Undercover at an Abortion Rights meeting
Posted by Rhoslyn Thomas on 19 April 2016
The title of the meeting was Abortion Access in 2016: Preventing harassment and putting pressure where power lies
Last Tuesday some friends and I went to a meeting in Parliament hosted by Abortion Rights, who describe themselves as "the national pro-choice campaign".
It's always nerve-wracking when you go undercover to a meeting aimed at those who believe that abortion is a woman's 'right to choose' or even a human right. I suddenly start to wonder if I look different! In the end, I decided I looked like an average 27-year old woman and if I got caught out, it would probably be from a simple Google search throwing up a 100 pictures of me at various pro-life events.
The title of the meeting was Abortion Access in 2016: Preventing harassment and putting pressure where power lies. Basically, this means putting pressure on Jeremy Hunt and other MPs to ban pro-life vigils outside abortion centres and generally preventing pro-life organisations from helping women to turn away from abortion. They have other aims too and that was discussed in the meeting.
Perspective from the other side
I had recently read an article written by a young girl who attended a 40 Days For Life training day, held in central London. I had to laugh when I read her take on it all - I had, in fact, met the author of this article and spoken with her at the meeting. Now I think about it, she looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights when I approached her but I never suspected a thing. She looked every bit the pro-lifer because we are, in fact, just normal people.
It was useful for me to read a piece by someone who had so misunderstood the pro-life cause and so misunderstood those of us at the meeting. It taught me that I must be careful not to do the same. I should not think that people are suspicious of me or that they are mean-spirited people. After all, I don’t even know them. I know they are mistaken and believe in an evil cause (namely, the destruction of unborn babies), but I shouldn’t cast aspersions on them personally.
Strength in numbers
When we turned up to the meeting, the first thing I noticed was there was no room for my friends and me to sit together. The representative from Abortion Rights was very friendly and welcoming and she encouraged us to sit wherever we could find a place, which we did. The second thing I noticed was all the other pro-lifers who winked or smiled at me from various places in the room. So we were not alone then!
On the panel were various people: Genevieve Edwards, the Policy and Communications director for Marie Stopes; Pam Lowe of Aston University who is carrying out research on prayer vigils and the pro-life movement; Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood; Barbara Ntumy, a student and founder of Christians for Choice which claims to be a pro-abortion group for Christians and Laura Bates, who runs the 'Everyday Sexism' campaign.
Each spoke about how pro-lifers supposedly harass women, how they do not trust women, how they oppress women and how any sort of presence outside an abortion centre, with or without images, with a counselor or without is a form of harassment according to them. Any pro-life presence is unacceptable.
They emphasised that they do not begrudge pro-lifers the right to express their pro-life opinions. All they want is for us to be pro-life very far away from any mother or father who might benefit from our presence. I wonder how long they will keep up that free-speech charade!
What are you doing?
After each of the panelists had spoken, everyone in the audience (an audience of perhaps 40-50 people, at a guess) was invited to stand up and give their two pennies’ worth. There was more of the same ‘anti-choicers are despicable; why should we still have to fight for this 50 years later etc’, but some interesting information came out too. Representatives from groups such as Education for Choice (now a part of Brook and run by them) and Abortions Rights revealed that they will not provide a pro-abortion speaker to a school when asked to give the opposing side of the abortion debate against a pro-life speaker, even if they are speaking on different days.
I gather that the reason for this is that they feel that pro-lifers should not be allowed in schools at all (what was that they were they saying about free speech?). Similarly, they will always refuse to appear as part of a television or radio debate if speaking against a pro-life speaker. They claim that the pro-abortion (or pro-choice, as they call it) position is neutral and it’s up to Jeremy Hunt to put forward the argument in favour of abortion. It made me wonder why they exist at all...
Secret pots of gold
In light of the information above, it came as no surprise to me to hear later on in the meeting that Abortion Rights struggle to make ends meet. The usual claim that the pro-life movement receives secret funding from the US was also repeated. For the record, we are extremely grateful to our generous supporters in the UK and receive no pots of gold from America. All pots of gold welcome, of course.
One other thing that really wound them up about pro-lifers is the fact that pro-lifers love writing letters and they do it well! They encouraged all those present to write to their MPs to make them act on this issue. It made me proud of all the letter-writers that I know of, particularly Ann Farmer, who is famous for her pro-life letters to the Daily Telegraph and other papers – and who has been known to leave some great comments on this site sometimes too!
It was also interesting to hear that quite a few of those who spoke during the meeting were very pleased to see so many young people present - however, a lot of these young people were the 14 pro-lifers present at the meeting! I must remind abortion supporters that if you abort your children, you will inevitably reduce the number of young people in your movement. When you’re having children – especially if you have a large family – you tend to ‘bulk out’ any event without even trying. You see our advantage there. Do take note.
I tried to look around the room at the other people present (both men and women). As with other pro-abortion meetings that I’ve attended, most looked 'normal'. I don’t believe that they are monsters; I just think they are horribly mistaken and I am determined to oppose them every step of the way. They deserve your compassion and they deserve the truth. Please join us in continuing in the fight to end abortion and to protest all attacks on human life.
You can help oppose the Abortion Rights campaign to ban pro-lifers peacefully offering support outside abortion clincs, by signing our petition against buffer zones.