Protests, Police and the Abortion Debate

If one does this wrongly, the vacuity of a position or cause can be revealed. Take the recent pleas from those seeking to move on people from outside abortion clinics, like the clinic in East Melbourne.

The claim was made (including on The Drum) that because protestors who occupied part of the Melbourne CBD (from the “Occupy” movement) were moved on with what was portrayed as brutal police force two weeks ago that those “protesting” outside abortion clinics should also be moved on. Protestors outside the clinic are supposedly intimidatory, as people going in and out of the clinic can be “swooped upon by protesters and bombarded with pamphlets“. Let’s examine the problems with these arguments that the authors of these claims neglected.

Firstly, this kind of argument inadvertently authorises police to move on any people who are associating on a public footpath, handing out pamphlets and not committing any crime. Our hard-fought right to associate in public is here being sacrificed to the state. It is argued that this right should be sacrificed because the “protestors” are intimidating. What kind of intimidation? No examples are usually given, except that information is being distributed (presumably about alternatives to abortion) and the tragic and deplorable case of the death of the security guard, Steven Rogers. This is certainly an important case to take note of, but it is also important to take note that the murder happened nine years ago and was committed by a disturbed man, with no real connection to the wider pro-life movement. While all just measures should be taken to prevent murder, one misguided person does not mean the rights of others can be taken away. Thus, pro-abortion supporters are essentially promoting an anti-rights agenda. Our basic rights for which unions and others have fought should not be just given up to the state, without any protest (even if the pro-abortion movement is now against protest).

The second problem with the pro-abortion argument is that it seeks to justify moving on pro-life people from public places through the example of what was widely regarded as tough and even brutal police action. Heavy-handed police action against protestors is seemingly supported by pro-abortionists and now should be applied across Melbourne (or at least in convenient locations). If the Melbourne CBD is good enough to protect against left-wing protesters with police brutality, why not women against (mostly elderly) pro-life advocates? Yet, most people (including the Mayor) see a difference between permanently occupying a public place which makes it inaccessible to others, and occasionally congregating on a footpath that still remains accessible. The irony, of course, is that the great mantra of the pro-abortion movement, about the integrity and control that a woman should have over her body, does not seem to apply to those who have an opposing view. If there is a chance, it seems that the state should take control of the bodies of protesters, disrespect their rights and forcefully move them on.

The third problem with this argument is that it is essentially anti-choice and seems to favour market discrimination. The clinic supporters want people who are providing information about alternatives to abortion to not have the chance to give women, who are often confused and in difficult situations, information and opportunities about alternatives to abortion. Good information and financial support results in real choices, in which some women decide to actually allow their baby to be born. Yet, the clinic supporters want these information-providers moved on and choice denied. Why? One argument is that it is bad for business and staff turn-over. It is good to remember that abortion is a business, as well as an ideological agenda. As some feel threatened by the Occupy movement, it could be that the clinic supporters want the state and the police to protect their economic interests against those who provide alternatives. We should be careful when businesses call on the state, particularly in the form of police coercion, to protect their interests. These are murky waters. I’m not arguing that the clinic should not have its legal rights protected. I am arguing that the state should not be called on to do more than protect legitimate and legal rights, especially in a competitive marketplace where people are supposed to have the chance for “choice”.

Hopefully I have shown that it is not in the interests of pro-abortion supporters to pursue this line of argumentation. If we can leave this issue behind us, there might actually be a chance to get back to the real issues and open a dialogue. We are not just dealing with an issue of ideology or business in the case of life and abortion, but with real women and babies in difficult situations. I am not seeking to justify anyone’s actions, but am seeking a better and more mature debate. Most of us recognise that no-one wants an abortion and that babies are good, no matter how small, inconvenient or difficult they may seem at times. The question we should ask ourselves is: are all of us – whether pro-abortion, pro-life or somewhere in-between – really willing to support action toward this common sense position that most Australians hold: that life is good, abortions should be avoided, and babies and families should be affirmed and supported.

Source Joel Hodge 7th Nov, 2011

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