Women’s groups mobilise against anti-abortion ‘prayer vigil’


9:34 am - March 5th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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A pro-choice alliance has sprung up to respond to a 40-day protest by a religious organisation in front of the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS) building in central London.

It is the latest sign that US ‘culture wars’ over issues such as abortion and gay marriage are being imported into the UK.

The American group, vehemently opposed to a woman’s right to choose abortion, is holding a ‘prayer vigil’ throughout Lent in front of the BPAS offices in Bloomsbury Square, London.

Their ’40 Days for Life’ vigil involves handing out literature that includes phrases such as “abortion cannot un-rape a woman”, and full of inaccurate information on the development of a foetus.

They are also accused by pro-choice organisation of propagating the myth that there is a proven link between abortion and breast cancer.

The Bloomsbury Pro-Choice Alliance (BPCA) has been formed in response to the American group and others like it (such as SPUC and Abort67).

BPCA plan to hold their own counter-protests and will have a presence in Bedford Square every Sunday until April 1st.

BPCA told Liberal Conspiracy:

The purpose of BPCA is not to change people’s opinions on abortion: we completely understand why some are uncomfortable with the practice.

However, we find the intimidation and harassment of vulnerable women seeking pregnancy advice completely unacceptable – and whatever justifications 40 Days for Life may use, their actions ARE intimidatory.

They will also be holding events and distributing their own fact-based leaflets

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


They did this last year too. I remember walking past a desultory group of activists in Bedford Square last October.

Perhaps it’s time for “40 Days For Choice” to reactivate too – http://40daysforchoice.weebly.com/

The US culture war is very successful in keeping people arguing over right to abortion, gay marriage and secularism, and distracting them from economic policies. I highly doubt this increasing import is occurring at a time when the right’s model of government is under severe criticism is happening purely by coincidence.

3. James Reade

I’m sorry Sunny, I missed those links for the supposed accurate information on the development of a foetus (from some presumably totally impartial organisation – which one is that again?), and on the medical evidence showing that this link between abortion and breast cancer is a myth.

I’m sure that was just a lapse on your part (to not provide links). I wouldn’t want to think you yourself are propagating unsubstantiated points too.

And please do link up these “fact-based leaflets” you conclude by mentioning. I’m highly, highly intrigued as to what constitutes a “fact” in your mind on this subject.

I am a liberal, but I am strongly against abortion. While it is true that these religous groups are being intimidatory, and that in theory, it should be a woman’s choice, I find it morally wrong.
The prayer group are right when they says that abortion cannot un-rape a woman- and maybe the pregnancy may be a way of getting over such a crime. Also, that majority of births are normal, so there is not much of an excuse that way.
Since when have we women become so dismissive of a human right to life? How can we say that we want men to repsect us as human beings when we cannot respect the potential life of an embryo? What will be next?
Why not focus the efforts on cutting down rape in this country, rather than promoting irrational and immoral perceived solutions for it?

5. the a&e charge nurse

James –

The advice from the National Cancer Institute (US) seems pretty concrete: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/abortion-miscarriage

Certainly, a quick google search doesn’t produce any suggestion of a link outside of pro-life/church websites – oh, and the Daily Mail, who seem to think everything causes cancer.

The lack of links to our factsheets etc is my fault entirely – we don’t have these online yet; but hope to before the end of the day. It’s not our intention to change people’s opinions on abortion, so I hope anything we produce to hand out on Bedford Square will be completely unbiased.

Kerry, Bloomsbury PCA

“They are also accused by pro-choice organisation of propagating the myth that there is a proven link between abortion and breast cancer.”

There is a proven link but it is indirect.

The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is failure to carry a pregnancy to term and then breast feed.

Abortion itself isn’t the cause: it’s not terminating pregancies, it’s not having a child at all. In so far as having an abortion contrinutes to not having a child at all there is a link.

After all, it is well known that the breast cancer rate in nuns is very much higher than in women in general. And we rather don’t think that nuns have lots of abortions but we do note that they rarely have children.

In so far as having an abortion contrinutes to not having a child at all there is a link.

So, not much of a link at all then?

4
True, abortion does not un-rape a woman but I am quite certain that those women who have been raped and become pregnant are not attempting to become ‘unraped’. This is a ridiculous idea.
Unwanted pregnancies are hard enough to deal with when there is a contraception fail never mind when a woman (who has chosen not to have sex with her attacker) finds herself having an abortion she didn’t want never mind a child as a reminder of the horror.

Don’t worry. Prayers don’t reach anyone.

11. James from Durham

There is no contradiction between believing that abortion is wrong but defending a woman’s right to choose. Any belief in freedom for others necessitates a belief in their right to make “bad” choices.

Deborah – you can maintain all the beliefs you express, but you have to accept that other people’s choices are theirs.

Oh dear not this old chestnut again. For the umpteenth time this is not about saving lives. It is about punishing woman who have sex outside marriage.

You only have to see how birth control has now taken centre stage in the US over the last few weeks. Catholic Bishops and the usual right wing republicans trying to stop woman getting birth control on their health care policies. The republicans even tried to get a bill through that would allow employers to decide what healthcare people got based on their religious beliefs.

Thankfully this failed but lead to Rush Limb calling woman slutty who use birth control 7 sponsors pulled their advertising from his show and he was forced to apologise.

The abortion debate is just part 1 of trying to punish woman. In red states it is increasingly difficult to find abortion clinics. Doctors have been killed and many regulations passed to make it difficult and humiliating. The latest trick is to force woman to have internal ultra sound probes inserted into them. It has been dubbed ‘State sponsored ra pe. ‘

Funny tha the right wing men have no problem with viagra being available on healthcare plans. When anti abortion groups support birth control I will take their objection to abortion for moral reasons. seriously. But most don’t The Catholic church being an obvious example.

Oddly, I’m in total agreement with Sally here – which either means this is a bloody obvious argument, or that there is something strange going on.

Not sure about cultural wars here mind – unlike in the US, you’ll probably find a fair chunk of the economic right wing are not religious and do not oppose abortion (or at least do not oppose it for others – those who do oppose it that I have met are all only concerned about themselves). As with the site title, this sort of assumption assumes we can directly import ideas from the US and apply them here, but we lack the same religious background – large numbers of Baptist and born-again churches, large areas still dominated by social Conservative patterns of behaviour including church going, a disconnect between much of the rural landscape and the cities. It is probably a bad idea to try and fight these wars from a liberal perspective in the UK as well – you end up forcing those who may oppose you on economics and welfare and the NHS, for example, to have to chose a side of a war, when they (or me) should be counted on to stand besides you against the idiots opposed to abortion or gay marriage.

I may disagree with Sally on most things, but the religious and the ‘unborn child’ nutters are something all right-minded people need to oppose (sorry wrong-minded people…) – so it is worth remembering you have allies aplenty on the right about this.

14. Paul Ashby

Wondered what this was about when I walked past around 3pm today. I suspect that four people standing on a traffic island in a deserted Bloomsbury Square are not going to influence anyone.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ Watchman

“As with the site title, this sort of assumption assumes we can directly import ideas from the US and apply them here”

Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that for a while. I don’t think “liberal” means what Sunny thinks it mean. Unless he’s using the American sense of “liberal”, i.e. “vaguely leftwing”.

I have no idea why numpties turn up on Libcon to tell me they’re liberal yet are opposed to abortion. Erm – I don’t care?
This site is and will always remain pro-choice regardless of what the odd trolls say. I decide editorial policy and it’s set in stone.

17. the a&e charge nurse

[16] liberals can be pro-choice yet troubled by the consequences of such choice.

You do not have to be a frothing right wing religious zealot to worry about the ever growing abortion rate (look ing at the trend from ’67 to today), or what it means to take a life.

As a mater of interest does your pro-choice stance extend beyond 39 weeks (in principle) – or is termination only acceptable so long as we cannot actually see the baby at the time of the deed?

I mean do you condemn liberals for not taking arguments about choice to their logical conclusion, regarding the baby as no more than an object at the mother’s disposal even after birth?

18. Rick Louden

Dear friends,

This may be the way to go. Please tell me what you think. I believe that this is the most democratic prospect ever. Please tell me what you think and if you will pass it on.
This might be a good idea for every democratic country. It asks the simple questions: What do we need representatives for anymore? Don’t we have computers and the Internet? Have they done a good job? Please forward this to your members. It may just give the power back to the people. Please hurry as there are only three weeks left for signatures. I need 25,000 for the administration to have to deal with this petition. My personal goal is a million signatures. Please help. Here is a copy of the letter that I have been sending out:

Hello all,

This is a plea for everyone to sign my petition at the White House. It calls for the elimination of the house of representatives and half of the senate. What do we need representatives for anymore? Washington is not two months journey away now, it is two minutes. Why not take the money spent on representatives, their offices, their staffs, their travel expenses, electricity, communication, their residences, (and let’s not forget) their life time pay and benefit packages and spend it on computers and limited free access to the internet for all voting age citizens to vote their own minds. It could be monitored by three outside sources like Price Waterhouse super computers, the un or world court department that already watchdogs voting around the world, and a third outside super computer monitoring system. These could work to make sure our votes are our votes. This would truly be the first real government “for the people” and “by the people.” The 50 senators (one from each state) are still, in my mind, needed to make us flexible as there may be times when an emergency vote must be made. We could always undo it later. The idea is that for every bill presented (no more than a few per week) one senator would make a video (no longer than one hour) for and another against it. The President could also make a video stating his views on the bill. After a citizen views all three videos, they can vote on it personally or add a comment or both. The senate and the president could still block or veto bills that their better judgment said was no good, but they better have a boat load of good reasons why. This would totally eliminate: big money influence, pork barrel politics, lobbyists, special interests, and partisan politics. I believe that this is the wave of the future and will happen somewhere sometime. Why not here? Why not now? If you agree please go to the link below and sign the petition calling for this change in government. You will have to create an account at the white house web site, log in, log off then use the link below.

http://wh.gov/8eL

I believe that this is the only way we will ever reclaim our country from big money and power brokers. It would eliminate stupid wars that the people don’t want, homelessness, starvation in America, big business getting away with not cleaning up the Alaskan oil spill (all these years later), bank bail outs, rampant corruption, and many other things that the old system just can’t get done. Thanks to computers and the internet we could truly have a democratic society that is “for the people” and “by the people.”

Thank you for your time to read this and for signing my petition if you chose to do so.

Rick Louden

@ Sunny,

“I have no idea why numpties turn up on Libcon to tell me they’re liberal yet are opposed to abortion. Erm – I don’t care?”

Firstly, you use the word liberal to mean leftwing, rather than its original meaning, and that which persists in most places outside America (e.g. check out the Liberal Party of Australia).

Secondly, being ‘opposed’ to abortion covers a number of positions, which you are blending together. Someone could be against abortion and wish to see it made illegal again. Someone else could find it morally wrong, but still accept a woman’s right to choose. Both positions could be described as being opposed to abortion, but there is a significant difference between them.

Many people would think a man who shags his brother’s wife is acting in an immoral way. Only a small sub-set of these would wish to criminalise such an act.

20. Chaise Guevara

Well said, Trooper.

21. Shatterface

Secondly, being ‘opposed’ to abortion covers a number of positions, which you are blending together. Someone could be against abortion and wish to see it made illegal again. Someone else could find it morally wrong, but still accept a woman’s right to choose. Both positions could be described as being opposed to abortion, but there is a significant difference between them.

The latter position is possibly the more liberal as it allows for behaviour of which one does not necessarily approve. Anyone can stand up for the rights to do or say something they agree with.


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  24. BPCA

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  67. Anti-abortion preachers caught on film | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] reported last week that a group calling themselves 40 Days for Life is holding a “prayer vigil” outside the BPAS clinic in […]





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