Report of the Pro Choice Action on Sat 9th May 2015
Feminist Fightback organised a vibrant, loud (VERY LOUD) and inspiring pro-choice action in Stratford London on Sat 9th May 2015. Feminist protestors (many of whom were clad in red t-shirts boasting the slogan ‘Our Bodies, Our Lives’) blocked an anti-choice religious group (headed by a life-size portrait of the Virgin Mary) as they tried to march from a church to an abortion clinic.
In addition to several impromptu and powerful speeches, the pro- choice activists created a rough music marching band featuring some virtuoso (and extremely persistent) pot, pan, and whistle playing. The sound systems blasted out songs like ‘R.E.S.P.E.CT’ and colourful banners were stretched across the road. Some of the chants were ‘old’ favourites; ‘Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide; ‘Get Your Rosaries of Our Ovaries’; ‘Not the Church, Not the State, Women Must Decide Our Fate’; ‘Pro life – that’s a lie – you don’t care if women die’.
“1 in 3 women will have an abortion. Nobody likes to have an abortion. But sometimes we need to have an abortion. Whether we decide to continue a pregnancy or not is OUR decision and we’re not gonna sit back and let the church, or the state – bastions of male, capitalist power – try and tell us what we should and shouldn’t do with our lives or bodies. We’re gonna fight back!”
A Member of Feminist Fightback
The counter-demonstration was in response to a planned (so-called) ‘pro-life’ religious procession through the centre of Stratford culminating outside an abortion clinic. This is a part of a religious group, ‘Helpers of God’s Precious Infants’, regular harassment / bullying and manipulation of women outside clinics. This is no amateur collection of “concerned” individuals, but a highly organised international network, funded by anti-abortion groups in the US, which provides training and resources to equip anti-abortion bigots to harass and intimidate women’s outside clinics.
Two years ago, Feminist Fightback decided to make a stand against the same religious group as they marched to an abortion clinic in Essex to pressurise and intimidate women. Whilst this decision was widely publicised, it wasn’t until after the action that responses from other feminist groups were received which questioned the tactics we employed – namely of having a pro-choice presence outside the clinic itself. Some groups are uncomfortable with the ‘escalation’ of the situation that can result in confrontations outside clinics when feminists decide to protest there. This may be distressing to women going in and out of the clinic.
While there is no consensus on this issue within Feminist Fightback, we decided this time to try and protest away from the clinic and outside their church instead, disrupting their service – stopping the procession from actually getting to the clinic. We managed to delay them for over two hours! Eventually we were pushed back by the police (who forcibly escorted the procession) – leaving the anti-choice demonstration only around ten minutes in front of the clinic. In this time, we saw that no woman entering or leaving the clinic was accosted by one of the religious people. A great success! Feminist Fightback’s protest was NOT part of any disruption directly outside the clinic. Discussions about tactics are on-going (and we welcome contributions) but we feel that we just can’t let this go unchallenged.
People might have a right to express their opinion, but they don’t have right to stand outside a clinic, distribute lies, intimidate, bully and harass people. As well as making sure people can access abortion safely, we want to continue to engage in lively action that makes a visible, determined and effective stand against the religious right-wing and their anti-women views.
Further Reading / Watching / Listening / Distributing
Video footage of the action
Research into the threat of privatisation to abortion rights