The rhetoric of Christian anti-choice groups has drowned out the voices of pro-choice Christians. I believe being pro choice and being a Christian are not diametrically opposed. It is vital that other Christian positions on abortion are heard. Whilst I recognise those of Christian faiths have a diverse range of opinions on abortion, it is important to be able to have uncomfortable conversations and debates within our community. The protests outside clinics by groups such as 40 Days for Life highlight the hypocrisy of some anti-choice Christian groups who cloak the targeting of abortion clinics as a Christian act. 40 Days for Life are an Evangelical Christian anti-choice group whose mission is to 'bring an end to abortion'.
Their main activity is carrying out what they describe as 'peaceful vigils' outside facilities that provide abortions. These 'vigils' involve a constant presence outside of clinics for 40 days over the period of Lent. 40 Days for Life 'vigils' are far from peaceful; they are, in fact, a campaign of coercion. Their round-the-clock presence creates a climate of fear and intimidation and they are known to use tactics of harassment to deter women from seeking abortions. 40 Days for Life volunteers approach and follow women entering and leaving clinics and have even been known to physically obstruct access. They hand out propaganda, particularly in the form of misleading and medically inaccurate leaflets, in an attempt to scare women into not carrying out a termination.
I believe 40 Days for Life are co-opting Lent, a time for solemn religious observance, to forward their agenda to stop abortion. Lent is a time to reflect and prepare for Easter through fasting, contemplation and penance. For most Christians, this will include giving up treats and indulgences, carrying out acts of charity and generally reflecting on how to be a better person in the world. I believe, as a Christian, that the 40 Days for Life campaign is completely incompatible with the true significance of Lent for Christians. Instead of using this period as a time for self-reflection and helping others, they use Lent as an opportunity to harass and intimidate women who choose to access a safe, legal procedure.
A woman accessing abortion in the UK should be entitled to safe and unobstructed access. From the moment she makes her decision, every step of the way should be planned and managed as safely as any other medical procedure. To have to encounter harassment and intimidation is clearly dangerous and unacceptable. The victimisation of any person accessing any other medical treatment would be publicly condemned, and so should the activity of these groups. Ultimately it is not in line with line with the Biblical meaning of Lent or indeed overarching Christian values.