Always two sides

A yet another nasty piece of misinformation has cropped up from the pro-choice lobby with Abortion Rights tweeting a link to a blogpost that is being spread in order to to attempt to disprove the peaceful nature of the 40DFL prayer vigils.

I attended a vigil at Bedford Square last Wednesday, like Laurence, I should not be promoting something that I was not prepared to do myself. I shall be attending more vigils throughout the campaign, however to date I have witnessed absolutely no intimidation of women, and my experience of the kick-off rally evoked similar feelings to those of Fr Dominic Allain who was subject to the most disgusting verbal sexual harassment. I wonder whether or not it would be acceptable for men to jeer and heckle women in such vulgar sexual terms?

I am admittedly rather torn as to whether or not to disprove many of the factual inaccuracies and draw attention to the partisan nature of the post, but no doubt this will be incorporated into the myths propagated by the abortion industry advocates, so it seems important to have the facts out there.

The post starts with a photograph of a volunteer from The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants or Good Counsel Network. Not 40 days for Life. The clue is that she’s holding rosaries, which, anyone who has bothered to do their research, will be aware of.

Obviously the poster, Rachel Garrick, thinks its perfectly acceptable to take a close-up photograph of a volunteer, put it on her blog, ensure it spreads around the internet, ask for her to be identified and given a hard time because she is ‘very guilty of harassment’. Even if this was the case, surely if the volunteer had committed a criminal offence, the police should be the first port of call? Provoking an internet witch-hunt and encouraging vigilantism is not responsible behaviour, regardless of what you might think a person has done. The person justifies her taking a close-up photograph by way of response to the alleged clinic filming incident back in March. For starters 40DFL have apologised and stated that they do not endorse or encourage such behaviour, volunteers who do not abide by their statement of peace will be asked to leave, the incident such as it was, appears to have been an over-enthusiastic cameraman who was making a documentary.

In any event, even if this volunteer was guilty of harassment and therefore ‘deserved’ the same treatment, as I say to my children, two wrongs don’t make a right. Rachel wonders why the volunteer looked away from the camera: ‘I am not sure why. Maybe some modicum of humanity still exists in her which makes her realise what she does is wrong.’ How about the fact that she didn’t appreciate being photographed at close range. It’s a tactic used a lot by the anti-life brigade. They like to shove cameras in your face and take photographs at the most unflattering angles. It happened several times at the kick-off vigil, as soon as you joined in the prayers, some camera would appear millimetres from your face in an attempt to intimidate. I had to tell one person in no uncertain terms not to stick a flashlight millimetres from the baby’s face. ‘Why are you doing this’, they would scream as they pushed a camera in your face. Also check-out the attempt to de-humanise and so vilify the volunteer, she is obviously beyond human, capable of carrying out all sorts of evil, such as, um, trying to prevent women from destroying their unborn babies.

‘I am not particularly drawn to the women’s reproductive rights debate but I believe in choice and the safe provision of abortion.’ So you are completely and utterly impartial then? So impartial that 7 months ago you were drawn to taking close up photographs of a volunteer in an attempt at revenge and drawn to posting that photograph over the internet and attempting to whip up hatred. Ms Garrick goes on to say that she is a staunch feminist, so clearly no vested interests whatsoever, just a completely impartial observer?

“In the 7 months that I have worked in the area, I haven’t seen active harassment of women. I’ve seen passive aggressive intimidation through presence and ostentatious yet hypocritical prayer. I’ve even seen a woman on her knees covering her eyes and aping tears as an ambulance arrived at the clinic.”

Right, so an admission that no active harassment has taken place, however look at the confirmation bias. The praying is ‘passive aggressive’ intimidation. How about it’s just prayer, prayers for the women going in there, prayers for the babies whose lives are ending and prayers for the clinic workers? The poster is obviously omniscient, she knows that real intention is to intimidate, that the prayers are ‘ostentatious and hypocritical.’ She is all-seeing, all-knowing she has a unique insight into the volunteers’ hearts, she knows that it isn’t anything genuine that causes them to give up their free time and stand unpaid outside clinics desperately praying for an end to the horror and doing what they can to stop it. No, it’s all really an act, pro-lifers don’t care about suffering, either of babies, or women, they just do it for the kicks. Obviously when we see an abortion go so horribly wrong that a poor woman requires hospital treatment and spontaneously cry and pray, that’s not genuine emotion either. No, we are all evil automatons who have no soul or humanity and our prayer, is simply a pretence. This woman can look into our deepest souls and just know our intentions and motivations. She just knows that we are all unfeeling uncaring brutes. If I had this level of telepathic omniscience I’d put it to much better use than being an office worker down the road from Marie Stopes!

“I have even had conversations with one of the most regular women who spend their entire time outside of the clinic and found she is pro intervention in cases such as ectopic pregnancy”.

Gosh, you’ve brought yourself to speak to these people. You’ve EVEN had a conversation with them. How very brave and enlightened of you. Yes, the volunteer probably will be in favour of intervention in ectopic pregnancy because it is not abortion. Treatment for ectopic pregnancy involves the removal of the diseased fallopian tube to save the life of the mother. The death of the embryo is the side effect of the life-saving treatment, without which both mother and baby would die. The intention is not to destroy the embryo but to remove the diseased tissue to which the embryo is attached. I’m in favour of intervention in the case of ectopic pregnancy. Every pro-lifer is. It’s rather irrelevant anyway as Marie Stopes won’t be performing life saving ectopic surgery.

Recently, the regular protesters have been joined by the more militant 40 Days for Life group who have erected stands opposite the clinic.’

Oh dear – total fail. It’s the SAME group. Good Counsel and Helper’s of God’s Precious Infants are the ones who conduct the clinic vigils outside Marie Stopes and it is the Good Counsel Network who are running 40DFL outside Whitfield Street and encouraging people to come along. 40DFL are not more militant, whatever that might mean. It is the very same people who are always there who have organised the vigils. The stands. What the ones with a picture of a dove and Scripture quotation? Ooooh scary! Try doing some fact checking next time.

‘They are sponsored by right wing Christians from the USA.’ Any evidence of that? Yes, it’s inspired by the campaign in the US, but volunteers give up their free time and are not paid. Right-wing and Christian eh? Obviously a double dose of evilness!! What has either political ideology or faith got to do with any of this?

I found the woman in the photograph above talking to a young woman whom she had reduced to tears and a young man who was with the young woman.

How do you know why the young woman was in tears? Something of an assumption that it was the volunteer’s fault. Maybe she was having second thoughts about the abortion, perhaps she didn’t want to have one, perhaps she was being coerced by the young man? Perhaps the volunteer had made her think twice and she really didn’t want to have the procedure, but felt under pressure? It’s not possible to say what had upset her, but I’d wager that someone who was upset to the point of tears before going into the clinic would be having second thoughts and was not 100% decided, or had her doubts about whether or not to abort her baby. Someone who had no belief in the humanity of their unborn child and was totally confident about their decision would walk straight past. Clearly she must have engaged in some way.

‘The woman in the photograph was brandishing a laminated photograph of mutilated foetus of quite advanced gestation and was using it as a prop under the poor young woman’s nose as she spoke at her.’

Clearly NOT 40dfl who do not use graphic imagery and neither do they make any comment about those who do. How does this poster know exactly what the gestation was of the mutilated foetus? As the recent Abort67 case demonstrated, a man testified that he had no idea that the photograph being displayed was of an early gestation. He thought it was of a foetus of 6 months development, not 12 weeks. Perhaps the woman had asked to see it? Without being party to the entire conversation it is difficult to tell, however what I will say is that I have never witnessed these photographs being used by any on 40dfl vigils, it is not a feature of the campaign.

Rachel Garrick then intervened and informed the woman about to go for an abortion that the information was incorrect. Again, it begs the question how as a dispassionate observer that she claims to be, that she knew for sure. It also shows that she was unnerved by the photograph and also attains to their power; her reaction being that the baby was much more human than the one she believed the woman to be expecting. Think about the implications of that. That baby is more human than yours, because it is allegedly much more developed. She is actually implicitly acknowledging the humanity of the unborn child. The gestation of the baby in the photo shouldn’t be the issue. If it is wrong to do that to a baby of that gestation, why isn’t it wrong to do it to a baby of younger gestation? But we only have the poster’s word for it in terms of the photograph and so far she hasn’t shown herself to be very good on the accuracy front.

I said “You don’t have to listen to her, you can just walk away”. The young woman said “I have an appointment in there.” I replied “Just walk around her, you don’t have to listen” and she tried.’

Clearly the woman wanted to listen and engage up until this intervention. Note her response. Not ‘this woman is upsetting me’, not ‘thank you’ but ‘I have an appointment in there’. Of course it depends on the tone of voice, but that response is one of uncertainty. She could have felt obligated to attend the appointment since it was made, she might have been worrying about being late, but it’s telling that the response didn’t thank the poster for her intervention nor did it attack the volunteer. It has the ring of confusion and hesitancy. “I have an appointment”. It could either be urgency, in which case why did she engage with the lady, or seeking comfort in the known – i.e. the fact of the appointment. She might not have known what to do, but what she did know was that she had an appointment, the very existence of which could have been causing her stress.

Ms Garrick then describes how the volunteer allegedly blocked the entrance to the clinic for the woman. Did she really? Did she use force to try to stop the lady from entering. Or did she just try to engage in further conversation. It’s difficult to say, but I would be surprised at a relatively elderly lady using force. She put her body in the way of the woman trying to enter? What does that mean exactly? The pavement outside Marie Stopes is quite wide, as is the entrance. Look at the physique of the volunteer, she is hardly big and burley. Did she try to continue to engage with the lady? Most probably. But that’s not the same as a body block – hence shuffling. Perhaps the volunteer could sense that the woman was being coerced, if she was under pressure (who knows) then the presence of a well-meaning stranger backing up the young man with her, would not have helped the situation. But it’s clear from the “shuffling” there was not any violence and most likely not any harassment either.

What concerns me is not the actions of the helper, but actually of the young man who needed to help her in. Was it really impossible for her to side-step the lady? Many other women do. Or did this poster actually exacerbate the tension and up the emotion here. Because if the woman was dead set on entering the clinic, she would have walked straight past, not made eye contact and not spoken to the woman. It’s not hard to do. I do it regularly with the chuggers in Hove High Street, no matter how emotive their pleas about “don’t you care about child cruelty”. Without actually being a party to the events, they are at the very least ambiguous.

Though I don’t condone women being hassled, it seems as though Rachel had made her mind up as to the situation in front of her, without actually appraising the finer details of what could be happening. Her intervention could well have made things worse, my experience is that the volunteers who do the pavement counselling have very sharp intuition and those whom they speak to do often change their minds. The truth is full of nuances. I wonder how this blogger will feel if it turns out she’s misread the situation and inadvertently helped a man who was pressurising his girlfriend not to have a baby despite her better judgement. All we know from her is that she had an appointment and that she was distressed.

Rachel Garrick was clearly determined that no-one should be allowed to give this lady any information. The lady had to get to her appointment and woe betide anyone who may give her a different narrative to that of abortion being perfectly acceptable. We do know though that Rachel felt she was being very restrained not using violence, she put her hand on the volunteers shoulder several times in an attempt to distract her from putting her body in the way, (again note the presumed intention) that she has no qualms about shoving cameras in people’s faces or encouraging harassment of others via the internet. She is however a very gentle individual who needed much willpower not to get violent, apparently evidenced by the fact that she used to be a professional wrestler.

Where was Marie Stopes where all this was going on? Without witnessing precisely what happened it’s difficult to tell, however wouldn’t it be awful if a staunch pro-choicer in all her fervour and determination to help the woman walk into a clinic, had actually contributed to a coerced abortion? There’s always two sides to every story.

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