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Last Tuesday, on my way home to Lewisham, I passed by the medical centre. On a lamppost was a small poster with the words ‘Abort67: Warning, graphic images ahead’. This poster, smaller than A4 paper, ill-prepared me for what was ahead.
Abort67 protesters had congregated outside St. John’s Medical Centre. The posters they held were huge, depicting chopped up babies and blood stained foetuses. They were trying to thrust leaflets to anyone walking past, including a woman with a child and pram.
When the protesters were confronted, they proceeded to ignore my question as to why men (half of the protesters were men) could decide what women could do with their bodies. Instead, they elected to compare the thinking that abortion should be legal and accessible to that of the Nazis. Yes, the Nazis.
One vile man even claimed that women who sought a termination had the same selfish beliefs as a rapist. Again, he ignored my question of why a woman should have to carry a rapist’s baby.
Last year, a video was filmed of a pregnant woman confronting protesters in Southwark. She pointed out that they were protesting round the corner from Kids Company – a charity that provides meals, activities, support, and education for millions of economically disadvantaged children. Why Abort67 choose to spend their money and time on abortion clinics instead of helping to save the lives of poor children is unknown.
These tactics seem alien to those of us in the UK but are becoming more of a problem. Abort67 and other so called ‘pro-life’ groups are extremist Christian groups, funded by anti-abortion groups in America. Harassment campaigns outside US abortion clinics have become horrifically common, targeting women who seek to have a termination for whatever reason.
In the UK, they are a lone scavenger, picketing medical centres with their gruesome campaigns. In fact, they could qualify as a hate group and here’s why.
1.They specifically target women
Although they will engage anyone who walks past them, their main target is women. The selective targeting of women, with the sole purpose of traumatising, or triggering them, is sexist and a hate crime.
Women seek abortions for many reasons: rape, childhood sexual abuse or incest, severe and late stage disabilities that make a foetus unviable, or merely because she is not emotionally, physically, or financially ready. It’s not a decision anyone takes lightly, and women should not have to suffer emotional abuse from strangers. It is also not the role of males to try and intimidate females.
The comparison between women and Nazis is not only misogynistic, it’s anti-Semitic. You have to have a special kind of hatred to compare the two.
2. Their images are purposefully traumatising, are untrue, and spread misinformation.
Hate speech in the UK is defined as: ‘intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress…displays any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting’. Does this not match Abort67 tactics? What is their goal if not to shock and distress people with their posters? In fact, Abort67 protesters have already been charged over after protesting an abortion clinic in Brighton.
The images depict what they claim are babies who were ‘victims of abortion’. Not only did these pictures try to claim that a foetus is fully formed at 8 weeks, they were purposefully as hideous as possible, with little regard to who would see them.
Abort67 receive their images from anti-abortion groups in America. These stateside groups are notorious for using exaggerated claims to further their impact on women. These posters contain false statistics and lies about abortion, using false information in their fight against women.
Anti-abortion groups have been found claiming that abortions increase the woman’s risk of breast cancer. This link has never been proven and abortion is statistically safer than pregnancy and childbirth.
3. They use intimidation.
Abort67 claim that they film their protests because they are at risk of attack. However, their films capture women going into the clinics, putting them at risk. Some women seeking abortions are at risk from domestic violence and being filmed makes that risk even greater.
They approach everyone who comes into the clinics, regardless of what that person is there for. They ask personal questions and this, combined with their posts, creates an atmosphere of intimidation.
Abort67 may not yet be legally considered a hate group but the evidence is mounting. The continued attempts to block women’s right to bodily autonomy can only bring them into more clashes with medical providers, police and pro-choice supporters.
We can only hope that the government steps up to protect women.