WHAT’S THE VERDICT?

Last week’s verdict shows that the police and our legal system are unable to protect women who are trying to access a legal, medical sevice from Abort67’s disgraceful intimidation tactics.

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Abort 67’s weekly graphic ‘displays’ are also the bane of the lives of many children, clinic workers, students and local residents. The majority of people in Brighton do not agree that Wistons’ clinic is the appropriate place for Abort67 to air their views. If as they say, they want to change public opinion they should protest in a more general public area.

By standing outside the clinic they are clearly trying to intimidate women and scare them out of considering a termination. This is not freedom of expression, it is oppression. The number of women having terminations in Brighton has not changed, but women are having them later than they did before the protests began.

Abort67 laughably refer to themselves as an ‘educational group’, who are ‘motivated by their concern for women’, when in fact they lie about abortion, saying it causes cancer, mental health problems, infertility, and lifelong guilt. They say that BPAS do not tell people the whole truth about abortion. There is absolutely no evidence to support any of these claims.

Brighton Pro Choice is a group of local people dedicated to stopping this harassment on our streets. Today’s verdict changes nothing.

 

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It can’t be abuse! It is scientific fact!

On day two of the trial, the defence seemed to be focussed mainly on objectivity, subjectivity misogyny, and snuff.

Having heard from five prosecution witnesses the day before, the defence decided to first recall the only one fitting the criterion of possessing a vagina. She was also the one that came last playing Section 5 buzzword bingo, by failing to use the words ‘abusive’ or ‘insulting’ enough in her testimony. This barrister’s brutal cross-examination made her break down in tears, and the judge had to call a ten minute recess as a result. More on that later.

Isn’t it a teecy bit loaded of us to tell you that the defence made a female police officer cry, without much context? Are we trying to influence your emotions? Are we failing to be objective?

Yes. But the defence doesn’t get that. Entirely devoid of the context of location (outside a clinic), timing (when women are perhaps unsure and distressed), and appropriateness (large colour banners on a busy main road, opposite a large 6th form college), the defence repeatedly asserted that Abort67’s ‘displays’ could not possibly constitute ‘abuse’ or be construed as ‘insulting’, as they are scientific fact.

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The defence loves the science bit. Even though the images of dismembered aborted foetuses on the banner may appear ever so slightly larger than they appear to the naked eye, they are ‘truthful’ and show a ‘factual, lawful medical procedure’.

From there the defence made what we would call a leap of faith. A bit like that scene in the Indiana Jones’ film, but less entertaining.

They tell us that ‘an ordinary sensible man [N.B. not an ordinary sensible woman, because according to the defence there’s no such thing] knows what an insult is when he sees it’. Despite this being evident, they give us an example, just in case. Here goes.

If a person is morbidly obese, this is scientific fact. There’s evidence for it and everything. Now if you call this person morbidly obese, that’s not an insult, because you used the science words. This person might be offended, but that’s their problem. It’s objectively, scientifically true, and no insult could be implied because you used the science words. If you call them a fatty though, that’s a whole different ball game because that’s clearly intended to be an insult so it’s a candidate for Section 5. The judge asked ‘Are you quoting from anywhere in particular?’ ‘No sir’, came the reply.

You see, this is the defence’s view, but it’s not subjective, oh no! It’s objective, scientific, common sense that anyone can see. Unless of course you’re a woman (or understand context, which women probably don’t anyway).

Earlier on in the day, the defence almost provoked a mass contempt of court by the public gallery by displaying some of the most incredible misogyny we’ve seen in recent times. He put it to the only female witness that she had got it in for the defendants, and was not able to be objective about the ‘displays’ because she personally found them offensive. Therefore she was not using her reasonable judgement as a police officer as required by law, because this was impossible. Why? Well because she has a womb of course. The defence put it to her ‘It’s not just a woman’s issue? There’s no reason why it might be inappropriate for you to handle this case?’ Cue public gallery core meltdown.

The defence later accused the police of ‘harassment’ of the defendants, and said it was ‘to put it frankly, like Putin’s Russia’.

After a nice long lunch the judge rightly threw out the Section 19 charges. The Crown Prosecution Service made a last ditch attempt to say the officers’ actions weren’t unlawful, as they had a common law right to collect evidence, but the judge sent a clear signal to Sussex Police that they to do need some urgent refresher training on PACE, as none of the officers who gave evidence seemed to know this.

This saw Kathryn move from the dock to the public gallery, as only Andy faces Section 5 charges. We may get to hear from her next week if she gives evidence to support him.

The day finished with the prosecution parading a litany of tabloid snuff before the judge to justify Abort67’s actions. Dead dictators, war victims, all grist for the Abort67 mill. The judge got a bit testy when the defence tried to show him some moving images after all of this, so we think he’d seen enough too. He also denied them the chance to play an audio recording of an animal rights group discussing why they used graphic images, as they were not in court under Section 5 charges. It was fun watching the defence squirm as they tried to think of a good reason to have their evidence admitted, and failed miserably, but it didn’t quite make up for their earlier misogyny-fest.

The case continues.

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DO YOU BELIEVE IN FREEDOM OF SPEECH? DO YOU? DO YOU REALLY?

Our supporters got up bright and early today for a quick but lively demo before the start of Abort 67’s court case, where Kathryn Attwood and Andy Stephenson are charged with public order offences for displaying material that is ‘threatening abusive or insulting’ outside BPAS Wistons clinic in Brighton. It was worth getting out of bed because the Sunday Times sent a photographer, and Andy and Kathryn happily posed for him, basking in their media glory. We cannot lie, we posed too. We even posed together. It was all very civil.

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We headed into Brighton Magistrates’ Court where Abort67’s legal team seemed to get stuck in a temporal anomaly as they opened their cross examination of each prosecution witness with the same machine gun question ‘DO YOU BELIEVE IN FREEDOM OF SPEECH?’

The answer was a ‘yes’ from all witnesses, but it was a qualified ‘yes’ which demanded a context. Worryingly, this answer seemed beyond the lawyers’ comprehension. They live in a monochrome world, devoid of nuance or individual circumstances. It’s a cold world.

In their opening comments they boldly cried ‘freedom of speech to say something inoffensive is no freedom of speech at all’, defending their absolute right to display the most offensive materials in the pusuit of ‘truth’, and their right to offend everybody in the world ever.

The Chief Inspector in charge of policing protests at the time disagreed. He said people who complained were ‘very angry or upset’ and that officers saw the images were ‘frequently leaving people in tears’. He asserted the ‘images went beyond just asking questions and represented disorderly conduct’.

The legal team seemed to suspect some kind of giant police conspiracy against them (we’re sure the evidence for this will come out soon), and they aren’t too impressed with us either. ‘Citizens who are politically opposed to the campaign simply have to say we’re terribly offended and freedom of speech is silenced’.

Abort67’s legal team repeatedly claimed that the witness statements were subjective, as if this were some kind of fault on the witness’s part. They seemed incapable of understanding what Section 5 of the Public Order Act is designed to do, namely protect people from harassment, alarm or distress. Not everybody is alarmed by the same things. We think (but we’re not legal experts) that this might be called subjectivity.

We heard from a delivery driver, who had been moved almost to tears as he waited at the lights on Old Shoreham Road, unable to look away from the (allegedly) 10 week old dismembered aborted foetus, blown up in full colour to 8ft by 4ft, and plastered on the wall outside BPAS’ Wistons clinic. The gruesome image reminded him of his wife’s abortion on medical grounds 25 years ago, and the child he never had. ‘It still upsets me thinking about it. I’m supposed to be a man but it really upset me’ and ‘it rekindled memories that I didn’t want to recall. I had put it behind me.’

The legal team were unmoved by this, offering no condolences, then tried to upset him again by showing him more graphic images of dead babies and mutilated torsoes from other (Palestine) protests. He said the Abort67 image was different. ‘I felt like ripping it down, it really did make me cross, I felt it needed to be taken down. I asked the police what would happen if I did and they said they’d have to arrest me. If the police weren’t there I would have ripped it down.’

The next witness, who was bringing his wife and three month old baby to Wistons’ for a pre-termination check, was given the same frosty treatment. We heard how how seeing the image had left his wife devastated. ‘It caused my partner a great deal of distress. It was a distressing time anyway’. Police officers later testified that he was pale, shaking and on the verge of tears when he came over to them to ask them to take the images down. He said ‘I think it was offensive. I don’t think it’s right. It felt like intimidation.’

We saw nothing of Abort67’s supposed concern for life today in court. Not for the lives of the many people who repeatedly complained to the police of the distress, upset, and alarm caused by Abort67’s ‘displays’. In fact they laughably insisted on the court referring to them not as protesters, but as an ‘educational group’.

The police testimony centred of the allegedly incorrect use of Section 19 of PACE to seize Abort 67’s camcorder and banner. Whilst this seems to highlight a worrying lack of training for some of Sussex Police’s officers, the testimony did at least confirm that Abort67 were filming outside the clinic continuously on the day they were arrested.

The case continues until 18th September.

Breaking the LOAR? SPUC Olympic torchbearer campaign comes to Brighton

Around 500 residents near BPAS’ Wistons clinic in Dyke Road, Brighton, have had an offensive anti-choice leaflet put through their doors, begging them to be a ‘torchbearer for the unborn’.

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These long-suffering locals, who are visually assaulted by Abort 67’s graphic banners of aborted foetuses displayed twice a week outside the clinic, are now being told that ‘every new life is more precious than gold’.

This double-sided colour flyer, which is tasteless in both design and subject matter, could violate laws designed to protect the Olympic brand from false or gratuitous association with the Games. 

Brighton Pro Choice has contacted LOCOG, the organisers of the Games to find out whether the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children have obtained permission for both the leaflet and the campaign, which associates the 70 day Olympic torch relay with the number of pregnancies terminated in the same period. They have also raised the issue with the local MP Caroline Lucas, who has been working with local residents and the police to end ‘harassment and intimidation of women’ near Wistons.

One outraged resident approached us with a copy of the offending leaflet, adding that she had put the rest in the bin.

The Argus have also covered the story.

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Riot for Choice – Fundraiser!

Brighton Pro Choice invite you to our benefit evening on Friday 4th May – Riot for Choice!

 

7 pm-9 pm Yummy Vegan Meal with short films being shown

9 pm-12 am Performances – Live folk music and spoken word from local artists.

Performers include:

Mauve – A soul r&b combo serving up a feast of funky, jazzy, Latin beats.

Killer’s Riches – Acoustic political folk-punk.

Keeping Watch – Melancholic folk electronic music.

– Caitlin Hayward-Tapp – Performance Poetry.

Paul POG – Paul from POG will be setting tales of everyday failure to a gypsy punk soundtrack.

12 am-2 am DJ-ing by Scout, Laura and more.

Entrance by donation before 9pm, £3/4 suggested donation after.

FREE CANDYFLOSS FOR ALL ATTENDEES!

Vegan Cupcakes will also be on sale from Operation Icing!

Sexual health awareness stall. Free Condoms/Dental Dams and information!

At Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton.

All welcome!

♥ Brighton Pro Choice

Carnival for Choice

Around 80 people from as far afield as London joined us on Sunday to protest outside the Worthing-based church behind controversial anti-abortion protests in Brighton. The Carnival for Choice was supported by various unions, Solfed, and Bloomsbury PCA. We picketed the Jubilee Church service held at Worthing High School, greeting the congregation as they entered and left the service.

In spite of the very early start the carnival was a lively affair with educational games, a pro-choice tombola and a mobile sound-system. The event outside the school passed off peacefully with protesters proceeding to march through Worthing to raise awareness of the presence of the church and the tactics they’ve been using. The police were co-operative throughout and said they were pleased with how the event went.

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Jubilee Church has been the driving force behind Abort67, the campaign group known for displaying graphic images of aborted foetuses outside Wiston’s Clinic on Dyke Road. The group have been accused of intimidating women entering the clinic and two members of the Church have been charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 for causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Before the service the leader of the Church, Colin Nichols was presented with a petition of over 3,000 signatures calling for them to withdraw their support for Abort67. Nichols addressed the crowd reiterating his church’s support for anti-abortion group, saying that they did not endorse the harassment and intimidation of women. The crowd responded noisily to his well-worn script, which told us nothing we didn’t already know.

A member of Brighton Pro Choice said ‘It is well-known that Abort 67 intimidates users of the clinic. They approach people and give them false and misleading information about abortion, making an already difficult situation much worse. We wanted to give them a taste of their own medicine today by protesting outside their church. If they want us to go away, they must withdraw their support for this group’s disgusting tactics. If they want to change the law, they should be protesting outside Westminster.’

Shona McCulloch, a member of Brighton Pro Choice and Equalities Officer for Brighton Trades Council, said ‘80,000 women are killed every year globally through unsafe abortion; ultimately Abort67 want to add to this shameful statistic the lives of our daughters, sisters and mothers. We all have a responsibility to defend reproductive rights – we must draw the line and make it clear that Abort67’s appalling tactics of misinformation and fear are not welcome on our streets.’

Our message to Jubilee church was loud and clear – withdraw all support for Abort67, or you’ll be seeing us again!

The cracks begin to show

There are members of Brighton’s Jubilee Church who disagree with at  least  some of the actions and words of Abort67 members.  I have personally been contacted by a member of the church,  privately by email, who identifies him or her self in exactly this way. In addition, on the steps of Worthing Council last week, I and others from our group encountered several church members who  expressed disquiet about the practice of protesting outside abortion clinics, and some of the propaganda being spun to women there.

The main source of this disquiet seems to be that Abort67 is telling women that abortion causes cancer, or that it might cause cancer. This was documented on video recently by The Guardian. When pressed, Andrew Stephenson, leader of Abort67, goes quiet, though he is on record as saying that the evidence of cancer-related abortion has not been given a sufficient airing. He said this in relation to a story concerning a member of SPUC being invited into a school to say that abortion causes cancer, despite the absence of any link. Aware that he might lose support within his own community, he seems reluctant to discuss the issue.

Church members are also concerned that abortion clinics are not ‘appropriate’ places to demonstrate, whether it is legal to do so or not, or whether the demonstrations are being conducted legally or not (and this is in doubt in the light of ongoing court cases).  Just because you disagree with abortion, does it mean you have to protest outside clinics?

I suspect that most Jubilee Church members do support A67 and their current campaign. But now, at least some of them are beginning to question this support. My guess is that the more we expose the worst of their misdeeds, the more difficult it will be for them to maintain this support among church members. Our investigation teams are on the case, and evidence is emerging from the murkiest of quarters. Watch this space.

Andy

Carnival For Choice

This Sunday 15th April we’re holding a Pro-Choice rally and march in Worthing!

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We have called for a Carnival For Choice on this day as we are extremely alarmed at the continuation of US-styled anti-choice protests that have been happening outside abortion clinics in the UK.

One of the targets, both of last months ’40 days for life’ campaign, and of a sustained bi-weekly protest is a BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) Clinic in Brighton.

The group organising these protests outside the clinic is the aptly named ‘Abort67’ -a group that wants to make abortion illegal, regardless of circumstance. Abort67 are from Worthing, and are supported and facilitated by the Jubilee Church. Abort67 use extreme graphic images of aborted foetuses on large boards and banners, film on cameras, and have been known to call women murderers and physically encircle them.

We say NO MORE!

No more harassment and intimidation of people accessing a legal medical service!

Make your pro-choice voice heard and join us on Sunday 15th of April for a lively & fun pro-choice carnival!

You can meet us at…

Brighton Station at 8:30 am

Worthing Station at 9.15 am

Worthing High School between 9.30 & 10 am

The day will start at Worthing High School, where they congregate on a Sunday, and where we’ll give the church elders our petition. We will then parade joyfully into the town centre where we’ll let the people of Worthing know what Abort67 are getting up to in Brighton.

Bring placards, instruments, your friends and a smile!

Everyone’s welcome!

See you there!

Brighton Pro Choice ♥