On 14th May a consortium of particularly pernicious and extreme anti-choice groups are held their ‘March for Life’ rally in Victoria Square in Birmingham. They are trying to present it as a fun ‘family friendly’ day out, with market stalls, ice cream vans and even face painting for the kids. However, what this carnival-like set up really represents is far from the usual family day out. These groups are trying, under this guise of some kind of festival, to push their anti-choice agenda. Do not be fooled that this is a benign event. These groups are known to be not just anti-choice, but also anti-contraception, pro-abstinence and anti-LGBT rights. Most worryingly, they use these events to recruit new anti-choicers to be trained to take part in their so-called ‘vigils’ outside of clinics. These ‘vigils’ are not anywhere near as harmless as the anti-choicers would have you believe. They are designed to stop women accessing abortion clinics by making unsolicited contact with women who are trying to use these services. Their ultimate goal is to shut down clinics altogether. It quite simply creates an atmosphere of intimidation and harassment that service-users and clinic staff should never have to face. Accessing abortion services, without fear or shame, are rights that all women must possess. Sadly, anti-choice activists are making this extremely hard to happen. Watch this.
Pro-choice campaigns condemn this harassment and are seeking means to end it. On 14th May, we will be at Victoria Square to ‘Stand up for Choice’. Ours is a peaceful demonstration, in opposition to this insidious ‘March for Life’ campaign. The idea is to raise our voices against this harassment and stand up to the bullies. Join the Facebook event here.
Clinic harassment has been a tool used extensively by anti-choice activists. Women choosing to access abortion services are systematically targeted and pestered outside clinics. This movement is fundamentally anti-women, anti-sex, and anti-contraception.
Safe reproductive healthcare is a right guaranteed to women in England, Scotland and Wales. However, access to abortion free from harassment is not guaranteed in the UK. Harassing women who choose to exercise this right is unjust. Anti-choice activists politicise this choice under the banner of free speech, but are serious invaders of women’s right to privacy.
In some cases, anti-choicers have begun filming these women outside abortion clinics, without their consent. This creates an atmosphere of fear and takes away the right to medical privacy. Women with unplanned, unwanted pregnancies are already in a state of distress. Having to confront these activists only adds to their trouble.
Other anti-choice campaigns are based on religious extremism–activists hold up threatening messages and gory images and play on religious sentiment. The idea is to threaten women exercising their legal right to abortion healthcare, and invoke feelings of panic. Accessing healthcare must also involve the right to safe passage, which anti-choicers are violating.
Women should not only be guaranteed safe abortions, but also safe passage while accessing services. The anti-choice activists deal fear and humiliation to these women, making it hard for them to practise their rights. As pro-choice campaigners for women, we believe it is essential that they be stopped
Dr. Pam Lowe, who recently wrote a paper on anti-abortion activism and its effects on women, said that, ‘Our research has shown that anti-abortion activism around clinics causes significant distress to women and invades their right to healthcare privacy. Whilst the tiny minority of people who have religious objections to all abortions are entitled to their views, I don’t think it is acceptable that they are allowed to harass women.’
Events such as ‘March for Life’ simply demonstrate that anti-choicers can put as much of a friendly face on as they wish, but when the mask slips, everyone can see the true ugliness behind their smiles. Women attempting to access a legal medical service must be able to do so without fear of harassment or intimidation. It’s time for the UK’s pro-choice majority to say we’ve had enough of this kind of behaviour and to stand up for our right to safe, legal abortion.