BY SIMON CALDWELL
PRO-LIFE activists this week rejected claims that they are deploying “aggressive” US tactics on British streets.
Just a week after critics reacted angrily to the appointment of the pregnancy counselling charity Life to a government forum on sex education, news of a prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic in Kent has prompted a similar reaction.
The Guardian raised the spectre of “silent sieges” of abortion clinics and the harassment of women trying to access them to undergo the abortions. But the claims were dismissed as false by the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants UK, the organisers of the vigil in Maidstone.
Rose O’Doherty, the group’s coordinator, said that their prayer vigils were always peaceful, conducted on the opposite side of the streets from the clinics and with the consent and often the cooperation of the police. It is only trained counsellors who occasionally approach some women to notify them of alternatives to abortion, she said.
“We just pray the whole time,” she added. “We are not demonstrators, we are not protesters, we just simply pray, peacefully pray.” The Guardian took its readers that the “Maidstone protest” reflected an “apparent ratcheting up of the activities of the more active elements in the anti-abortion movement”.
It said that “the surge” in prayer vigil “protests” was symptomatic of moves to change the law of which the appointment of Life to the sex education forum was another sign. The paper also raised alarm over the attempt by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries and Frank Field, a Labour MP, to prevent abortion clinics from offering counselling women in crisis pregnancies because they believe there is a clear conflict of interests.
Paul Tully of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said the claims were hysterical and wide of the mark.
“In our experience the activities of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants and other groups like the 40 Days for Life group that have recently been involved in these activities outside clinics are wholly peaceful and helpful towards expectant mothers,” he said.
“The pro-abortion lobby, which dominates the Department of Health and which last year launched national television advertising for their services, put enormous pressure on women to consider abortions.
“In contrast, the heroic activities of those who peacefully and prayerfully offer help to women deserve to be supported – especially by those who claim to support choice for women.”