Stop Praying on Our Bodies @ Westminster CathedralTagged as: femcells gender repression social_struggles sofed south_london_solfed
“Bishop Hopes, Shame on You, Come to Us, We’ll Come to You!” On Sunday 25th March a group of twenty protesters took up position outside the doors of Westminster Cathedral. We went with the aim of drawing attention to Bishop Alan Hopes, and the support he is giving the 40daysforlife movement who have been harassing women outside abortion clinics around the country. He intends to lead one of their “vigils” on Friday 30th – we think he should stay away. Keep reading ...
Although we had a lot of support for the action we received a number of criticisms from pro-choice activists who felt that to protest outside the cathedral during the midday mass was ‘dodgy’, ‘inappropriate’ or would ‘drive people away’. Presumably these criticisms were leveled because as a place of worship the cathedral and its environs have a special privilege as a sacred space, and the activity there is defined as private. Unfortunately the hierarchy of the church has not shown the same respect to the rights and sacred spaces of others. The Bishop of Westminster has identified with a movement that thinks the area outside an abortion clinic is an appropriate space to launch an attack on women’s rights, decimating their privacy by photographing and haranguing them during an intensely personal time. As such we refuse to meet with them on their chosen battlefield - our sacred space - and instead chose to demonstrate that this agreement to respect goes both ways – and so can its violation.
In addition to queries over the chosen location were also told that many catholics are pro-choice. To that we say excellent – then they should be telling their Bishop exactly what they think of his behaviour. But more broadly if you step into that cathedral under the auspices of the Pope and his Bishops you cannot expect to fully distance yourself from the policies they implement. The so called “pro-life” stance is a deadly, marginalizing, misogynistic viewpoint that the hierarchy of the church actively condones, encourages and if possible enforces. It kills women. If our presence meant a pro-choice catholic had to endure a small reminder of that reality then all the better.
And in the end the demo itself went well. We kept a distance from the cathedral that would ensure no-one felt too pressed - which is more than the women attempting to gain access to the clinics have been allowed - and the responses we got ranged from clapping and lively debate, to cries of ‘keep your legs together’, ‘bitches’ and ‘stupid little girls’. This was coupled with minor attempts at physical intimidation not to mention a few acts of somewhat aggressive prayer.
But where to go from here? Hopefully the Bishop will withdraw his support for 40daysforlife, but even if he does back down the recent actions of both religious organisations and the state have made it clear that our rights are not secure. Nadine Dorres continues to push for a reduction on the time limit on abortions and Andrew Lansley complained this week that abortion clinics were not respecting ‘the letter nor the spirit of the law’ in reference to the allegations of doctors ‘pre-signing’ abortion certificates. In that case, perhaps it is the law needs to be challenged. In 1967 the ‘spirit’ and ‘letter’ of the Abortion Act essentially required that a women seeking abortion first get her decision sanctioned by (most likely) two men in a position of authority. In a time when abortion was still a controversial issue it also safeguarded the doctor from liability and ensured the bill had enough support to get through parliament. This requirement was not constructed with easing the process for the women involved in mind. So perhaps the reason for this ‘lax’ approach to the paperwork is that in 2012 it just isn’t appropriate to expect a woman’s choice to be first judged, or for it to be so controversial a procedure that two doctors need to sign off on it in such convoluted a way. Maybe now it is time for us to say full choice, no compromises, we will only go forward.
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