protest Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Lucy Nichols reports from a lively protest against anti-abortion activists in London on the weekend

This weekend thousands of people took part in the ‘March for Life’, a demonstration against abortion rights. Heavily attended by religious groups, but also with a smattering of the far-right and even the odd Tory MP, this year’s ‘March for life’ saw a few thousand people take over Parliament Square to argue that abortion ought to be criminalised, that life starts at conception, that women who have abortions are murderers, and so on.

Hundreds of counter-protesters took to Parliament Square to demonstrate in favour of free, fair and safe abortions for those who need them. Organised by the group Abortion Rights, the counter protest was incredibly lively.

The two protests started in different places. The March for Life mob plodded over to Downing Street from a rally in the Emmanuel Centre, and then back to Parliament Square for a rally-cum-prayer session.

Meanwhile, the pro-choice protesters occupied a small corner of Parliament Square, largely staying in one place until setting up a line between the pro-life group and their stage, which remained firmly in place until it looked like the police wanted to kettle the pro-choice protesters and they were forced to retreat.

Myself and other women around me received torrents of abuse from the marchers, who were largely much older men, young men and their wives, or teenagers. I was called a devil-worshipper and had ‘holy water’ splashed on me from a water bottle, other women were called idiots, I’m sure far worse insults were hurled around.

It was encouraging to see people from so many different groups and political traditions come together to stand up for women’s rights. Though we were outnumbered we managed to make our mark. 

The March for Life was boosted by generous funding, largely from religious groups, and their ideas clearly do not reflect the general mood of the public. But they have support in government, and from significant right-wing groups. We need to be vigilant to counter these kinds of mobilisations and strengthen the movement to defend abortion rights.

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