a crime, you would keep the child? Regardless of the constant reminder of the horrific event
Well there are other options, there are so many families who cannot conceive, what a beautiful gift it would be. It is hard to say indefinitely as I have never been in this situation but if I couldn’t bare to raise the baby myself I would like to think this is what I would do.
I couldn’t help but think of the hugely overstretched social services in this country alone, but before I got the chance to inquire, my interviewee decided it was time terminate. Yes, the irony wasn’t lost on me. I thanked her again for her time and went for a coffee to contemplate what I had learnt.
It seems to me that the life of a pro-life activist revolves mainly around intimidation and indoctrination. This is undeniably wrong. However, the rallying of so many MPs to protect vulnerable women quashes the possibility of lobbying to change the law. The buffer zone will be a step in the right direction if implemented, but I have to question whether it goes far enough to protect women. I think it’s absolutely appalling that women have been bullied and fed misleading medical advice at such a distressing time in their lives. This tactic is not intended to inform but to put us off getting abortions, which in most cases is the only viable option.