On the morning of the 28th April, several pro-choice activists, including members of LUC and Socialist Students Lincoln (SSL) went to counter a ‘kerbside vigil’ by the anti-choice Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).
After a long walk from the City Centre to the Grandstand on the outskirts of the city (where SPUC had bravely decided to hold their demonstration, well away from the public and potential opponents), we arrived at 11.00, just as the pro-lifers finished praying and began to align themselves along the kerb with signs declaring that abortion ‘kills children and hurts women’, along with a premium rate phone number for an anti-abortion helpline. We quickly set up on the opposite side of the main road with our own pro-women and pro-choice placards. They apparently weren’t anticipating any opposition and looked quite shocked to see us there.
It wasn’t long before a few of them decided to cross the road and engage us in debate. One of them was particularly aggressive, and after unsuccessfully trying to intimidate a few activists on our side, he was laughed back across the road where he sulked behind a placard for the remainder of their ‘protest’. Another fundamentalist Christian attempted to explain the scientific basis behind the story of Noah’s Ark, claiming there was ‘no evidence’ to support evolution. Perhaps the most shocking though, was a woman who came over with her placard to engage with us. When confronted with difficult questions, she astonishingly suggested that women who fall pregnant as a result of being raped should see it as “a blessing”, and carry the child to term. Needless to say, this comment wasn’t very well received.
A few of us left shortly before 12.00 to attend the Save the NHS march in the City Centre, but a good number stayed to oppose SPUC until they left. Interestingly, the Tory MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney apparently turned up, seemingly to commend the pro-lifers, but then left when he saw pro-choice opposition. It would not surprise us in the least if Karl was a fan of the patriarchal, homophobic, right-wing Christian group, having espoused similar sentiments himself on numerous occasions. The Skeptical Voter Wiki entry on Karl also shows that he “voted for Nadine Dorries’s amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill on 7 September 2011, which was ultimately defeated by 368 to 118 votes. This amendment would have stopped BPAS and Marie Stopes from providing counselling for women with unwanted pregnancies and allowed ‘independent’ counselling including that provided by faith-based organisations.”
All in all, the counter-protest was a success. We well and truly outnumbered and humiliated them and had a huge number of passing motorists honk and wave in support. The anti-choice brigade, in contrast, mustered one or two cars registering support for them.
It is also interesting to note the percentage of female activists on both sides. We feel it is important for women to take the lead in actively opposing anti-choice groups like SPUC as they are directly affected by the issue of abortion. On our side, we had a fairly even male to female ratio. The SPUC vigil, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly male. An interesting statistic (and one that adorned one of our placards) is that over 70% of pro-lifers are male, and 0% of those will ever be pregnant. Those men who turned out for the SPUC vigil on Saturday will never understand what it is like to go through an abortion or an unwanted pregnancy, and it’s high time they stopped using outdated religious dogma to try to guilt women into thinking they don’t have a choice in what they do with their own bodies.
LUC would like to extend our huge respect and solidarity to everyone who came out to oppose SPUC, both in Lincoln and across the country. We will continue to confront them whenever they take to the streets, and always fight to keep abortion safe, free and legal.
An excellent report by SSL on the morning’s events can be found here: http://socialiststudentslincoln.co.uk/blog/2012/04/lincoln-says-no-to-spuc/