When the case in which a man sentenced for displaying Islamophobic posters was discussed earlier this year, other parallel situations were invoked in order to test the principles at stake here. One of these was the display of anti-abortion material outside an abortion or pregnancy advisory clinic.
On Tuesday the BPAS is holding a debate on this topic. My initial feeling is that people should be free to campaign against abortion using emotive words or images, but that there should be limits on how/where they can do so – in the same way images relating to less controversial but equally upsetting topics (such as torture) should be restricted where, for example, children might see them.
I am sure there are many people who are strongly opposed to abortion who would, nevertheless, not want to cause distress to women who may have been raped, or who may have no option but to seek an abortion, because the pregnancy is ectopic, for example. Those who have no such compassion may love humanity in the abstract, but don’t seem to have much time for humans.
But the situation is slightly different when images are being displayed at a demonstration, not in a context where pregnant women are being targeted. Here is an account of one recent example of protestors being charged with a criminal offence:
“Andy and Kathryn were simply displaying true images about the reality of abortion. Such images should not be suppressed from the public consciousness any more than pictures of famine or the reality of war.
“If we cannot face the pictures how can we conceive of endorsing the reality?”
I think that argument is at least worth engaging with. But if pro-life campaigners should be able to persuade us of their case, so should pro-choice organisations be allowed to advise women about the available legal options.
Hat tip: andrew adams