As ever, there’s a clash of rights here

The police express inability to do anything under public order legislation and the situation has intensified with “both sides” sometimes locked in a stand-off. Back in January I raised this in parliament, and got no meaningful reply from the minister. Since then, ideas have been percolating on how to deal with this threat to women’s wellbeing. This week, a motion comes before Ealing council that would extend asbo powers – usually reserved to move on street drinkers and drug dealers – to stop these protests.

If successful, this approach could be replicated nationwide. This is, of course, far from being exclusively an Ealing problem; there have been similar protests in Camden, Twickenham, Southwark, Cardiff and Edgbaston in Birmingham, all aimed at frightening and intimidating women visiting abortion clinics.

This is about women’s security: every woman deserves to be able to go about her life in safety. I recently met some of those who work in the clinic and it was illuminating to hear stories from staff who frequently have their path obstructed by zealots simply while going to work. They keep an incident book; tellingly the chants and tactics differ for women entering and leaving. On the way in, it’s emotional blackmail: teddy bears are thrust at women who get called “mum”. On leaving they are met with anger and commonly told they’re headed for hell. Creepy footage of them shot without their consent gets transmitted via Facebook Live.

Abortion is indeed legal and it is and would be illegal to physically prevent someone from getting one.

Standing on the street expressing your views is also legal.

The intention here is that the free speech must be curtailed in order that the others don’t feel bad.

Hmm, let’s consider that. Ah, OK, considered : Fuck Off Matey.

19 comments on “As ever, there’s a clash of rights here

  1. ’…wildly inaccurate and gruesome foetus dolls and graphic images…’

    But they aren’t inaccurate. That’s what really concerns you, isn’t it, Rupa?

  2. As is usual, no consideration of the right to life of the foetus. Worth remembering that abortion on demand originated from the Victorian middle class socialist intelligentsia of the Fabian Society. The Stopes clinics were founded as a way of controlling the numbers of the working class. The idea was taken up by post-civil war Democrats in the South to control the breeding of African-americans. “A woman’s right to chose”,was a piece of sophistry intended to disguise blatant eugenics. It is rarely challenged.

  3. I like how the left thinks that women ought to have the “right to choose” to murder their offspring but not the right to choose the schools that they will attend assuming that they will actually give birth to their children.

  4. Photos of a diseased lung on cigarette packets: yes, a good thing.
    Photos of a foetus in front of an abortion clinic: no, that’s emotional blackmail.

    Logic is never their strong point.

  5. The issue here is not abortion, or women’s feelz. It’s what the right to protest peacefully against a legal activity entails. Think animal rights protesters outside laboratories, greenies at fracking sites or ‘peace’ artists at nuclear bases….As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to keep the protesters separate from those going about their legal activity in order to avoid a breach of the peace…

  6. Theophrastus,

    Sure, and clearly stopping obstruction of women going in for an abortion is quite right.

    But when you get to ‘enotional blackmail’, no, you can’t stop that. Leftied do this all the time with strip clubs, vegetarians do it with restaurants selling foie gras.

    The left are playing a dangerous game here. If they want to create an anti-abortion political lobby, to galvanise people into this, they’re going about it the right way.

  7. Asbos? The Orders allowing the state to ban behaviour that is inconvenient but without the nuisance of having to pass a law against it? ? You want to use that to curtail free speech? Sure, what could go wrong.

  8. “It’s what the right to protest peacefully against a legal activity entails”: quite. Huge mob chanting threats and waving fists at lone women – not on. Couple of people leafleting peacefully – entirely OK. In between: if only we had a police force capable of sensible, proportionate and ballsy decisions.

    Mind you, I don’t remember much of The Left making such distinctions about trade union activities. Or Momentum. Or the antics of Labour’s current crop of anti-semites.

  9. +1 for dearieme’s comment.

    It’s the line between legit protest and outright intimidation that needs to be managed, and it’s the same problem no matter what the cause is or what side of the debate you’re on.

  10. “this threat to women’s wellbeing.”

    Yeah, abortion can be described as a threat to…

    Oh, hang on.

  11. The pro side could counter protest holding up picture of coat hangers.

    I think it was Theo who pointed out that there is almost limitless and very cheap access to pre, during and post sex contraceptives that its hard to believe that so many abortions are needed. Perhaps that’s where both sides should be concentrating their efforts.

  12. BiND,

    Sure, but those pre, post and during contraception methods have their own failure modes and rates. So, given the possibility of X amount of shagging between the possible combinations of ~25m men and ~25m women per year, those failures would suggest a floor under the number of abortions required. That floor might be surprisingly high.

  13. ‘every woman deserves to be able to go about her life in safety’

    Guardian drivel.

    Deserves?

    ‘to be entitled to or worthy of; merit’

    Based on what?

    How come not “every person?” Why not men? Are men not deserving?

  14. @ NiV
    “Free Speech” is about speech not using physical violence against a bank (possibly also its employees) which only paid tax on its profits.

  15. ““Free Speech” is about speech not using physical violence”

    What do you consider to be “violence”?

    “burst into Barclays on Tottenham Court Road, waving banners and shouting:”

    There was an interesting psychology experiment done a while ago, where they showed two groups of people footage of the same protest, told one group they were protesting about a cause the group agreed with, and in the other case a cause they disagreed with, and then asked them whether they judge the protest to be “violent”. When it was apparently for a protest in support of a cause they opposed, they did, and when it was for a cause they supported, they didn’t. They genuinely perceived it differently.

    So far, so obvious. But you can only judge whether someone is genuinely in favour of free speech, or only free speech for causes they support, by seeing how they react to a protest for a cause they don’t support. If they start making (selective) excuses for stopping it, then they don’t really support free speech. Objecting to crackdowns on free speech you agree with doesn’t tell anyone anything.

    Is that unreasonable?

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