Tuesday, 13 March 2012

US-style anti-abortion tactics come to London

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A worrying aspect of the abortion debate in the UK is the way in which the tactics of the anti-choice lobby have begun to resemble those more commonly seen in the United States, where protests outside clinics and intimidation of people coming and going from those buildings are a regular sight.

For our current issue, journalist and blogger Sarah Ditum contributed a column discussing the efforts of Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, and the way in which the anti-abortion campaign in Britain appears to be marching on despite defeats at parliamentary level. Now, on the Guardian's Comment is Free, Ditum looks at another strand of the campaign, focusing on the "40 Days of Life" picket that is currently encamped outside the BPAS building in central London:
"Outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service's Bedford Square clinic in London, the anti-choice group 40 Days for Life has been holding what it describes as a "prayer vigil". For patients seeking the services of the clinic, and for those who work there, the effect of this gathering is undoubtedly one of intimidation. The women who attend there are already dealing with the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as well as an imminent medical procedure and possible fears about how their family or friends might react to their choice. It's a moment when anyone is likely to feel vulnerable, and conscious of their privacy."
This is a disturbing development, and for further details I highly recommend reading the full piece. It's also worth noting that the 40 Days of Choice campaign and the Bloomsbury Pro-Choice Alliance have been working hard to counter the picket, gathering at Bedford Square each Sunday form 12-4pm.

Update: As my predecessor in this job pointed out to me, there have long been small prayer vigils outside BPAS in Bedford Square. Our office used to be just around the corner, and we'd see them regularly. I think they were usually on Wednesday's and there would be a nun and a couple of other people quietly praying and handing leaflets to passers by and people coming and going from the clinic. But the 40 Days of Life appears to be a step up from this - there has not been this kind of 24/7 coverage before. When I walked past recently, there were more people there protesting than I ever saw when I used to work there, and they did appear to be hassling those coming and going from the building. Anti-abortion protests have, of course, long taken place in Britain, but they do seen to have become more visible in recent years, and there does appear to be a growth in the tactics more commonly seen in the US.

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