A few thoughts occurred to me with regards to the glut of stories and accusations, mainly emanating from the Guardian, in relation to 40 days for life.
If women are being hassled, harangued, bullied and intimidated by those on the vigil, then why on earth is no-one actually doing anything about it other than writing angry and inaccurate features in the pro-choice press?*
Think about it for a moment. If you were the manager of a business and a clearly mentally unbalanced individual or a drunk was stood outside threatening and harassing your customers as they entered, then naturally you would take steps to have them removed, such as calling the police. Section 5 of the Public Order Act is very precise as to what constitutes a criminal offence.
(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
Women entering into abortion clinics are undoubtedly vulnerable and it could well be argued that they are likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. Surely if the vigils are threatening or intimidating as claimed, then the police should have been called and arrests made? No-one on vigils from 40 Days for Life has been arrested or even warned. BPAS keep a camera trained on the vigils at all times. Surely if anyone has engaged in the type of behaviour which they claim, then why hasn’t the evidence been provided to the police and a prosecution ensued?
Furthermore Ann Furedi said in her recent interview on Radio 4’s Today programme, that very often there is only a solitary person and there is nothing that requires the presence of official escorts such as some clinics in the US employ.
So, there’s no criminal offence being committed and no action is necessary to protect those entering the clinics. But it’s still a bit of a problem though isn’t it? You’ve got people standing opposite your premises, mainly praying, but 1 of whom may offer a leaflet dissuading that potential client from using your services. A bit like an anti-globalisation protestor standing outside Starbucks or McDonalds, questioning the ethics of their business. That is not for one moment to equate a woman considering an abortion with someone going for a hamburger or coffee, but the effect upon the business or provider is the same. They don’t want people to be dissuaded and so the arguments they employ are all about the protection of their customer, and of course are able to co-opt the admittedly vulnerable client to this aim.
There’s no physical threat, there’s nothing that constitutes harassment otherwise the police would be called on a regular basis and there’s nothing to suggest that any violence or intimidation may be in the offing. Surely a business would be seeking to reassure their clients that they are perfectly safe, they won’t be harassed and should not be worried about entering the premises? Isn’t it rather irresponsible to claim that a non-existent concern exists, couldn’t this actually deter women from entering the premises, far more than the actual sight of a few people praying a rosary? Very often the fear is much greater than the reality. Any business that truly cared for its clients would be seeking to reassure them that there would be no problem, just to ignore, after all, no-one is forced to engage with those on the vigil.
Why is it then that they use the only means available to them, such as the mainstream media and the internet in order to whip up an irrational fear of those on 40 days for life? Could it actually be because they are effective? Because they have got people rallying to their cause and *sharp intake of breath* praying? Could it be because there is a danger that they could bring about a renewed public discussion about the nature of abortion and the role abortion clinics have to play? Or could it be a simple distraction technique to divert attention away from the recent exposes of the abuses of the law and the incidents of fraud and neglect that are a daily occurrence in these clinics?Abuses such as gender selective abortion, abortion-on-demand with no questions asked, doctors pre-signing huge batches of forms without ever even seeing the patient. Or perhaps they are trying to detract attention from the recent CQC finding that the counselling provision in many clinics is poor or non-existent?
It certainly seems that they are scraping the bottom of the barrel in their recent report, attempting to link 40 days for life with the lack of doctors prepared to carry out abortion. There are a few reasons why there may be a dearth of doctors prepared to carry out abortions:
- They’ve read the Hippocratic Oath which swears to protect life and take it seriously
- They’ve studied anatomy and understand fetal development
- The NHS is contracting out the majority of abortion provision to clinics hence junior doctors lack the skills, as a rotation in gynae may not equip them with these skills, particularly not when it comes to late-stage provision
- Having spent time in maternity, they are increasingly uncomfortable with carrying out abortion procedures, especially at a late stage
As the report itself admits, there are less than a dozen doctors in the UK who are prepared and able to carry out late-stage abortions and a dearth of doctors lining up to join the abortion clinics, although many are happy to provide early stage provision, as part of a repertoire of clinical skills on the NHS. Perhaps a career solely devoted to aborting unborn babies does not appeal? Can’t think why that might be?
It’s obviously a concern for the abortion clinics. There they are expanding their territory and customer base (as referred to in their annual reports), building shiny new clinics and yet there will be a dearth of staff to fill them. What to do? Blame 40 days for Life, that’ll work?
For those who still maintain that they are a “charity” providing good works and services, I have just one teensy little question. Most charities provide charitable relief and assistance to others for free. How does BPAS fit into this mold. Most charities want to work to reduce the need for their services, not increase them.
Of course the clinics have a point, in that a climate or public opinion, that does not favour abortion on demand is not going to help their business of providing abortions for money, one little bit. No wonder they are chucking absolutely everything they have at those who oppose them – there is a lot to lose.
The Guardian have posted a video on-line which purports to show the harassment of women by 40daysforlife at my local abortion clinic, Wistons, in Brighton. Apparently the reporter was ‘approached.’ The narrative doesn’t fit with the recording. Here is a transcript of the conversation. (My thanks to Neil Addison for providing this). Harassment? Or poetic licence? No wonder the clinics are concerned. It’s not about the women at all:
Reporter: Is this the Wiston Clinic?
40daysforlife: Yes can I give you some information before you go in?
Reporter: What is it?
40daysforlife: We’re here to offer help and support if you feel you would like to reconsider. I don’t know what you’re going in for; but we’re standing here (inaudible) options.
Reporter: Do you work with the clinic?
40daysforlife: No. No. We don’t work with the clinic. We’re 40 Days for life. Some people come because they feel they have no other option. We’re here to say if we can help or support you come and speak to us. Are you going to have a scan this morning? (This section of video ends at this point, however it certainly does not demonstrate any evidence of harassment by the 40 Days for Life participant, nor does it demonstrate any attempt to mislead)