Freedom of speech, anti-abortion protestors and women: rights and limits

On Tuesday 11 September, I’m taking part in a debate organised by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service on “freedom of speech, anti-abortion protestors and women: rights and limits“. The event is chaired by David Allen Green and the other participants are Ann Furedi of BPAS, Max Wind-Cowie of Demos and Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre.

I’m hoping for a thoughtful and mutually helpful discussion between pro-choice and pro-life positions on how we can reconcile an essential conflict between two rights: the right of women to privacy in their medical care, and the right to freedom of speech for those who oppose abortion. Each speaker will make their opening remarks, followed by questions from the floor.

Attendance is free. For more details and to register, please visit the BPAS website – and if you can make it, I look forward to seeing you there.

40 Days For Life on Today

Yesterday, Robert Colquhoun of 40 Days For Life managed to overcome his severe media aversion to make an appearance on Radio 4’s Today Programme, where he was interviewed along with Ann Furedi of BPAS. The results were interesting, less for what he said than for the difficulty he seemed to have in making any positive statements at all. On this showing, although the UK pro-life movement seems to be growing more aggressive, it isn’t at all confident that the public shares its aims – rightly so, given that polling data consistently shows extensive support for a woman’s right to choose. Below, I’ve made a transcript of the discussion, with a few of my own comments threaded through: Continue reading

A conversation with a pro-life campaigner

Yesterday, I wrote a piece for the Guardian about the rise in the use of invasive tactics by anti-choice protesters. It works as a companion piece to my column in the latest issue of New Humanist about the parliamentary advances made by opponents of abortion: while campaigners like Dorries have found a way to introduce the language of the anti-choice argument to the House Of Commons, groups such as 40 Days For Life seem to have become increasingly forceful in the way they impose their opinion on women seeking abortions.

Continue reading

Made-up babies

I have a friend. (I don’t really have a friend – this is a thought experiment, and who wants to be friends with the kind of bore who runs around making up thought experiments?) Anyway, this friend (who doesn’t exist) has a baby. A tiny, squirmy, scrunch-faced, made-up baby. My friend does not want the baby. She is so serious about not wanting the baby, that she decides she is going to kill the baby. She says this quite directly: “I am going to kill this baby.”  Continue reading

The political womb

In an environment where every uterus in America is politicised territory, why should the candidates’ wives get a free pass? Aspiring Republican nominee Rick Santorum is very strongly anti-abortion – he opposes medical termination of pregnancy in almost all circumstances, including conceptions resulting from rape or incest. So the possibility that his wife received an abortion at 20 weeks because her own life was endangered by the pregnancy (as reported by The Daily Kos, not entirely accurately) is too tempting an example of hypocrisy for political opponents to resist. Continue reading