Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Trust women, trust women, trust women and trust health professionals: Freedom of speech and anti abortion protesters

Last night I attended a debate held by BPAS about Freedom of Speech and the right of people ideologically opposed to abortion to protest outside clinics.  You won't be surprised to know that I believe protesting outside a clinic and obstructing, preventing or distressing a woman who has made a decision to go to a clinic to talk about her pregnancy choices or to have an abortion is simply wrong.

As I cycled home I realised how agitated I was for a number of different reasons;

  • At Brook we hear tales from young women who are making the right choices for them who are stopped or blocked as they try to enter a clinic and that is the really distressing part of terminating a pregnancy for them. How is that decent?
  • abortion is legal in the UK and it should be legal across the world because when it is illegal abortions don't stop, women have unsafe abortions and they can die as a result 
  • the anti abortion panellist clearly does not understand what happens in an abortion clinic - otherwise she would have known that everyone does have an ultrasound - myth busted but I cannot believe she will change her tale as a result
  • the claim that people delivering abortion are driven by financial reward - it is a stupid claim - all medical procedures are paid for.  My dad and brother both have hip replacements. Someone got paid to do them, and I trust they were necessary.  My mum has a hysterectomoy, somebody got paid to do it - I trust she needed it
  • it is an individuals right to disagree with abortion and I respect that right. However I do not believe that translates into the right to interfere with other women's decisions.  And I do not believe it is the job of strangers on the street to prevent people accessing legal, safe services which help people make decisions about their pregnancy including continuing the pregnancy, adoption and abortion
  • most of all I was agitated by the implication that women are unable to make decisions and they may decide to have an abortion on an 'off day' when health professionals will take advantage of them is simply rude.  I trust women and I trust health professionals.

And some corkers of the evening for me;

  • being told that anti-abortion campaigners must tell the truth whilst being told a pack of lies
  • comparisons being made between the work of Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes and the work of those ideologically opposed to abortion in this country - reproductive rights lie at the heart of women's rights
  • being told by panellist Max Wind-Cowie that as a Christian and a gay man, people of faith often wanted to engage in discussion with him about what he does after dark and he welcomes that. Personally I generally am no longer willing to discuss the ethics and morality of my sexual orientation and sexual choices. Even if I did engage in that conversation I certainly wouldn't covenant somebody trying to stop me going to a gay club or standing in between me and someone I want to be intimate with. I suspect Max wouldn't either. In fact when it moved from discussion to action I would call it homophobic.
Disagreeing with homosexuality is everyones right, whether you have a conversation about it if you are gay is your decision.  When action is taking to hurt, harrass or distress someone because they are gay is wrong.  The same is true of women seeking pregnancy choices support or an abortion. Everyone has a right to their view about abortions, and to make their own personal decision. But protesting outside clinics with the clear and simple aim of stopping women having an abortion goes beyond the rights of freedom of speech, and is in my view cruel and wrong. 

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