As part of our #TalkingDoesMore campaign, we look at the debate which surrounds abortion. In this feature, The Arguments, Olivia Wright speaks to both sides of the debate.
In the end, there is no great mystery to the abortion debate. The reason why anti-abortion groups exist is because they believe abortion ends a human life.
Fifty years after legalisation, the abortion debate ranges on. Only recently, Conservative MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg said he is ‘completely opposed’ to abortion in all cases.
“Life is sacrosanct and begins at the point of conception.” He said, highlighting how the debate still affects political life.
He did, however, state that abortion laws were ‘not going to change.’
A poll of 100 people conducted by Stylist found that 54 percent of respondents strongly agree that a woman has complete control over her body regardless of the potential life that is at stake.
While in another poll, 20 percent of people believed a foetus to be a person, but only 5 percent believe abortion is murder in all circumstances.
It is foolish to ignore these views, no matter how small the percentage may be. If we want an honest and open discussion on abortion, we cannot ignore the anti-abortion lobby simply because we do not agree.
Fiorella Nash is a researcher and writer for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. She identifies as a feminist, and anti-abortion. An almost unheard of hybrid today.
“Pro-life beliefs have nothing to do with the status of women or how we see women, most of us are women. We believe all members of the human family have a right to life.
“I don’t believe equality for women can ever be bought at the expense of the innocent.”
Fiorella is the first to admit that the anti-abortion voice is a minority opinion, but believes attitudes can’t change.
She used the analogy of corporal punishment. For centuries, nobody had a problem hitting a misbehaving child, it was considered a moral duty.
The law would have never changed in the fifties because attitudes were different. But there was a gradual change of attitude towards the rights of children, so when the 1989 Children’s Act outlawed hitting a child, it was supported because attitude had changed.
It is Fiorella’s feeling is that this can happen with abortion.
“There is no reason why people can’t change their attitudes to value the unborn again. I want to see a change in our culture. Changes in the law and changes in culture go hand in hand.
“It’s about changing people’s hearts and making abortion become unthinkable.”
The SPUC’s mission is lobbying and educational; “Keeping the voice of the voiceless in the public sphere.”
“If it didn’t involve another human life, if it was just a clump of cells I would be campaigning the other way.
“I would be standing outside those facilities trying to keep them open. But I just cannot reconcile what abortion involves.
“It’s scientifically more and more clear that it is the ending of human life.
“We are such a sophisticated society, is there no way that we can ensure complete equality for women without having to end unborn lives?”
Fiorella also criticised the recent #ShoutYourAbortion campaign, claiming the pro-abortion campaign no longer identifies abortion as a ‘necessary evil,’ but something to celebrate as part of female emancipation.
“Most women don’t shout out their abortions because women don’t want to! They don’t boast about it. They’re not dancing about it.”
Katheryn Attwood is a campaigner with the anti-abortion organisation, Abort67. She says the group’s aim is to expose the reality of abortion by using imagery to change public opinion ‘one mind at a time.’
“We believe every human being, even the pre-born, deserve human rights with the most important being the right to life.
“Abort67 is not a political organisation. We do not canvas politicians to change the law. We want to educate the public and allow them to see the reality of abortion and how developed these babies are.”
The group uses street displays with images of aborted babies, mostly those aborted between eight and twelve weeks, the most common aborted age group in the UK.
“We know that if abortion was made illegal today, there would be backstreet abortions because the nation believes abortion is ok still. We want to see all human beings protected, but we know we must change public opinion first.
“And, I believe the law will change if we continue with our work. Exposing the reality of abortion, that really does protest itself.”
However, Kerry Abel, Chair of Abortion Rights UK, a leading campaign to defend and extend a woman’s right to abortion, believes the anti-abortion lobby know they aren’t making gains in the media and in public opinion and so ‘harass’ women instead.
“They protest outside clinics all year round. Even if they think they’re there to help women, that is not how women see it.
“They think they are educating women, but women don’t need to be educated, they know exactly what they are doing.
“I think that probably because they are aware that they are so far off changing the law, they are taking their argument to women.
“But, isn’t it sad that the greatest achievement of these people is to make women feel worse about their decision?”
Kerry says the anti-abortion groups are perpetuating the stigma leading to a ‘mafia-type silence’ that women feel they must take after their abortion.
“It is absolutely right for people to oppose abortion, that’s your view. But don’t protest outside a clinic when you know women are already having a tough time.”
In the next feature, Olivia Wright will explore the ongoing campaign for the legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
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