A relatively quiet pro-life protest outside a Brighton abortion clinic has sparked a nationwide debate about the right to express opinion and free speech, against the stress it is likely to cause any woman trying to enter the clinic to access pregnancy advice.
The row was sparked after police arrested Andrew Stephenson, 37, and Kathryn Sloane, 21, both Christians protesting against abortions, last year for displaying an “offensive” 7 foot wide banner depicting a ten week old aborted foetus. After receiving complaints from the public, police requested that the protesters take down the banner, to which they refused, and so they were both arrested.
Last week the pair went on trial but were cleared on the grounds of ‘lack of evidence’. This has encouraged pro-life groups and has opened up discussion on whether anti-abortion protesters should be allowed their free speech, or whether there are more appropriate, less graphic ways of getting across their message.
One could ask, what if a young child happened to walk past the group and saw the gruesome photo? And spare a thought for any woman about to undergo the terrible ordeal of abortion, being confronted by a group of people brandishing gory photos.
In contrast though, pro-life supporters might argue that graphic images of damaged internal organs of smokers are splashed across cigarette packaging for all to see. Is there any difference?
I’m all for expression of opinion, as is the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (who run the Brighton clinic in question), but surely there are more respectful ways of getting a message across?