2020 has been a hard year for us all. The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc as it’s raced around the world. There can be no mistake that women’s rights have particularly suffered throughout these times in a number ways, from the way in which childcare has often been thrust upon women’s shoulders and in terms of access to women’s healthcare and to abortion, no matter how you identify, being affected.
In conjunction with the increase in difficulty accessing abortions services, American pro life organisation ’40 Days for Life’ has started a campaign here in the UK where they will be holding 40 day vigils outside of abortion clinics around the country, harassing people daily as they try to access healthcare they are entitled to, for whatever reason they may or may not be exercising their right to choose. Abortion is not a black and white issue, but a person’s right to bodily autonomy and right to choose what happens to their body is. If you don’t believe in abortion and it goes against your personal moral code – that is fine. Don’t have one, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to harass someone who has chosen differently.
At the moment, very little can be done about these protestors. They are highly organised, with calendars on their website that you can apply to and schedule times so that the so-called “vigils” are always covered. The decision to hold these protests now isn’t by chance either – the current restrictions with COVID often mean that the people arriving at the clinic are alone, some have had to wait longer to get an appointment than they would under normal circumstances and if they do miss their appointment due for whatever reason, securing another one is harder than ever. The vigils started on 23rd Sept and as I write this on 25th, there are already reports from people who have been harassed by protestors who refuse to follow social distancing guidelines and have found the experience deeply distressing. Once again let me make this clear – no one is asking anyone to skip hand in hand into a clinic with someone, pro-choice does not equate to pro-abortion, simply to the right to choose what is right for you, your body and your circumstances.
The methods used by 40 Days for Life are vile and toxic. Let’s not pretend that these people, who claim to be there to support women and offer alternative solutions, are there to do anything other than offer judgement and condemnation for what they perceive as morally wrong. If you don’t agree with abortion and you don’t want one, you’re lucky enough not to be in a position to need one for medical reasons – don’t have one. Leave other people’s uterus’ alone, it’s surely not that hard to do. Standing at the gates of an abortion clinic and handing out foetus sized dolls, shouting murderer at people as they enter the clinic, preparing to undergo procedures for a variety of unknown reasons, is hideous. Couple that with the usual religious nonsense that pro-lifers so often hide behind, and you have what can only be described as harassment and abuse.
Today (25/09) Dr Rupa Huq has presented a Bill to parliament called Demonstrations (Abortion Clinics) for it’s second reading to try and create “buffer zones” around abortion clinics to prevent protestors from standing directly outside and often blocking people from accessing the clinic whilst hurling abuse at them. This Bill has come in support of Sister Supporter and their Back Off! Campaign. They are an amazing pro-choice charity that started in Ealing by local residents who banded together and managed to get a Public Space Protection Order outside their local Marie Stopes clinic after decades of abuse and harassment. They have made their campaign national, backed by Rupa Huq, to try and protect as many people as possible, but during a time when these services and legislation for these services, has taken a back seat to the pandemic.
As a firmly pro-choice nation (76% of UK nation is pro-choice) and with one in three women experiencing abortion in the UK for a variety of reasons, it begs the question why this harassment is allowed to continue unchecked. Yes, sure, have your opinion and your protest, but not outside a clinic to try and deter or prevent access and not in manner that harasses or intimidates.
If you would like to know what you can do:
- Contact your local MP and ask them to support the bill.
- Go with someone who is having an abortion to support them as much as you can during these times.
- Contact Sister Supporter and ask how you can help.
- Sign the Petition to Matt Hancock led by Abortion Rights.
Links you might find useful: