Do anti-abortion protestors have free speech?

A pro-life campaigner and a pro-choice activist go head-to-head in this debate about the rise of US-style anti-abortion protests outside clinics in the UK.

Peter Williams, executive officer of Right to Life, and Kate Smurthwaite, vice chair of Abortion Rights UK, go head-to-head in this debate about the rise of US-style anti-abortion protests outside clinics in the UK. Williams kicks off the debate by explaining that while he disagrees with the use of graphic images of aborted foetuses by groups such as Abort67, he stands by their right to use them. (Warning, graphic images: click here to see a selection of the recent displays used by Abort67.) For Williams, the intentions of such groups “isn’t to harass but show them [the women] the reality of what they’re going to go through”. Smurthwaite says that protesters filming and “chasing after women going into these clinics” should be arrested for harassment. She says: “For me there is a line and that line has to be drawn well this side of harassment for people who are exercising their legal right to seek medical treatment when they want it.” On the use of images, she adds: “People have the right to choose whether or not to see those images.”

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Comments (1)

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  1. I found this very sad. I am a Christian who believes in pro-choice and I found this discussion alienating and uncomfortable.

    I was generally on Kate’s side until she began making these comments about praying. That praying implied a belief in someone as evil. In the middle of her discussion of harrassment, which I agree people should be protected from, she then made wide, insulting suggestions about Christians. As Peter pointed out, suggesting that prayer should only exist inside of a church fundamentally misses the point of a belief in God -it also displays a hypocrisy on her very point about harrassment. Sneering at Christians in the middle of the debate which was then ignored as standard is part of on-going ‘harrassment’. If this was Jews, race or any other group at which this kind of insulting prejudiced was used it would be given more attention.

    As one commenter said, this debate does not exist outside of the right or wrongs of the abortion, or any other pre-conceived opinions it seems.

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      This is a good comment and I agree. And surely if praying counts as harassment, you have to believe praying works…

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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