So anyway, to wake me up in the morning I tend to take a slightly indirect route to work via Goodge Street. This gives me a bracing walk through Bloomsbury which takes me past such scenic locations as the British Museum, Russell Square and the Ministry of Truth. Lately, I’ve noticed these bods hanging around Bedford Square:
Protesting is very fashionable at the moment (thank you, Mr Cameron!), particularly in this part of London with its many educational institutions, so I’ve pretty much learnt to tune them out. These ones, though, intrigued me both with their persistence and their message.
They represent an organisation called ’40 Days for Life.’ Their “thing,” their “bag” as the kids would say, is abortion. The appearance of abortion protesters, or pro-life protesters as they like to be called, is something new in this country. It’s quite popular in America, and there has been a certain amount of hand-wringing in the British press. In the US, the protesters are notorious for their use of shock tactics – giant photos of bloody foetuses, shouting abuse at abortion doctors and the like. There have even been cases from the lunatic fringe of doctors being murdered and clinics being bombed.
Now, I think this sort of behaviour is less likely to become widespread in Britain (although a couple of protesters were arrested in Brighton last October for holding up a giant poster of a foetus), purely because there’s less of a Puritan streak in the UK. To put it in perspective for my Yankee chums, your political “left” is our “centre” and your “right” is our “ha ha but seriously.”
Now, speaking personally, I am pro-choice. Here’s why – and I give you fair warning, this will be tackled with all the gravity you can expect from a semi-humorous blog by a foppish wastrel. The thing about pro-life is that, basically, their goal is to rid the world of abortion on the grounds that life begins at conception and God hates that shit. One of the larger banners these protesters have quotes God as saying that he knew us all in the womb. Presumably in the case of miscarriages and stillbirths, he knew those babies were going to grow up evil and their mothers should therefore rejoice.
But here’s the thing. I don’t believe in God. As I’ve said before, I’m an atheist, and therefore the words of God (or one particular version of him, at least) carry no more weight for me than the words of Albus Dumbledore – and there’s about as much solid proof of his existence. I think of myself as fairly tolerant, but I do object to the idea that we should all live our lives in order to placate the whims of what is to me, if you’ll forgive the confrontational wording, a fictional character. When I see protesters arguing that every life belongs to God, I say “prove it and we’ll talk.”
Okay, that’s faith, you can argue that it’s not their fault if the Bible tells them they’re in the right. But it’s not just a question of religious faith, though. In order to justify and promote their position, the pro-lifers have a tendency to exaggerate and even outright lie in order to discourage women from undergoing the procedure. If you can’t make a case without lying, then you have no case.
Now, yes, I do appreciate that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a serious one, and I agree with the pro-lifers that it should not be undertaken lightly. Nor do I feel that women should be pressurised into having an abortion if she does not want one. But under the current situation, the one pro-choice folks are generally happy with, a woman can choose to have an abortion or not to have one. If she shares the protesters’ beliefs then she can choose to keep the kid. Everyone wins. That’s why the pro-choice movement is called “pro-choice” and not, e.g., “pro-death.”
Anyway, this is one of those thorny issues that won’t be solved easily. I’ll tell you what both sides can agree on, though – Scientology!