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There has been a disturbing rise in activity by anti-abortion campaigners in the UK. Even in supposedly right-on Brighton, fundamentalist Christians have been harassing women on and off for the last two years outside the BPAS abortion and contraception clinic. Armed with poster-sized pictures of aborted foetuses, and leaflets full with misinformation and bad science, they are claiming some measure of success in their attacks on vulnerable women trying to exercise their right to chose when and if to have a child. One blogger, writing on 'Christian Concern' wrote “My resolve was strengthened by seeing that campaigning can save lives. A young woman who was entering the clinic to abort at 22 weeks decided not to. I went away thanking God for two lives rescued - mum and baby.”
After a brief pause (following several arrests for harassment), they are back, every Tuesday and Thursday between 9am and 12pm. In the past people have mobilised to oppose them, but the problem with noisy counter pickets is that they can end up being counter-productuve; upsetting potential service users and mobilising the pro-lifers to hold larger and more confrontational pickets.
Only a very small minority of people here in the UK are actually against abortion. But, as anarchist-activists know all too well, small groups of highly dedicated and organised individuals can cause a hell of a lot of trouble. The picketers outside Brighton's clinic are part of a wider ultra-conservative group, the “Abort67” campaign. Almost all the Brighton picketers come from a single church, the evangelical New Frontiers Church in Worthing. Opposing them and defending women's reproductive rights in Brighton is the newly formed Brighton Pro Choice campaign:
It's not before time that that pro-choice activists got organising. The Abort67'ers are planning a “40 days for life” with 40 days of demos outside abortion clinics up and down the UK (Brighton included), starting with Lent on the 22nd of Feb.
As if that wasn't bad enough, in the wider UK political context, lunatic Tories have been doing their damnedest to push reproductive rights back decades, (well, centuries really). The most influential of these is the doyenne of the Daily Mail– the certifiably mad compulsive liar, Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire. Last year she attempted to 'amend' the Health and Social Care bill, to stop abortion providers from providing abortion counselling. She and her ilk claim that there was a conflict of interest – that counsellors would push for abortion as they would profit from the extra terminations. The fact that there was not a shred of evidence did not stop the amendment gaining a worrying amount of traction in the Commons. Fundamentalists are totally impervious to facts though- they know that they're right, whatever the evidence says.
The Dorries amendment was roundly defeated last year – even the Tory leadership baulked when they realised its implications, and kicked it into the long grass via a Commons consultation. But pro-lifers never really go away. The 'Dorries amendment' was/is intended to disrupt abortion services – letting fundamentalists give 'independent' abortion advice ('independently counselling women that “sure you can have an abortion, but you and your unborn baby will burn in hell for eternity”).
But the Tories are divided. The leadership aren't particularly anti-abortion. Cameron & co don't really want to shell out for the extra benefit scrounging proles that would be born without abortion, but he knows that ultra reactionary positions play well to the Tory base.
That's why people like Nadine Dorries can't be dismissed as a joke – backed up by the Christian Right in this country and in the USA, they are single minded in their attempts to deny women control over their bodies. In fact, Dorries is back in the news trying to push for 'abstinence only' sex education, using the idiot troll logic that current sex education encourages child abuse. Where do you even begin with that one?
Just because the reactionaries were set back in the Commons doesn't mean that we can afford to be complacent. Abortion, contraception and reproductive choice is a simple matter of biological survival. Forget, for a moment,“pro-life” or “pro-choice” positions: The question is how can we ensure the continued survival of our species through sustainable reproduction?
Human beings take up a lot of time and effort to raise, and they consume a huge amounts of resources (especially the wealthy ones). This is a serious investment for anyone, and, just in case you hadn’t noticed, those resources must come from a finite source – our planet Earth. And us modern humans have been prolific; we've shot up from 1 billion to 7 billion of us since 1800, and we're consuming a hell of a lot more resources than we can get away with. The idea of adding unwanted children to the billions already out there is just insanity.
For an organism to survive it has to replace itself at a sustainable rate. With other animals this is taken care of by predators or by scarcity of resources. Us humans haven’t hit the finite resource wall yet, but when/if that happens, it will be ugly. Just like the biologists' models of unchecked rabbit populations overeating their grass, humanity is facing a massive die off in the not too distant the future.
The only way to stop this is by taking control of our reproduction. And, using the same science that has gotten us in this 7 billion strong mess in the first place, we can apply the brakes. We're actually doing so. As we wrote back last September, the number of new born children entering the world has finally stabilised. 2012 will see as many children born worldwide as 2011. A stable population is a big deal, and may just help save us all. This global miracle has occurred thanks to a combination of increased levels of female education and emancipation, combined with laws and programmes that make access to contraception and abortion straightforward. This is a global phenomena – a quiet, methodical worldwide feminist revolution that has been taking place in countries as diverse as Brazil, Bangladesh, China and Iran (yes, even Iran). The countries that aren't catching up are either ultra conservative (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United States) and/or ultra messed up (Somalia, Afghanistan, United States). And people like Nadine Dorries want to turn the clock back.
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