The Independent report that 40 Days for Life, a Texan evangelical anti-abortion group, have been picketing Marie Stopes House in London, the flagship clinic of family planning provider Marie Stopes International, handing leaflets to women entering the clinic and, according to clinic staff who have spoken to the Independent, filming some women and staff as they enter.
Abortion is, of course, an emotive issue, and there are legitimate debates to be had about it, but the emergence of these kinds of tactics in the UK is a worrying development. Women seeking an abortion do not need reminding that they have made a difficult decision, and for protesters to confront them when they are at their most vulnerable amounts, in my view, to intimidation. They are entitled to make their arguments against the legal status of abortion, but they should do so without intervening in individual cases, where women and their partners have made a personal and private decision, which may have been the most difficult thing they have ever had to do. This kind of intimidation is, of course, rife in the US, and has at times been taken to violent extremes – it would be very sad if things took that turn here, and replaced what in my view is, on the whole, a fairly mature debate on the issue.
The points I make here were made far more eloquently Aaron Gouveia who, along with his wife, was confronted by anti-abortion protesters outside a clinic in Massachusetts recently. The couple had taken the painful decision to go through with an abortion after their child was diagnosed with Sirenomelia, a rare congenital deformity which, doctors told them, gave the child zero chance of survival. As Gouveia explains in this moving post, he was angered by the protesters intimidating his wife as she entered the clinic, so he confronted them and exposed their cowardice. He filmed it on his phone, and the video has had many views on YouTube: