Anti-abortion group to host graphic Bristol demo today
An anti-abortion group is to display images of aborted foetuses outside the University of Bristol today in a bid to highlight its pro-life campaign.
The group, Abort67, has been touring the country in recent months hosting demonstrations in city centres and outside universities.
The demonstrations, in which group members display graphic images of aborted foetuses, have prompted counter-protests in a number of cities.
The pro-life group visited Bristol earlier this month, and will today be returning to the city. They are due to hold signs outside Senate House, Tyndale Ave, from around 1.30pm.
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Andrew Stephenson, the founder and director of Abort67, told This is Bristol: “We are following in the footsteps of Thomas Clarkson exposing slavery. Through exposing the horrors he turned it around.
“We want to get Bristol to feel the same way they do about slavery now about abortion in the future, so they become uncomfortable about it and it becomes intolerable.”
The campaigner, whose group recently visited five cities - Cambridge, Nottingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol - over five days, went on: “We were overjoyed in Bristol because we had about 10 people trying to hide our abortion pictures – but if abortion is such a great idea, why do people who support it not want you to see it?
“If we don’t want to see it, perhaps it should not be tolerated.”
The campaigner insisted: “We make sure the people involved in the display are not aggressive, we just want to help people to see how bad abortion is.”
The University of Bristol Students’ Union has vowed to host a counter-demonstration today. A spokesperson said: "University of Bristol Students’ Union reject cruel and unhelpful shock tactics and instead value reasoned debate and discussion.
“As with last time Abort67 came onto campus, our Union will be attempting to obstruct these images as part of the duty of care we have to our student body."
Meanwhile a number of Bristolians have taken to social networking site Twitter to discuss the demonstration.
User @hollium wrote last night: “Abort67 are coming back to the University of Bristol tomorrow. Pro-choicers: EDUCATE, AGITATE, ORGANISE”.
Meanwhile @Bristol52 said: “Anti-choicers Abort67 are apparently reappearing on @Bristoluni campus tomorrow... STAY OUT OF MY UTERUS AND GET OFF MY CAMPUS.”
Mr Stephenson was in September cleared of public order offences after being arrested over a 7ft anti-abortion poster outside Wiston Clinic in Brighton.
The judge in the case against the campaigner, from Worthing in West Sussex, ruled: "I am not satisfied so that I am sure that these images are 'threatening, abusive or insulting' I find the defendant not guilty of these two offences".
The campaigner said since the court’s ruling police have “protected our lawful right to be able to show the pictures”.
He added: “It has been fantastic to see the court case bearing fruit; great to see people respecting the law and our lawful exercise of liberties.”
Asked whether displaying graphic images was the right way to put forward the group’s views, Mr Stephenson said: “We feel it is because the abortion industry is putting information that misleads women to a decision about their pregnancy which they may not have made.
“They have to give patients all the information, even if they find it distressing. The abortion industry is systematically withholding information.
“We don’t accept that this is a cruel thing to be doing; we think it’s cruel to be lying to women and deceiving them.
“We know we cannot tell people what to do, or what decisions they have to make, but we feel until they have all that information they may be making a different decision.”
The group hopes to embark on a larger tour next year when the weather is milder, the campaigner said.
Abort67 has been met with counter-demonstrations in a number of cities it has visited. Earlier this month the Students’ Union Women’s Network at Nottingham University took their own signs to the site of a demo near the University Park Campus, to cover Abort67’s posters.
In a statement following the incident, the Women’s Network said: “The Women’s Network is pro-choice. We define ‘Pro-choice’ as the right to reproductive autonomy. Meaning that all women have the right to have children - and to be supported throughout pregnancy, childbirth and childcare - and that they have the right to safe, supportive and legal abortion services if they wish to terminate a pregnancy.
“Whilst we realise the topic of abortion is a controversial subject, we believe if the discussion is going to be had it should be done in a balanced manner and not through intimidation and graphic propaganda.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) told This is Bristol: “Abort67 are an extremist anti-abortion group which attempts to stop women having abortions by frightening them with graphic images and intimidating behaviour outside clinics.
“Bpas understands from Abort67 reports that students across the country have been challenging their lies and misinformation, and our hope is that the group will return from their ‘tour’ with a better understanding that this is a pro-choice country which is respectful of women and their personal decisions.”
Darinka Aleksic, campaign co-ordinator at Abortion Rights, said: "Abort 67 are the most extreme and unpleasant anti-abortion group operating in the UK today.
“Fortunately they are a small, fringe group who have little public support - even among those who are opposed to abortion. I am confident the people of Bristol will reject their offensive behaviour too.
“It is vital that abortion debate in the UK remains civil and reasonable; we must not allow hard-line groups like Abort 67 to drag us down the American route, where women seeking abortion are routinely harassed and doctors fear for their lives."