In her Guardian article last week – Feminists shouldn’t try to stifle debate about abortion – Deborah Orr wrote:

“I’m struggling to understand quite why it is so terrible that the anti-abortion charity, Life, has been invited to join a government- advisory sexual health forum…

…Life will never win the argument, because it is anti-choice. Logic is on the pro-choice side, let alone practicality.”

To which I responded in the comments:

“I think you’re being incredibly naive here Deborah. What you’re basically saying is that pro-choicers have nothing to fear because we’re obviously right. And yet look at the situation in America, where Christian anti-choice groups like Life have been able to exert influence on policy makers. Abortion is effectively banned now in many US states, and some are even moving towards a position of banning all abortion, under any circumstances, including aborting pregnancies that are the result of rape or that constitute a threat to the health or life of the woman.

That’s what happens when complacency is allowed to set in, when those of us on the ‘right side’ so to speak, arrogantly assume that our unassailable logic is always bound to win through.

And that’s why Life, and other anti-woman, anti-choice groups must be fought at every turn.”

And as if on cue, here’s a piece from today’s paper – Anti-abortion groups raise stakes by deploying US tactics on UK streets:

“A sleepy sidestreet near the centre of Maidstone may seem an unlikely frontline in the conflict that has bubbled away, usually with relative calm, since Britain legalised abortion in 1967.

But on a recent weekday afternoon in Kent’s county town, a group of a dozen anti-abortion protesters, led by a veteran of the movement in the US, began their latest “prayer vigil” directly across the road from a Marie Stopes clinic.

Over the course of two hours, members of the group intercepted young women approaching the clinic from either end of the street to hand them literature and engage in conversation, while the protesters themselves became the target of shouts of “disgusting” and “shame” from angry passersby.

The protesters hail from the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants anti-abortion group and are led by Monsignor Philip Reilly, who has travelled from the US to meet British supporters.

Pro-choice groups say the Maidstone protest reflects an apparent ratcheting up of the activities of the more active elements in the anti-abortion movement, typically involving individuals with experience of the polarised world of America’s “culture wars”.

As well as Marie Stopes clinics around the UK, targets have included branches of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and the sexual health charity Brook.”

It’s precisely because of these groups and their tactics that we cannot afford to get complacent about abortion rights in this country. We cannot assume that just because, in Orr’s words, “logic is on the pro-choice side” we are always going to win the argument. These US style anti-abortion groups are now over here, and they’re getting themselves organised: it’s time we did the same.

Here’s what the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants say on their website:

“We are committed to  maintaining a peaceful and prayerful presence outside the abortion clinics where our brothers and sisters are put to death.”

“Our aim is to bring Christ’s peace to these places of death

And here’s what the poisonous Abort67 (part of The Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform UK – I’m not linking) say on theirs:

“Pro abortion groups and individuals have cleverly deceived society by saying that they are pro choice.  Pro choice about what?  They are only pro choice if that choice is killing a human being.

Listen to them howling about girls in schools being given teaching on abstinence.  Their ranting is akin to the ad hominem attacks of the playground, but this isn’t surprising when the facts are always stacked against them.

We stand outside abortion clinics offering help to women who are considering abortions and we regularly see young girls being dragged in to the clinic by parents or boyfriends.  We hear women say “I have no choice but to abort, I don’t want to but I can’t see any way out!”  How can Abortion Rights, BPAS and Marie Stopes claim to be there for the best interest of the woman?  How can they say they are pro-choice when all they offer is killing the sons and daughters of these vulnerable people?

Abortion Rights are determined for your children to be sexually active and then encourage them to kill your grandchildren.  Abort67 is on your case Abortion Rights.  You have deceived the UK for too long and we will be revealing the ugly truth you are so desperate to hide.”

Seriously, these are the people we are up against; this is what they genuinely believe! And yet if Deborah Orr and others had their way we’d be sat in a circle holding hands with them or something.

Well I’m sure I’m not alone in saying: not a bloody chance!

Interestingly, in the appeal they make for donations on their site, Abort67 claim: “We don’t have the luxury of money from the government or pro-abortion donors.  The other side is swimming in money.” But as the Guardian piece points out, when Andy Stephenson of Abort67 and other activists were arrested last year, their case was supported by the Christian Legal Centre (yep, surprise surprise, it’s Dorries’ big buddy Andrea Minichiello Williams again), who certainly aren’t short of a bob or two. Meanwhile, the “prayer vigils” are endorsed by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, who under their company name SPUC Pro-Life Limited turned over a pretty tidy sum themselves last year.

And talking of money, Life aren’t exactly skint either:

The Guardian article also mentions a group known as Bound4Life UK, “which has imported from the US the tactic of “silent sieges” with activists standing outside abortion clinics with their mouths covered in red tape on which the word “life” is written.” In fact there are a number of branches of Bound4Life in the UK now, including Bound4Life London which is headed by Rebekah Lodos, and is part of the International House of Prayer  in London; Bound4Life Tamworth, and Bound4Life Portsmouth.

And let’s not forget that as well as Life representatives now sitting on the government’s sexual health forum, there are also Care interns working closely with House of Commons MPs, and getting themselves elected to Parliament.

So, as I said in the title, abortion rights in this country are now under siege, and they’re under siege from extremely well funded, well organised Christian Right organisations. We may well be able to say now, as Darinka Aleksic of Abortion Rights does in the Guardian piece “We need to keep it in perspective because, in comparison with the US where there is a massive amount of harassment and threats to abortion providers, our situation is much better and we can be grateful”, but if these people have their way, I’m afraid we won’t be able to say that for much longer.

It’s time for some kind of fightback.

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