Thoughts on the abortion rights demo

[EDIT: I notice I’ve been linked by some pro life blogs, While I respect their right to do that I do not want this post used as fodder to explain that the pro choice position is wrong, I am and always will be 100 percent pro choice]

Last night I went to the abortion rights protest against the pro life road show in Cardiff, protesting is important and obviously abortion rights are really, really important but the way the protest happened really disturbed me.

From the off I was kind of annoyed, as we started gathering one of the protesters pointed out another group of people and there was some discussion on weather they were there for the roadshow or the protest and she said “I don’t think they are pro life they look too nice.” I think that’s really unacceptable firstly aren’t we about getting away from judging people on what they look like, but also because pro lifers are not bad people, they are not nasty people. They absolutely believe what they are doing is right and moral.

The protesters arranged themselves right outside the door of the city temple with a walkway between the middle of them that was just narrow enough to those going to the roadshow to walk through, then when those attending (some of whom were older people and the majority of whom were female) walked through the protesters chanted slogans really loudly, which must have been incredibly intimidating. Some of those in the front rows of the protest were male and from what I could see were the most vocal. So there’s a situation where men are shouting at women and telling them what to think.

If we want to protest and make a difference protesting then we need to unpack and discard the patriarchal attitudes that say the best way to make people do what we want them to is through intimidation and aggression. And really left wing men need to unpack their male privilege and think about how shouting at women because they are doing something they don’t want them to do is upholding a capitalist patriarchal system. Also while I think its good that men are involved in the abortion rights movement if as feminists we believe it is not okay for men to tell women how to think and behave then it shouldn’t be okay for men to tell any woman how to think and behave, even if we find her politics to be reprehensible

I also had a problem with the chanting. One of the chants was ““Pro-life, that’s a lie – you don’t care if women die” I think this is really, really unhelpful. I grew up in a very right wing hard line church that was very anti abortion and although it did many damaging things to women, and had many rules on women’s submission and inferiority, the pro life position is not about carelessly killing women, the pro life position is not about women being less than men. In fact the pro life position from a philosophical perspective is extremely logical

1)Humanity begins at conception

2)Abortion kills the human in the womb

2)Killing humans is wrong/sinful

3) Therefore abortion is wrong/sinful

While it lacks compassion for women it makes perfect sense that a person who thinks a foetus is as human as the woman carrying it wouldn’t think that the woman had the”right” to “Kill” another human being.

Telling the opposition what they think and getting it wrong does not help the cause. It makes us look stupid and vindictive. We don’t appreciate it when they do it to us so we shouldn’t do it to them.

We need to be a movement that understands what pro lifers actualy think so we can refute their actual arguments and not straw ones, we need to be a movement that doesnt use the tactics of the status quo to try and get people to change.We need to be a movement that doesnt automaticaly write pro lifers off as nasty/evil/woman hating


20 Responses to “Thoughts on the abortion rights demo”

  1. I agree with you completely. It was one of the most disturbing experiences I’ve had for some time.

  2. vibracobra Says:

    Well, I didn’t go because I had a feeling it would turn out like that and didn’t want to be negative about it.

    Now I get to not go and be negative!

    Although there’s plenty to be negative about, really. And shouting at elderly women about what they should have done with their bodies when they were still of childbearing age is just not on at all. If I could bang some heads together right now…

  3. I came here from one of the pro-life blogs you wrote about in your edit, and regard myself as both anti-abortion and feminist.

    I just wanted to say thank you for the post, and to reassure you that the fact you’re 100% pro-choice came over very clearly from the beginning.

    Most of the people I mix with socially are very pro-choice and as a consequence I’ve often felt intimidated by anti-prolifer rhetoric, which often includes misogyny and threats of violence (which, if I challenge, I’m told are ‘just a joke’, and directed at prolifers in general rather than me, but they don’t feel funny when I’m outnumbered 20 to one). Thank you very much for speaking up on our behalf.

  4. directed at prolifers in general rather than me

    I’m another pro-life feminist with mostly pro-choice friends, and I tend to find that some of my friends regard me as not *really* “one of them”, so they still feel free to believe and repeat the most thoughtless stereotypes of pro-lifers.

    I appreciate nectarine’s taking a more nuanced and honest approach.

  5. I cant believe some of what i’m reading here. We women must not pull our punches we havent got where we r from being timid, its all or nothing. We rely on men to stand up front on this. We need the physical side as well and if these silly old codgers and their cohorts get in our way -they gotta be pushed out the way -whatever it takes!

  6. First of all, could we agree that referring to old people as ‘codgers’ is about as acceptable as calling women axe wounds or cuntholes.

    Secondly, they were going to a perfectly harmless meeting to hear a speaker and discuss views we don’t happen to agree with. I don’t see what’s acceptable or even remotely necessary about pushing them out of the way or intimidating them.

  7. nectarine Says:


    I agree with Viacobra that using the word codger is completely unacceptable, its disrespectful and ageist.

    Also thinking that the opposite of aggression is timidity seems to be a failure to unpack patriarchal mindsets.

    Those people had as much right to be there as we did,

    Part of the point of feminism is we shouldn’t have to rely on men, if they are part of the movement then that is really good but saying we rely on them gives them a space to dictate the terms and actions of the movement, which is unacceptable.

    One of my friends, who was also at the demo wrote on her own blog about how some of the tactics use were deliberately to otherise the pro lifers and I, like her, find this unnaceptable. Is no one in your life, that you like, that you love pro life? Do yo find it acceptable for them to be referred to as woman murderers?

    Also if you want people to rethink their positions dialogue is much more likely than agression and shouting to make them reconsider the issues.

  8. nectarine Says:

    The_alchemist and Jen R

    Thanks for coming over

  9. Rose E Knell Says:

    Sisters, Becky is right. Women have always used men. Dont suggest it is wrong to use them for our purposes. I was at the London demo watching the sad procession of old people going in. You will never change their minds by ‘dialogue’. Did we get where we were by not taking direct action? No! We must attack these revisionists in every way we can. The word ‘codger’ is no worse than ‘wife’. Our muslim sisters are even prepared to be martyrs for freedom and we worry about a few has-beens getting hurt? If they were going to a ‘harmless’ meeting, why were we wasting our time there?

  10. humaazul Says:

    About that chant- I have the sneaking suspicion this was developed during the Wichita ’92 protests. The protests lasted for months. Protestors were throwing their children in front of cars. You may want to check out the background of that for perspective on that chant.

    While it may or may not be helpful, it came from a horrible period. Horribly, I lived through it in person.

  11. vibracobra Says:

    Sisters, Becky is right. Women have always used men. Dont suggest it is wrong to use them for our purposes. I was at the London demo watching the sad procession of old people going in. You will never change their minds by ‘dialogue’. Did we get where we were by not taking direct action? No! We must attack these revisionists in every way we can. The word ‘codger’ is no worse than ‘wife’. Our muslim sisters are even prepared to be martyrs for freedom and we worry about a few has-beens getting hurt? If they were going to a ‘harmless’ meeting, why were we wasting our time there?

    Oh for pete’s sake.

    If we start pushing old people around now, when there’s no threat whatsoever to our freedoms, what are we going to do when the law actually goes through parliament (which it won’t)?

    And ‘using men’? How about working with them, without any interdependency?

    I’m sure we all wish we’d been in all those cool photos of protests years ago, but there’s no need to start a re-enactment society now, is there?

  12. I agree with you vibra about old people. I have to say I got into Westminster Hall (but got chucked out) and was suprised to see so many young women and men in there. We dont need to worry about this bill though as the government with all our feminists in the commons are 100% behind it. They wont tolerate anyone using their so called ‘conscience’ either as there is a full whip on. Evan Harris, a man,(‘Dr Death’) will also be their supporting us. We need to keep calm as many of us accept that a man should be head of the home and guide us in our main role of wife and mother.

  13. Whaaat?? Whats all that about from Anna? Could you repeat that last bit so I can be sure I’m not seeing things?

  14. […] Revolution isn’t my main concern here. There are a few responses in the comment thread over at Nectarine’s blog that I find pretty interesting.  Firstly, there’s the characterisation of the protesters. I […]

  15. vibracobra Says:

    I agree with you vibra … We need to keep calm as many of us accept that a man should be head of the home and guide us in our main role of wife and mother.

    Er, thanks but no thanks! That’s clearly not my position at all. Is it possible to be pro-choice, yet anti- the methods used at this particular protest? What permission slip do I have to sign?

    I think the French saying ‘Faut pas pousser meme dans les orties’ (‘Let’s not push Grandma into the nettles’) is becoming very relevant to this discussion.

  16. nectarine Says:

    I dont even understand your comment? are you suggesting that its rightfull for men to be superior to women? what! thats the anthitesis of feminism.


    I couldn’t find alot onthe witchita situation in 1992 but I did find a bit and In that situation I understand why they used the chant. If it came to a situation here where pro lifers were stopping women going into have abortions then yes I would be as agressive as nesacary to help those women, but the demo was out side a church and the people going in to listen were not activly stopping women having abortions.

  17. Sorry Vibes and Nectarine, I dont mean to be misunderstood. All I am trying to say is men are superior to us in some things and we are superior in some other ways. Thats why we cant be equal in everything, That dont mean we to say we havent got rights like them which is what I stand for. I could not understand what are alien overlords in mind the gap? Then there is the French lingo. You said you arrived in the uk , are you French? You complain about saying ‘Sisters’ and the word codger. But you use a disgusting F word which I thought only men use? I saw you long bit in the other link but what I cant understand is if you are so against old people why do you drag in old dead people like funi..something and Sylvia Pankhurst? They are no good to us now. All I want to say is, we ought to think about what is happening to our society and women NOW. There is the news of this woman whose poor daughter has gone missing and she has had seven children by five different men! Is this femininism? What will happen to our families without fathers?

  18. nectarine Says:


    men are not superior to women, because superior means better than, and men are not better than women.Thats kind of the point of feminism.

    I’m also really not comfortable with the undertone of your argument that viacobra doesnt understand the argument because its a langauge issue, I dont know viacobras natonality status but I do know she is both fluent and articulate in both french and english (in fact much more articulate in writen english than I am even though English is the only languge I speak)

    I really dont understand the argument that only men use the “F” word,(i presume the word you are criticising is “fucking”) Why do you think only men use that word? have you really never heard a woman swear? Why shouldnt women use that word?

    I dont even understand why you think viacobra is against old people, nothing she says sugests that.

    I also think this do you drag in old dead people like funi..something is really disrespectfull,
    her name is Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti if you couldnt remember how to spell it you could have copied and pasted it and if you never heard of her before viacobra tells you right in her post what she did.

    Knowing our feminist history is important in understanding what is happening to society now. If it hadnt been for the sufferagets we wouldnt have the vote, how is that not important to us now.

    Why does it matter how many fathers a womans children have? And I dont know why you are bringing fathers into this anyway, where does this come from? women are perfectly capable of bringing children up without men. And often it is the fathers fault that his children dont see him because he is abusive or neglectfull. Also fathers are much more likely tp physicaly and sexualy abuse children than mothers are. I dont consider the nuclear family the best way to bring up children anyway.

    I’m putting you back on moderated status because I am starting to feel you are being deliberatly dismissive and disrespectfull

  19. vibracobra Says:


    I’m not sure I’m prepared to take suggestions that my English is less than competent from someone who tells me stuff like ‘I saw you long bit’. In fact it’s a bit scary. Are you coming on to me? Please, I’m English! (Well, partly, anyway).

    I also don’t know why you think I’m against old people, that’s in fact the exact opposite of what I’ve been arguing from the beginning of this whole sordid affair.

    As for men being superior to women in some respects, bah, can’t be bothered to answer that one.

    As for the nuclear family being some kind of ideal for bringing up kids, that’s a bit ridiculous considering the idea of what family is varies so much from county to county within the UK, let alone within different countries.

    Besides, if having one father is so great, surely having five of them should be absolutely amazing!

  20. vibracobra Says:

    About the word ‘fuck’ (although I thought at first the f-word being objected to was ‘feminism’), it might interest you to know that it comes from an old norse word that was chanted when raising the sails of the boat. It has the current meaning because raising sails involved a lot of pushing and pulling.

    Hence, ‘sailor talk’.

    I’ll let you enjoy the mental image, for a moment, of a group of Nordic men chanting the word ‘fuck!’ while raising a sail, then ask you, what the hell is wrong with using that word? It just refers to the sex act these days anyway, which is hardly a bad thing.

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