Christian anti-abortion group 40 Days for Life provoked a storm of criticism yesterday (12.03.12) when members were accused of filming clients and staff at a London abortion clinic. Police were called to the Bloomsbury offices of abortion provider BPAS after complaints from members of the public and clinic staff about the behaviour of protesters.
Members of the group have been picketing abortion clinics in London, Birmingham, Brighton and Manchester every day during Lent as part of a US-based anti-abortion campaign which expanded its operations to the UK several years ago.
Although the group claims to hold peaceful prayer vigils, their presence has caused concern among neighbours and has caused distress and alarm to women using the Bloomsbury clinic. Protesters routinely approach clients and passers-by, handing out leaflets containing misleading information and directing women to counselling centres known to provide grossly inaccurate and judgemental advice.
Challenged about their behaviour on Twitter last night, 40 Days for Life claimed that the person filming was not part of their group and then that filming may have been inadvertent. Clinic staff were clear however that the individual was standing among the protest group and that he was deliberately pointing the camera at them.
In response to the protests, students at nearby University College have set up Bloomsbury Pro-Choice Alliance, which is raising awareness of the group’s activities and is holding events in the Square every Sunday during the campaign.
Similar problems have arisen outside the BPAS clinic in Brighton, which ahs been the target of protests by hardline anti-choice group Abort67. Brighton Pro-Choice, a local group set up to counter their activity, report protesters filming outside the clinic and also claim a crossover between Abort67 activists and the 40 Days for Life group who are also present at the clinic.
BPAS Bedford Square staff are working closely with local police and recommend that those wishing to complain about the protesters’ behaviour contact police to make a statement.