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 Should protests outside abortion clinics be allowed? 
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Joined: August 11th, 2011, 1:36 am
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My latest blog entry discusses the issues surrounding the upsurge in abortion clinic picketing in the UK, organised and financed with the aid of radical American religious groups: http://catholicinternetwatch.blogspot.c ... rnaut.html

What should we make of protests outside abortion clinics? I strongly believe in freedom of expression and freedom of assembly...but I also believe in a right to privacy and dignity. Going for an abortion is a very personal, sometimes very difficult decision, and I would rather see the political protesters kept out of the way when women are going in and out of the clinic itself. I don't mind them expressing their views in more reasonable ways like everybody else, but frankly, if a woman close to me was going for an abortion, the last thing on earth I would want is for her to be confronted by a crowd of religious anti-abortion activists.

The 40 Days for Life and Abort67 (caution: very graphic site!) groups, both of American origin, seem to be causing a particular disturbance here at the moment.

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October 15th, 2011, 4:57 pm
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I don't think so, if the placards are intimidating to the woman concerned, tho' I do have mixed feelings on the subject


October 15th, 2011, 9:10 pm
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In answer to the OP, no, such protests should not be allowed. Spilling such bile at Hyde Park corner or meetings is fine. Free speech is one thing, harassment of the vulnerable another.
I liked this from skyfrog's blog
Quote:
Britain has her share of problems, but the last things she needs is a cultural tsunami of American neo-conservative junk religion.


As a woman, who may or may not have resorted to abortion, I know not only that such a decision is excruciating but also that it is imperative we have the safe and legal choice, whatever any religionists may say on the matter. I will not have a male priest tell me or my sisters what to do with our bodies :angry:


October 15th, 2011, 9:36 pm
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Fia, you are absolutely right!

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October 15th, 2011, 9:41 pm
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lewist wrote:
Fia, you are absolutely right!



I agree


October 16th, 2011, 9:16 am
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I think we have to be very careful when we are thinking of curtailing someone's right to free speech and right to protest. But there are two parts to those rights: what is said and where it is said.

I can't think of any situation where we should allow protests outside any abortion clinic or pregnancy advice centre: any protest - whether with banners with graphic pictures or not - has the very real possibility of putting pressure on a woman at a vulnerable time and that is just not acceptable. There are many other places where they can protest.

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October 16th, 2011, 11:35 am
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I have never really bought the 'freedom of speech' concept.
Speech is an action - it has real effects. (Why would we bother to speak at all if we thought it had no effect?) Like any other action which can have harmful effects, it should be subject to legal limitations.


October 16th, 2011, 2:02 pm
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I imagine that this will attract some brickbats, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend (by silence) that I agree with some of the above:

Since the days of the ANL's "No Platform for Nazis" in the 1970s, when it comes to restricting unpleasant views, I have often found myself to have different opinions to those of the majority of people with whose views I generally concur. If we want freedom to express our views, then we must surely also extend it to those whose views we find abhorrent?

Whilst I utterly abhor the despicable characters that protest outside abortion clinics, I'd much rather have them where I can see them than drive them underground or give them any excuse to bleat that they are persecuted or denied the right to express their views. To my mind, with any of these things, the answer is not to deny them their (perceived) rights, but is to find ways to counter their abhorrent views and their execrable methods of expressing them. If we believe that the views that we hold are "right", surely we should have the courage to stand our ground and not be swayed by irrational or despicable protest?

That said, I acknowledge that I am not a woman who is seeking an abortion, so I cannot know (but think I can imagine) how she would feel in that situation.

I'm happy for anyone to try to argue against what I have written in order to try to show me that I am wrong.

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October 16th, 2011, 5:42 pm
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Tetenterre wrote:
If we want freedom to express our views, then we must surely also extend it to those whose views we find abhorrent?
I don't see it as an issue of free speech. I don't think anyone is saying they should not be free to express their views, however odious, in public. The issue here is that they are deliberately targeting their protests outside abortion clinics, pregnancy advisory organisations, etc - and I can only conclude they do that to intimidate the women who go there while they are protesting or to discourage other from going there. It's that intimidation that we should be against.

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October 16th, 2011, 8:02 pm
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Alan H wrote:
...and I can only conclude they do that to intimidate the women who go there while they are protesting or to discourage other from going there. It's that intimidation that we should be against.

Quite, Alan.

Tetenterre wrote:
If we want freedom to express our views, then we must surely also extend it to those whose views we find abhorrent?
Of course we must Tetenterre, I have no problem with them expressing their views. Just not the way they do it.

Let's try and change the gender on this as I'm the only female who has posted on this very female issue. Let's invent a group: 'foreskins forever' who are against circumcision under any circumstances, whether medical or social. Would it be right to bully men with graphic detail outside a dedicated circumcision clinic? Or if they harassed folk outside a synagogue? I don't think so. Our right to free speech should be tempered by civic responsibility, and without responsibility I would have no problem for those speaking freely in the wrong place to be moved on by the appropriate agencies.

Only yesterday Occupy London demonstrators were not able to access the contentious area they had earmarked. Yet they still have their voice.


October 16th, 2011, 9:21 pm
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Quote:
Fia
Let's invent a group: 'foreskins forever' who are against circumcision under any circumstances, whether medical or social. Would it be right to bully men with graphic detail outside a dedicated circumcision clinic? Or if they harassed folk outside a synagogue? I don't think so.
Quite right Fia, the correct way to go about changing a law is not to demonstrate anywhere (IMHO) But to lobby our elected representatives, the anti abortionists know they would get nowhere going down this rout but I'm hopeful the anti genital mutation lobby will have some success.
I still have mine by the way, one of my 4 brothers was circumcised for purely medical reasons.

God didn't quite manage to make us "perfect in her image"
We just need to remove this bit that she got wrong. :)

If they must remove body parts shortly after birth I would suggest the appendix and maybe the tonsils should be a start.

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October 16th, 2011, 9:58 pm
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I have empathy with what Tetenterre is saying. Yes, the ANL have sometimes gone too far (and some of their members are no good). Yes, when it comes to considering a ban on picketing abortion clinics, an issue is raised about the right to peaceful freedom of assembly. However, those who visit and work at the clinics also have a right to privacy and for their dignity to be respected. On balance, I believe the right to privacy and dignity outweigh the right of anti-choicers to protest outside clinics.

Protesters at clinics are often difficult to monitor and control; even the groups which organise the demonstrations have been known to struggle to keep their followers in line. However, even if we assume the demonstrators behave reasonably well (ie. not blocking pathways, shouting at women, being pushy etc.), the fact is that just by being there (praying extravagantly, showing off posters etc.) they are still practicing a form of passive aggressiveness which may be deeply disorientating to those who are trying to access a service they are legally entitled to use.

Tetenterre wrote:
Whilst I utterly abhor the despicable characters that protest outside abortion clinics, I'd much rather have them where I can see them than drive them underground or give them any excuse to bleat that they are persecuted or denied the right to express their views.


Over in America the anti-abortion lobby are ALWAYS moaning and whining about being "persecuted", no matter how far the clinics and the police bend over backwards to accomodate their demands. They really are professional whingebags. That's not to say they should not be treated fairly, but to point out that they will not be happy no matter how fairly they are treated. In their worldview, abortion is baby murder and we are all baby murder enablers.

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October 17th, 2011, 2:03 am
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Firstly, please let me reiterate that I think the demonstrations outside abortion clinics are wrong for a number of reasons. However, I am also desperately concerned about the gradual erosion of civil liberties.


Alan H wrote:
The issue here is that they are deliberately targeting their protests outside abortion clinics, pregnancy advisory organisations, etc

Of course they are! Similarly, we targeted anti nuclear protests at nuclear power stations, we marched with the CND to Aldermaston, the women's peace camp was at Greenham Common, and striking pickets stand outside the workplace from which they are striking. It is, I suggest, logical and proper to locate protests at the symbols of the thing one is protesting against.


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- and I can only conclude they do that to intimidate the women who go there while they are protesting or to discourage other from going there. It's that intimidation that we should be against.

I agree that a purpose is almost certainly intimidation. I have no problem with their being arrested if they break the law in this regard. But, if we are to outlaw this sort of intimidation, logically we must outlaw all intimidation, not just that from people or organisations that we disagree with -- I have a serious problem with that!


Fia wrote:
Let's try and change the gender on this as I'm the only female who has posted on this very female issue. Let's invent a group: 'foreskins forever' who are against circumcision under any circumstances, whether medical or social. Would it be right to bully men with graphic detail outside a dedicated circumcision clinic? Or if they harassed folk outside a synagogue? I don't think so.

I disagree. Firstly, what you perceive as "bully with graphic detail" could, from a different perspective, be perceived as "inform with graphic detail" and allied to an argument that, in order to make an informed decision, one needs as much detail as possible. Secondly, whilst I may not like what they are doing, I don't believe that any of us has a right to go through life without being offended by the actions of people who disagree with our choices.


Quote:
Our right to free speech should be tempered by civic responsibility, and without responsibility I would have no problem for those speaking freely in the wrong place to be moved on by the appropriate agencies.

I agree that it should be so tempered, but the reality is that it frequently isn't so tempered, not least by those who make our laws. As for "the appropriate agencies" moving people on for speaking in what some authority chooses to define as "the wrong place", that way lies a police state; from what I have read that you have written on these forums, I'm sure you don't really advocate that.


Quote:
Only yesterday Occupy London demonstrators were not able to access the contentious area they had earmarked. Yet they still have their voice.

Hang on, Fia -- what they wanted to do was occupy Paternoster Square, which is private property. That is very different to non-violent protest in a public place (if it a demonstration or protest turns physically violent, then I have no problem with it being broken up and those responsible for the violence being arrested). I would argue that anyone should be permitted to peacefully protest in any public place s/he chooses, provided s/he does not physically prevent or obstruct others from going about their lives.


Alan C. wrote:
the correct way to go about changing a law is not to demonstrate anywhere (IMHO) But to lobby our elected representatives,

I agree that lobbying is a correct way, but that it is not the only one. I believe that demonstration is another valid way and that demonstration, to be effective, must be targeted in both location and nature/form.

Quis custodiet custodies?

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October 17th, 2011, 10:21 am
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I hear what you are saying, Tetenterre. Yes, we should set a value on the right to peaceful assembly. Yes, I empathise with your general concern about freedom to protest.

Tetenterre wrote:
It is, I suggest, logical and proper to locate protests at the symbols of the thing one is protesting against.


This is also a very legitimate point. In this case, we have a conflict between the right to privacy and dignity (of the women visiting the clinics) and the right to assemby (of the protesters). In my estimation, abortion is such a potentially sensitive time in a woman's life that her right to privacy and dignity over-ride the right to assembly of the protesters. However, in balancing these conflicting rights, there should be some room for compromise. For example, I see no problem with them demonstrating outside a purely administrative building used by an abortion provider. In that way, they could target their protest at the thing they are protesting against, but without causing such distress. Similarly, protests outside the clinics themselves could be arranged for days when the clinic is not receiving patients.

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October 17th, 2011, 5:13 pm
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Tetenterre wrote:
Firstly, please let me reiterate that I think the demonstrations outside abortion clinics are wrong for a number of reasons. However, I am also desperately concerned about the gradual erosion of civil liberties.

I understand where you are coming from, Tetenterre, and I too have civil liberty concerns, but again liberties come with responsibilities. Without that we have anarchy. Which might be fun for a short while but no more sustainable or fair than what we have now.

Tetenterre wrote:
Fia wrote:
......Would it be right to bully men with graphic detail outside a dedicated circumcision clinic? Or if they harassed folk outside a synagogue? I don't think so.

I disagree. Firstly, what you perceive as "bully with graphic detail" could, from a different perspective, be perceived as "inform with graphic detail" and allied to an argument that, in order to make an informed decision, one needs as much detail as possible. Secondly, whilst I may not like what they are doing, I don't believe that any of us has a right to go through life without being offended by the actions of people who disagree with our choices.
I'm frequently offended by the actions of others, and guess that's 'democracy'. If feeling strong I'll engage them. Women contemplating abortion, as men needing medical circumcision, have to be very strong, but not in that way.

Tetenterre wrote:
I agree that it should be so tempered, but the reality is that it frequently isn't so tempered, not least by those who make our laws. As for "the appropriate agencies" moving people on for speaking in what some authority chooses to define as "the wrong place", that way lies a police state; from what I have read that you have written on these forums, I'm sure you don't really advocate that.

You're right Tententerre, I certainly don't advocate a police state. I'll hold my hand up to being idealistic though. The appropriate agencies, be they police, local or national government, are supposed to be acting in our name. need a pig flying emoticon :)

Tetenterre wrote:
Hang on, Fia -- what they wanted to do was occupy Paternoster Square, which is private property.

Yes that was a poor example, just been on my mind a lot... But then Zuccotti park is private property too. Perhaps there's no law of trespass in the US as in Scotland?

Tetenterre wrote:
That is very different to non-violent protest in a public place (if it a demonstration or protest turns physically violent, then I have no problem with it being broken up and those responsible for the violence being arrested). I would argue that anyone should be permitted to peacefully protest in any public place s/he chooses, provided s/he does not physically prevent or obstruct others from going about their lives.

Aren't you being a tad idealistic here? Clear intimidation of women who are going through a really difficult time is emotional violence. We have been working towards a zero tolerance for male on female violence in all its forms for many years. At last we are starting to make some progress. I argue that allowing such demonstrations is a retrograde step. Those in power are protected by concrete blocks, constant security, 'private' spaces. These OP protesters are invading the personal, which is wholly different to protesting against government, nuclear weapons, the banking system, the clear mess politics and the global economy is in. I shouldn't have conflagurated the two :redface:

Skyfrog wrote:
However, in balancing these conflicting rights, there should be some room for compromise. For example, I see no problem with them demonstrating outside a purely administrative building used by an abortion provider. In that way, they could target their protest at the thing they are protesting against, but without causing such distress. Similarly, protests outside the clinics themselves could be arranged for days when the clinic is not receiving patients.
I'd be happy with this. It gives the protesters the freedom to make their point but stops at the point of personal intimidation.


October 17th, 2011, 8:56 pm
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Quote:
Fia
But then Zuccotti park is private property too. Perhaps there's no law of trespass in the US as in Scotland?

Sorry to be the pedant Fia but there is no law of trespass in Scotland, One can only be prosecuted for causing damage to land or buildings not belonging to you.

Although I suppose walking through a field of wheat would constitute damage.

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October 17th, 2011, 11:28 pm
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Alan C. wrote:
Quote:
Fia
But then Zuccotti park is private property too. Perhaps there's no law of trespass in the US as in Scotland?

Sorry to be the pedant Fia but there is no law of trespass in Scotland, One can only be prosecuted for causing damage to land or buildings not belonging to you.


Um, I know there isn't, Alan, we have a legal "right to roam". But there still is such a law in England, which may have contributed to the Occupy Londoners I was going off topic about. I worded it badly, but was actually wondering if the US has a law of trespass?


October 18th, 2011, 11:21 am
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thundril wrote:
I have never really bought the 'freedom of speech' concept.
Speech is an action - it has real effects. (Why would we bother to speak at all if we thought it had no effect?) Like any other action which can have harmful effects, it should be subject to legal limitations.
though this could be a slippery slope - it is the context in which one protests which is relevant here, surely


October 18th, 2011, 11:33 am
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Fia wrote:
Let's try and change the gender on this as I'm the only female who has posted on this very female issue. Let's invent a group: 'foreskins forever' who are against circumcision under any circumstances, whether medical or social. Would it be right to bully men with graphic detail outside a dedicated circumcision clinic? Or if they harassed folk outside a synagogue? I don't think so.
I've already said that I don't support this sort of protest being allowed - it's bit like shouting "blacks out" in black neighbourhoods. But I have to say that your analogy with foreskins can't stretch :wink: too far. Not only is there no group like this; even if there were, there would have to be some obscure religious reason behind their protest, and foreskins left alone don't become people. If this makes me sound anti-abortion, in practice I'm not (for one thing because illegal abortions would just the the result of tightening the law) but I can see the other side on this issue in ways which I don't on others


October 18th, 2011, 2:27 pm
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Fia wrote:
... I too have civil liberty concerns, but again liberties come with responsibilities.

Indeed, but if someone else dictates what "responsibility" confers the right to which "liberty", it isn't really a liberty any more.


Quote:
I'll hold my hand up to being idealistic though.

[many lines snipped]


Aren't you being a tad idealistic here?

Ahem ... Pot. Kettle. :wink: ( or should that be: "Goose. Gander." ?)

Quote:
need a pig flying emoticon :)

Your wish, etc: Image


Quote:
Clear intimidation of women who are going through a really difficult time is emotional violence. We have been working towards a zero tolerance for male on female violence in all its forms for many years. At last we are starting to make some progress. I argue that allowing such demonstrations is a retrograde step.

I agree that it's emotional violence and I believe that it's wrong. However, as to the rest, one could infer from what you wrote above that the demonstrations would be more acceptable if it was only women demonstrating against abortion outside the clinics. I would argue that, for the woman about to have an embryo aborted, the layed-on guilt-trip would be much heavier if there was no chance of dismissing it as "men who shouldn't have a voice on this anyway".

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October 18th, 2011, 4:13 pm
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