Not on British soil, please

Posted on March 30, 2012

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I do love a good protest. But I love a protest against a protest even more – such as tonight’s planned gathering by the Bloomsbury Pro-Choice Alliance, to counter the 40 Days for Life candlelit vigil taking place outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in central London.

40 Days for Life campaigners outside a family planning clinic
Image: http://www.guardian.co.uk

The 40 Days for Life campaign aims to ‘pray for a greater respect for life in our nation’, but involves groups loitering around the entrances to abortion clinics hassling vulnerable women who are already dealing with the anxieties of an unplanned pregnancy and an imminent medical procedure. While pro-choice doesn’t necessarily mean pro-abortion, the Alliance is pretty adamant that encroaching on the privacy of women who have made the difficult decision to have a termination is morally abhorrent, and amounts to bullying. Tonight, noise will be made and glow-sticks angrily shook.

In America it seems to have become common practice for anti-abortion activists to use bullying tactics, and in extreme circumstances violence, against abortion providers and women trying to access these services. That these ideologies have managed to cross the Atlantic and seep into the UK, is worrying.

The debate surrounding a woman’s right to choose abortion has become fairly ridiculous across the pond. Transvaginal ultrasound laws, better known as ‘state sanctioned rape’ by their opponents, have now been passed in 23 US states. This means that before a woman receives an abortion, she must first have an ultrasound, conducted by a certified doctor, to point out where and what her internal organs are and what the fetus looks like at that time. After the ultrasound, she must wait 24 hours to obtain the abortion. In Texas the patient must even listen to the fetal heartbeat before she can legally have a termination.

Republican delegates in Virginia don’t seem to understand why enforced probing before abortion is akin to sexual assault. I mean, women already consent to this kind of penetration when they get pregnant in the first place, right? Unsurprisingly this incomprehensible response from GOP lawmakers didn’t go down too well.

Is it too much to ask for women to have sovereignty over their own bodies? Ohio State Senator Nina Turner doesn’t think so. Recently she introduced a bill which would require men who want a prescription for viagra to go see a sex therapist, get a cardiac stress test, and to get a signed agreement from their sexual partner. In the name of sexual equality and “showing men as much love in the reproductive health arena as they have shown us over the years” – i.e. not much – she was deadly serious. Watch her here.

The ridiculousness of what’s happening with abortion discourse over in America makes entertaining reading – until you realise they’re not actually making it up – but also serves as a serious warning of just how much we don’t want that kind of behaviour here in Blighty.

The debate has become heated on both sides, as tonight’s demonstrations will show. The counter-protest from BPCA marks the first of its kind in the UK, with the aim of sending a clear message that intimidation of women choosing abortion will not be accepted here.

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Posted in: Society