Persecution is a strong word. Youtube videos of Christians martyred and beheaded in the Middle East show how it is happening today. In Western nations, Christians are marginalised and vilified in less extreme but different ways.
Abortion is a controversial topic. As a ‘marmite’ issue that divides the population, crowds applaud and oppose the act vehemently. It certainly is a difficult topic for any dinner party.
I first got involved in pro-life activism in London, organising prayer vigils outside abortion centres five years ago. At first, I noticed that on a regular basis, people would swear and behave rudely and aggressively towards peaceful demonstration with extraordinary regularity. Many people thought a taboo was being broken or that we people were harassed, which has never substantiated. It was not possible to start for half an hour outside an abortion centre without hearing a swear word.
But over time, I realised that the abuse that was received as a result of praying outside abortion centres had a different source. For some, all the pain and hurt they had from a personal abortion experience had no outlet (as Theresa Burke so eloquently describes in Forbidden Grief). For others, it was an ideological association with abortion that caused them to feel so passionate about the cause. St Thomas Aquinas said the first reaction to truth is anger. And there were a lot of angry people.
A first witness of Satanists demonstrating in favour of abortion outside abortion centres helped me to realise that there was also a strong spiritual dimension to the custom of abortion. Ginette Paris’ book the Sacrament of abortion describes how some view the practice as a sacred act. Death threats, obscenicities, threats, vile language and behaviour all had a familiar source.
Gandhi once said, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
Some students also had a strong attachment to abortion. At first, students would play jokes pretending to be God asking prayer volunteers to go away. They would then pretend for Lent they were giving up their pro-life protest. Later, they would start to pour buckets of water over volunteers as a prank – which only helped to get people more involved in pro-life work. After that, they would start organisations to ridicule, troll and send death threats towards pro-lifers involved in this work. On one evening they decided to troll an event with glasses of urine to pour over volunteers.
Abortion providers also did everything in their own hands to ridicule and discredit pro-life activism in any way possible. Marie Stopes sent letters threatening legal action to pro-life groups. At first, abortion groups were willing to debate the idea of free speech. Later, the same groups started campaigns to ban any pro-life activity outside abortion centres on spurious grounds of harassment and intimidation. Abortion providers have cleverly framed the abortion debate and will happily play the victim card without even the slightest of provocations. Planned Parenthood has been accused of pulling down its own website to create the status of victimhood. Marie Stopes in Northern Ireland was willing to challenge pro-life campaigner Bernadette Smyth for months on spurious grounds in order to challenge her work.
I have learnt that the reason abortion providers have been so vehemently opposed to prayer vigils is that they are detrimental to the business of abortion. Abby Johnson quotes a Planned Parenthood conference that stated that when prayer vigils are happening outside abortion centres the no show rate for abortions goes up to 75%. BPAS employees have walked up to prayer volunteers to tell them, “Your prayers are obviously working because the girls aren’t keeping the appointments.” Women were routinely lied to by the abortion providers, who claimed their babies were “just a blob of cells.”
The ultimate sign of flattery is imitation. When pro-abortion activists started to copy pro-life activists by organising a “40 Days of Choice” campaign, it was a compliment. As part of the charade, pro-abortion activists would bring along cakes to give to the abortion centres as a sign of their appreciation for their work. A few jokers would bring Jelly Babies as a cheeky gesture. Abortion providers were happy to receive presents from the very groups sending death threats to pro-lifers.
Abortion providers were willing to use all their friends in the media to write all kinds of obscenities against pro-lifers. With lies and allegations of harassment and intimidation in the public sphere, the ridicule and harassment of pro-lifers only intensified. Kamikaze Cyclists would deliberately ram their bicycles against pro-lifers and any posters. Pro-abortion activists would throw horse dung at pro-lifers in their sign of appreciation to their witness. The Socalist Workers made their views known in their publications. Comedians would offer sacrilegious jokes against Christians.
Pro-abortion public expression reached its apex when a large counter protest was organised against a prayer vigil in March 2012. Some individuals claimed that the ‘Rights my mother fought for are being attacked.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell them what would have happened if her mother had exercised those rights. The greatest irony was that while pro-abortion groups continue to cry harassment and intimidation, the only groups receiving such behaviour were the pro-life groups. This was made manifest when a group of 300 people shouted at the top of their voices “Stop harassing women!” The only problem that half the audience they were speaking to was women.
Not all public opinion was against pro-life prayer vigils. A hermaphrodite came out staunchly in support of the prayer vigil, claiming that abortion providers were happy to dispose of ‘her type.’ A couple of ladies covered in skull and crossbones regalia, turned out to be herbalists from Devon and only interested in what was going on.
Ann Furedi once challenged one of the pro-lifers present who had brought their children to the prayer vigil. She suggested that because it might have been cold, this could be a cruel act towards the children. The pro-lifer replied, “Yes. But these children are alive.” The children who enter the abortion centre do not come out alive.
One day the fashionable atheist philosopher AC Grayling passes the prayer vigil. Grayling advocates the removal of religion to the harmless sphere of private opinion, along the lines of a Mid-Sussex butterfly collection society. How amusing for a man who believes religion to be the domain of ignoramuses of backward countries, to experience Londoners praying the Rosary and holding images of the Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadaloupe!
So persecution in a western society does involve receiving death threats, having volunteers physically and verbally attacked, being vilified and slandered through false claims throughout the national media and having your volunteers doused in water, dung and eggs. It’s not as bloody as the Middle East, but it does have a spiritual source.