The Times reports today: “An abortion clinic has been forced to close because of ‘intimidating protests’ it has been claimed, a first in the escalating battle between pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners.”
Trouble is, nobody is identifying the clinic, information which would seem rather crucial to the story about pro-life campaigners but which Breitbart London has been told “is not going to be in the public domain any time soon.”
The story is reported in The Times by setting out some factual background. Pro-life campaigners have demonstrated outside British abortion clinics for several months. The activists do hold “placards featuring dismembered foetuses” and are accused of filming women as they arrive for clinic appointments. One of the most vociferous groups regularly protesting, Abort67, is given a right of reply. It is reported that its members carry cameras to “provide visual evidence” that false claims were being spread about its protesters. A spokeswoman for the group, Ruth Rawlins, is quoted as saying:
“Our volunteers hand out leaflets and have conversations with passers-by. No one is pressed to engage with us and no one is obstructed from entering the abortion clinic. We simply present educational displays outside clinics to show women the results of abortion procedures.”
So far so good, however what about that claim that an abortion clinic has been “forced to close” because of pro-life intimidation? Head of advocacy and campaigns at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Abigail Fitgibbon is quoted condemning the closure:
“It is absolutely despicable that any group should resort to the harassment of individuals in order to close down an NHS service they personally disagree with.”
BPAS is quoted in the article as saying “an abortion clinic is to close as a direct result of protest activity – a first in the UK” and to the casual observer that may look like a new comment. In reality the claim first appeared on the group’s website in June as the opening line to a news article – “MPs call for abortion clinic buffer zones as harassment prosecution of anti-abortion protester is overturned”.
The BPAS website did not say where the forced closure of the clinic took place. Breitbart London contacted the BPAS press office to ask where the clinic is but was told the information could not be disclosed.
The press officer confirmed that no BPAS run clinic has been closed, “certainly not our clinic in Southwark which is very much running” – a reference to one of the operations targeted by pro-life campaigners. Asked whether the clinic will be named the BPAS press officer said “that information is not to my knowledge going to be in the public domain, not any time soon.”
The Times confirmed Marie Stopes, another abortion provider, denies that the closing clinic is one of its own, and reported that other providers had not responded to the newspaper’s request for comment.
Why would BPAS claim an abortion clinic has been forced to close because of ‘intimidating protests’ but not name the victim? What is in it for them? One paragraph in The Times article hints at a solution to the mystery, suggesting it forms part of a wider campaign to change the law and ban pro-life campaigners from the vicinity of abortion clinics. It says:
“Diane Abbott, the Labour MP, put down an early day motion last month calling on the government to establish buffer zones “to ensure women are able to access healthcare free from intimidation”. She said that other clinics had ‘been unable to open due to local fears about anti-abortion activity’.”
Abbott was supported by Caroline Lucas, the one Green Party MP, in calling for the buffer zones like those implemented in Canada, France and some parts of the United States (the Supreme Court found some zones violated constitutionally protected free speech). The irony there is not lost on Abort67:
“…buffer zones would be a redundant attack on Civil Liberties for all, potentially being misused by big businesses to protect their own interests just like Ann Furedi is trying to protect her business. It is ironic that Caroline Lucas MP who submitted an EDM supporting buffer zones was herself arrested outside one of Cuadrilla’s legal and licensed test drilling sites. Should Cuadrilla seek buffer zones too?”
Until such time as the closed clinic is properly identified, it is hard to avoid the inference that it never existed and is merely a convenient myth to be exploited by abortion lobbyists wanting to restrict legitimate activities of pro-life campaigners. Perhaps the last question to ask is why The Times, the ‘newspaper of record’, thought it appropriate to reprint what is, for now, an untested assertion and essentially BPAS propaganda.