They are denouncing a serious attack on freedom of expression in Manchester, UK, by the government, which by a decree this week ordered a ban on all peaceful demonstrations, prayer vigils, and the distribution of pro-life information, near clinics where abortions are performed.
Using a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), the city of Manchester created a “protection zone” around the Fallowfield clinic where people are prohibited from praying, distributing pro-life literature, or talking to anyone about abortion.
As mandated by the PSPO, only a small space is set aside within the protection zone where no more than three people can demonstrate in silence with small posters of no more than one A3 sheet of paper.
Within the restricted area no person shall “protest, namely engage in any act of approval/disapproval or attempted act of approval/disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services by any means. This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal, or written means, prayer or counseling,” the PSPO expressly stated.
It is also strictly prohibited the display or distribution of any text or images directly or indirectly related to the termination of pregnancy.
Richard Bentley, executive director of the Marie Stopes clinic, wrote a note last year saying, “We are a firmly pro-choice nation, but sadly, a small minority of people believe otherwise and would like to see the country take a backward step on abortion,” He added, “These anti-abortion groups who gather outside clinics have a detrimental impact on women.”
Logically, the goal of those who demonstrate outside of these types of clinics is to have an impact on women who seek an abortion, by bringing them information about the harm that this practice can cause, and to show that there are other possibilities that are much less violent and harmful than abortion, even if they do not want to keep the child, such as giving it up for adoption.
The international director of 40 Days for Life, Robert Colquhoun, told the BBC that until now the pro-life demonstrations and prayer vigils promoted by his organization had always been peaceful and legal. He assured that his group will comply with the law, but will continue to hold prayers and distribute information outside the protection zone, as they have been doing for a long time.
There is no evidence to show that these demonstrations had any kind of violence on the part of the pro-life participants to justify their prohibition. On the contrary, pro-lifers have had to endure many insults and aggressions over the years. As the Christian Institute noted, last year three elderly pro-lifers were violently confronted by a pro-abortion activist outside the clinic, who shouted obscenities at them and threw their leaflets and posters over a nearby fence.
The Christian Institute said the Manchester PSPO “could be challenged in the High Court.”
Meanwhile, with less than a month to go before the U.S. presidential election, voters will be able to choose between incumbent President Trump, who has always been pro-life and anti-abortion, including eliminating federal funds that were allocated to Planned Parenthood and appointing pro-life judges, or candidate Joe Biden, an ardent defender of abortion and gender ideology.