UK abortion campaigning group Abortion Rights has launched a fundraising appeal calling on supporters to “donate to abortion rights for lent”.
The group advocates for abortion up to birth and is in favour of the legality of sex-selective abortion.
As part of the appeal, the group has accused volunteers who offer support to women facing unplanned pregnancies outside abortion clinics of “forcing people to stay pregnant when they don’t want to” and said that providing this support “isn’t very Christian”.
Lent is a season marked by Christians before Easter, in which they traditionally increase their charitable works, prayer and fasting.
Abortion Rights also accused 40 Days For Life, which runs campaigns during Lent to offer support to women and pray outside abortion clinics, of “co-opting Lent”.
According to 40 Days for Life, these peaceful activities have saved the lives of over 20,000 babies.
Censorship zone attempts across the UK
There have been numerous attempts in different parts of the UK to make it illegal to offer help and alternatives to abortion outside of abortion clinics. In Northern Ireland, a Bill has passed Final Stage in the Legislative Assembly that will make it illegal to “influenc[e] a [person seeking an abortion], whether directly or indirectly” within “safe access zones”.
This Bill will effectively make it illegal to offer assistance, advice or peacefully pray in “safe access zones” outside abortion clinics and hospitals offering abortions in Northern Ireland.
As on other occasions, opponents of this Bill have pointed out that harassment is already illegal and if or when harassment does take place, it can be dealt with under existing legislation. Northern Ireland MLA Jim Allister said: “Under legislation that presently exists… harassment is already a criminal offence, and under the Public Order Order 1987, disorderliness and all that goes with it is already a criminal offence”.
In 2018, then UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, when rejecting calls to introduce censorship zones outside abortion clinics in England, said: “introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response”.
“The main activities reported to us that take place during protests include praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets. There were relatively few reports of the more aggressive activities”.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said:
“This extreme group campaigns for abortion up to birth and the legality of sex-selective abortion. These are positions that polling shows the vast majority of the British public rightfully reject. Frankly, these are abhorrent positions that have no place in a modern, compassionate society”.
“The work that 40 Days for Life does is anything but harassment. As they show on their website, they have helped thousands of women across the globe. Abortion Right’s criticism of them for having demonstrations during Lent shows the embarrassing lengths they are willing to go to in order to ban free speech”.
“Where there is evidence of harassment and/or intimidation, this should be stopped and can be dealt with under existing legislation. The fact remains, however, that there is almost no evidence of harassment and intimidation outside abortion clinics from pro-lifers offering alternatives to abortion”.