And vigils don’t work?

Clare at the Good Counsel Network has the joyous news that BPAS have announced that their flagship facility at Bedford Square in Central London, is to close.

While BPAS have announced this as an operational decision – they are merging with their clinic in Stratford, this means that client numbers will fall and thus there is one less site in central London carrying out the destruction of human life on a daily basis.

Who says that the power of prayer doesn’t work? Whichever way the pro-choicers try to spin it, this is a seminal moment for the UK prolife movement. If the demand was there, BPAS would remain open for business.

Though the national press will be uninterested, the significance of the 1st UK abortion clinic closure should not be underestimated. Fewer women are choosing abortion, mothers and babies will be safer. Thank God for that.

Update:

BPAS would appear to have been caught on the back foot claiming that their clinic is not in actual fact closing, but it is very clear from their statement that they will no longer carry out abortion procedures at Bedford Square.

This is evidently not something that they would have chosen to advertise, BPAS are a business, clearly there is no significant demand for abortion facilities in central London, and their clinic is not proving cost effective, otherwise they would be continuing provision.

The decision to transfer provision to East London demonstrates the cynicism inherent in BPAS’ operational decisions. While Stratford enjoys good transport links, it entails a longer, more expensive journey for many London residents. If BPAS claim that they are locating clinics closer to where people are living (and we have yet to see evidence of more planned clinics) it is very telling that their area of most perceived need is a place with a diverse population, consisting of a high proportion of ethnic minority groups, young people and high levels of social deprivation. Funny how there are no mooted plans to open up in other residential areas such as Pimlico, Knightsbridge, or further out to the west of the city, such as Chiswick or even Weybridge. I wonder how a BPAS clinic would be received by residents of wealthy stockbroker belts such as Shenley or Sevenoaks? Still that isn’t going to happen…

Given enough rope

Back to pro-life matters and it’s been heartening to watch LIFE charity who have really raised their game on social media over the past year, in terms of putting out some really useful information, along with biting commentary out into the public domain. Their Twitter handle is @LifeCharity

LIFE were live-tweeting testimony from the Parliamentary Inquiry (led by the all-party Pro-life group)  into abortion and disability which examined the unjust discrimination that allows for disabled babies to be aborted right up until the moment of birth, whereas ‘healthy’ children are subject to a 24 week limit. A discrepancy with which the general public are becoming increasingly uncomfortable following the resounding success of London’s 2012 Paralympics, which did much to raise awareness that having a disability does not preclude one from living an active and fulfilling life, nor from achieving success in a chosen field.

All of our medal winning athletes would have been allowed to have been aborted up until the moment of birth according to current UK law.

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS made no attempt to hide her extremism, with the following statement, which is an absolute gift to the pro-life cause. Whatever else, one cannot fault Mrs Furedi’s honesty, these are the thoughts of one the UK’s most prolific and influential advocates for abortion:

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That’s right. If it’s unfair to kill disabled children up until birth, let’s kill ALL the children, instead of attempting to save the lives of those who can be killed right up until the moment that they are born. And they scoff at the moniker culture of death? Highly appropriate I’d say. Instead of choosing life for all, let’s choose equal rights to be unjustly killed, if at any stage your life becomes an inconvenience.

Here’s another good one.

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So when the expectant mother feels her baby kicking and hiccuping from around 5 months, it isn’t really alive, and neither is a baby alive when you can see him or her kicking, somersaulting, stretching, yawning, swallowing on your 12 week pregnancy scans. That’s not life, no it’s just human sentimentality telling us otherwise. When a woman suffers a tragic miscarriage, she has no need to mourn, or hold a funeral because her baby was never really alive? I wonder what this organisation, which exists to support and counsel parents who have lost a baby at any stage in life would make of that?

On the contentious issue of time limits:

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I can think of some pro-lifers who may sympathise with that. It’s logically coherent, either abortion is acceptable or it isn’t. If you can kill a baby, does it really matter at what stage?

I think the answer is yes, for two reasons. Firstly, we know that late-stage abortions are physically much more dangerous to the mother, which is why there is always such a rush to get women to abort at the earliest possible opportunity. Late-stage abortions are also a lot more emotionally harrowing for a woman, which any organisation that claims to care about their welfare should acknowledge.  Read some of the testimony on this womens’ forum, I linked to in a previous post. Also note, that since linking to it back in November, a pro-choicer has demanded that the moderators remove said thread, due to its age and it allegedly being ‘unhelpful’ towards women thinking of late-stage abortions. Unhelpful being a euphemism for deterrent.

It’s an astounding coming from someone whose organisation purports to care about women, that time-limits which are related to the health and well-being of the mother as well as the baby, are deemed unimportant. Autonomy or choice must come before personal safety and wellbeing.

The other reason why late stage abortions are important from a pro-life point of view is that the 24 week limit means that no attempt is made to help babies who made be born prematurely before this time, such as the case of baby Jayden, who was left to die for hours, as it was against the rules to help him. Ideology must not cause us to stick our heads in the sand over this issue.

But so what if time limits are a political preoccupation? Abortion has become political ever since pro-choicers decided to politicise it back in the sixties. In a democracy politics exist to reflect the will of the people, the majority of whom are extremely uncomfortable with the notion of late-stage abortion. Does Ann Furedi deem public opinion irrelevant in the face of her own personal ideology. It doesn’t matter whether or not stomachs are churned by the idea of fully developed healthy babies being killed subject to the whims of others? People are obviously very ignorant, what matters is that babies must be able to be killed right up until the moment of their birth, if that is what an individual wants, regardless of whether or not it is in step with the views of the general public, who don’t really matter anyway. The kind of atrocities such as those committed by Kermit Gosnell, are irrelevant?

If anyone was in any doubt about the ethic of autonomy being paramount regardless of consequences, here’s a chilling example:

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So it doesn’t matter if parents abort a much-wanted unborn baby because they have been poorly informed about their potential quality of life, or future prospects? It doesn’t matter if parents later find out something that had they known prior to the abortion, would have changed their mind and then have to live with the fact that they aborted an unborn baby on a false premise. The anger and sadness of grieving parents doesn’t matter, their right to be properly informed is of secondary import, what really matters is that they made a choice, even if it then turned out to be the wrong one and one that they would not repeat given similar circumstances. All that matters is that a decision is made?

Blowing all claims of impartiality and informing women of all their options out of the water, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Services, says this

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People were screaming blue murder at Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendment which suggested that abortion clinics did not offer wholly impartial advice and offered to give pregnant women the choice of independent counselling in which all options and alternatives could be discussed. Whilst wary of adoption being offered as a panacea or first solution to a woman with a crisis pregnancy, it should at least be discussed and given equal weight as an option as abortion. It makes a complete mockery of BPAS’ name of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service – the type of advice on offer is one way.

People say pro-lifers are the extremists? Try telling that to those from 40 Days for Life in Brighton yesterday, who had a car drive past them sizing them up, and which then returned to pelt them with eggs. Or to those working at the Youth Defence office in Dublin who found the memory of Savita Halappanavar defiled when her photo was stuck to their office doors with human faeces.

Sometimes there is no need for pro-lifers to make an opposing argument. Give some people enough rope…

Save all the children

Vigil vigilance

Thinking about this whole vigil issue, I’ve just had a bit of crucial insight, courtesy of a friend who was also thinking out loud. Being so close, I just couldn’t see how a peaceful pro-life prayer vigil, especially one that helps women in desperate situations, could be perceived in a bad light by other pro-life groups, or how they undermine education.

The answer is all to do how with how they’ve been framed by a frantic pro-choice movement desperate to discredit and how this narrative has been picked up by a sensationalist media.

40 Days for Life are being portrayed as a weird fringe activity, dangerous Americans have been conflated with prayer vigils and then education has been chucked in, to make the whole pro-life movement appear as one threatening mess. Prayer vigils are the hinge that allow the pro-choice movement to discuss the importation of American methods and we all know that Americans kill people, American culture is innately evil and all traces of it must be stamped out lest it corrupts and ruins our society.

Groups such as Education for Choice, (who are owned by the Brook sexual health charity) are campaigning for pro-life groups such as SPUC, LIFE and the Right-to-Life trust to be kicked out of schools, claiming that children deserve to be taught about ‘individual choice in a safe environment’ and who promote ‘enabling easy non judgemental access to abortion’, have openly called for parents’ rights to remove children from sex-education lessons to be removed as they are ‘neo-Victorian’. Abortion eduction in schools needs to be vastly improved, in their considered and wholly unbiased position as consultants to abortion providers, opinion. It’s worth reading how they single out SPUC’s campaign against same-sex marriage here.

This passage from their toolkit for best practice, makes disturbing reading for anyone who may be concerned about women or young girls being coerced into abortion and should surely make anyone who would claim that abortion is a woman’s right to choose, bristle:

If a young man has or goes on to have experience of unplanned pregnancy with a partner, it is important that he knows who he can talk to and where he can go for help and support, as well as being able to signpost his partner to appropriate agencies. This is especially important when a couple are not agreed about what the outcome of a pregnancy should be, which can be a very difficult situation for a young man to face. Signposting to young men’s services is an important part of abortion education.

It’s worth looking at that toolkit in full – here’s another passage that stood out, warning schools about inviting in pro-life speakers and telling them to check the organisation’s website as an outside speaker can be lent weight and credibility by their invitation to speak:

For example, some websites promote abstinence as the only effective way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; understate the efficacy of condoms and hormonal contraceptives; cite emergency contraception as a form of abortion; stigmatise homosexuality; and overstate the risks of abortion, in relation to physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Without stating the blindingly obvious here, we can see what pro-life groups are up against and how they could do without the bad press of prayer vigils.

I’ve unpicked the inherent racism and ill-conceived myths about America and the pro-life movement previously. In a country which has a wholly different political demographic, not to mention very liberal gun laws, atrocities will sadly occur, as they will all over the world. It is not the vigils themselves that incur and incite violence – it is a handful of unhinged individuals who take the law into their own hands. 8 individuals in the US abortion industry have been killed since Roe v Wade in 1972. That’s 8 too many, pro-lifers abhor violence of any sort and believe all life to be sacred, (the clue is in the name), but this isn’t a case of big scary gun-toting fundamentalists regularly shooting at folk. It’s actually those who are on the vigil who regularly put themselves in the line of fire, being shot at and fire-bombed in some cases, by those from within the abortion clinic. Just as the LGBT lobby distanced themselves from and condemned the individual who shot at a worker at the Family Research Centre last year, pro-lifers equally condemn any who defile their cause by the use of senseless violence.

That prayers and vigils are an important part of pro-life work goes without saying. They matter profoundly and we should not have a situation where one part of a cause undermines another – this should not be an either/or and one of the strengths of 40 days for life is that it has managed to unite many of the different sections within the pro-life movement and bring together Christians of all denominations.

I can well understand the antipathy, but we have to bear in mind, this is not purely a political or educational effort, there is a spiritual dimension and this highlights one of the downsides of a purely secular pro-life group, who wish to distance themselves from the publicly praying weirdos.

I think what those of us on vigils have to do and keep on doing, is what we’ve always done, just quietly and continually pray and know that our witness will eventually shine through. The lies and the conflations of the abortion industry can easily be disproved, BPAS or Marie Stopes have admitted that there is no need to provide clinic escorts, they know full well no harassment, let alone violence takes place, they have cameras constantly trained upon those on the vigils and there have been no arrests or requests to move on and neither do volunteers engage with or respond to any insults or abuse. Neither do they hold up any judgemental or inflammatory slogans or material – there is simply a verse from scripture and a sign which states ‘we are here to help’. If women entering clinics feel bad, it is because their own conscience has been pricked or because they cannot cope with a physical manifestation that not everyone is prepared to validate abortion, as opposed to anything that the volunteers may say or do.

If 40 days for Life are being portrayed as a bizarre fringe movement, the absence of Catholics only serves to reinforce the image and allows the pro-choice movement to dictate the frame. If however, they prove by their witness, actions and lives that they save, that the only threat vigils pose is to the abortion clinics’ balance sheet, the general public will begin to see behind the lies.

I understand the concern, the vigils are being used as a hook on which pro-choice groups are seeking to get pro-lifers out of education, as theirs is the only voice to be tolerated, but this attack upon freedom of religion and attempt at one-sided indoctrination in which abortion is presented as a preferable option in some situations and at worst as morally neutral, must be resisted on the strongest possible terms and shown up for its inherent and ironic illiberality. Prayer vigils should have nothing to do with whether or not children ought to be given a wholly one-sided and relativistic view of sexual morality and neither should they be banished from our streets due to a misconceived fear of US style ‘culture wars’. The UK is not the US and culture wars feed upon an atmosphere of intolerance. The UK is thankfully a largely tolerant country without the same divisions as exist in the US. The issue of abortion is not split so evenly along political lines and 40 Days for Life is not a political protest or one that seeks to denounce women or those with a pro-choice mentality.

The only ‘war’ here is the cultures of life versus death and we should not allow fear to drive prayer out of the public square. The battle for education goes way beyond the activities of those praying for an end to abortion outside a clinic.

Perfectly Simple

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:

  1. They’ve read the Hippocratic Oath which swears to protect life and take it seriously
  2. They’ve studied anatomy and understand fetal development
  3. 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
  4. 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.

*Postscript:

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)