The UK’s president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said that he fears American-style protests being staged outside of UK abortion clinics may lead to women being intimidated and may deter doctors from offering termination services. He has also made clear his fears this may signal the early stages of a devolving situation that could culminate in violence against termination-providing doctors.
Falconer called the rising use of vigils and human chains at clinics an unwelcome and worrying development that could also deter younger doctors from opting to perform abortions. Falconer said colleagues were very anxious and worried about the provision of the service. “It doesn’t help to have a sort of clamour [against] individual people who are trying to provide a difficult service for women in a period of their lives when they are in great difficulty.”
While there is no evidence that doctors carrying out abortions have been threatened in Britain, some abortion doctors in the US were murdered, he said.
Asked if he was worried that doctors here could become a target too, Falconer said: “We don’t have any evidence for that, but that could be a worry. It’s obviously not as bad but it seems to be going down that line.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which has strong ties to American groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, has denied that its campaigners have ever engaged in activities that may have intimidated or harassed women trying to use termination facilities, and has categorically denied intimidating doctors with its “peaceful prayer vigils.”
Affiliated vigils have however seen anti-choice protesters hold signs featuring graphic depictions of aborted foetuses.
This comes after anti-abortion protesters have over recent months staged vigil events in various cities throughout the UK, including Edinburgh, Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Newcastle, Cardiff, Lincoln, Liverpool and Sheffield.
One vigil held outside of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in London, like many others, saw a strong counter-protest by some 500 pro-choice advocates.
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