balanced posters at the baby clinic
RECENTLY, I paid a routine visit to my local baby clinic in central London. As I was undressing the baby or his weigh-in, I glimpsed on the svall two posters advertising abortion. Both brightly dress: attention to the services of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service for counselling difficulties for any Mums who were worried about a new pregnancy (97 per cent of women counselled by the BPAS go on to have abortions).
One poster showed a picture or a little girl in tears. The caption said: "A pregnancy for one person may mean tears or someone else" i.e., the second baby is not really wanted.
It seemed to me to be a very depressing message to he putting across to young mothers taking their babies to their neighbourhood baby-clinic. No wonder, I reflected. that babybattering has increased threefold over the last ten years in Britian, when Government funded
propaganda constantly emphasises the difficult. painful, burdensome, tearful aspects of having children.
An unsupported young mother in a bad post-natal depression might easily be triggered into helpless, primitive rage and sense of rejection by this unrelieved theme of negativity.
(Baby-clinics are, in addition, plastered with anxiety inducing posters about every conceivable problem that can arise in the task of raising children, yvarning of the dangers of whooping cough, German measles, smoking, vitamin deficiency, tooth decay, emotional worries and so on. All these problems are valid, hut the cumulative effect is enough to reduce any women to nervous shreds.) But i know better than to voice these ideas aloud in a London baby-clinic. I am sensitive to the fact that one is dismissed as a raving, fanatical Catholic if one raises the mildest, the slightest possible misgiving about Government policy on the issue of birth control. So instead of making the point to the doctor that the two abortion posters seemed to me to he offensive and harmful I held my tongue.
Later, however, I composed an apologetic and polite letter to the nursing officer who is the administrative chief of the clinic. Excusing myself for being a member of a minority group, bending over backwards to
explain at length that in no a.,a did 1 seek to impose my extraordinarily eccentric views on the majority. I timidlv asked if the clinic. !night consider displ.o.ing, alongside the BPAS posters, .1 poster from LILL.
III:L. I ventured to explain, was an agency ‘vhich sought to help and support and counsel women with pregnancy difficulties, but offering tilternative solutions to abortion. I would not dream, I ialded, of tr)ing to censor or undermine the wise Department of Health and Social Security in its policies on this matter, but, I pleaded, was there any room merely for haiancej
I received the nicest. sweetest letter M return from the chief nursing officer. Certainly. they would be delighted to display the poster from LIEF. They had never heard of the agency, they had no idea that such a phenomenon existed, but they would he very pleased indeed to provide information about its services in the baby clinic. They mold he glad to know more about it and they would give it equal billing with BPAS henceforth. They thanked me warmly for telling them about LI IL This small incident was a revelation to me. Living, as I do, in central London, and in the millet.' of journalism. I had become almost completely convinced that abortion was a lost cause, In Fleet Street itself, the subject is a closed book. It is fantastically difficult to publish an article in any of the secular newspapers, or in any of the women's magazine, which puts the case against abortion.
The liberal British newspapers delight in publishing articles about censorship and contraception in Ireland but I have never experienced in Ireland the sheer sense of orthodoxy that surrounds the question of abortion in Britain today.
The media, which is of course London-dominated, simply collectively believes that abortion is A Good Thing, and, so far as I can see, it is devilishly difficult to -challenge this official view in
print, The sheer lack of freedom on this issue is incredibly frustrating.
Yet as I discovered over the incident in the baby-clinic, the ordinary people of England, Scotland and Wales have infinitely more open minds than the London-based media. All over this country there are baby clinics, student centres. citizen's advice bureaux. and various other places of public assembly where the people in charge share all our misgivings about abortion, and would be glad to help to olTer women alternative ways of help.
I think one must admit that the slogan "A woman's right to choose' has been a very successful slogan. But it can be turned to good account by asking all these public agencies which display abortion facilities to shosv balance in advertising the services of those who try to save babies from extinction and mothers from the misery, depression, guilt and psychological damage that abortion certainly brings about.
This issue is seen by many as a political and a legal issue. This is lair enough and I would certainly support the reforms in the present law proposed in the Currie Bill. But 1 believe it is also a massive educational issue, If only more people knew what abortion
involved, il only. Mote people knew that there arc alternatives, then far fewer women would ever contemplate abortion.
I see this also as the work of persuading women that abortion k a terrible choice to make. It is a• work of information and communication as much as anything else.
The obstacles however, are many. One of the great problems is one of resources. The proabortion agencies such as the B PAS have the power and money of the national health service behind them. All the pro-abortion literature automatically gets filtered through the health service outlets, while the agencies such as LIFE and the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child are small. private charities which exist entirely as a result of the altruism of the brave and good people who run them. But how can LIFE, for example, match the power and might of the BPAS, with its vast advertising in the London underground and in the women's magazines along with the large amount of editorial sympathy which exists for it in the media?
The answer is that anyone who cares about this issue must make an individual contribution towards spreading the educational message. Wherever you see a BPAS poster being displayed, ask if, in the interests of balance. a LIFE poster could be displayed
Gallup polls calculate that 46 per cent of the British population is broadly unsympathetic to abortion; and the Corrie Bill to reform the present laws had overwhelming parliamentary support in the House of Commons. Consequently, such balance is democratically justified.
When press, radio, magazine and TV reports and features are consistently pro-abortion, write and ask for a fair representation of the other point of view. Schools and universities are a vital area for the opening-up of this debate, because herein lies the catchment of young girls who will in sr) many cases be railroaded into having abortions through sheer lack of full knowledge orate facts. !lilies have the "right to choose", they have the right to know aS well.
A young woman said to me the other day: "1 think future generations will look back in horror at the 1970's and 80's. Tiles ssill look on this abortion business the way we. look on Auschwitz as a holocaust of some kind. People will say
'how could you have done it'' And like all those good Germans, will our generation reply, "But we didn't Anom?"
When revolution is not political
I WOULD just like to add a. footnote to the story in last week's Catholic I lerald about the SPUC seminar at the London School of Economics which was cancelled by Professor Ralf Dahrendorf, principal of the 1.SF.
The seminar. which was carefully. designed as an educational exercise. admitting students b■ ticket only in order to avoid trouble and controversy, was cancelled on the grounds that it was "too political''.
Last time I went to a talk at the LSE. it ate. given by Corin Redgrave of the Workers' Revolutionary Party. In his address. Mr Redgrave said that the only answer to Britain's -problems was to smash the capitalist system to smithereens. Revolutionary consciousness was gradually being born, he said, and Very soon the workers in Britain would achieve a true dictatorship of the proletariat. through total revolution.
'Well. most people would probably not agree with such a political analysis. but if you believe in free speech you must allow Mr Redgrave to air his views as much its the next man.
.Yet things really have conic to a pretty pass, have they not. when the Workers' Revolutionary Party is permitted to preach political revolution but the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child is barred from the very same territory for being "too political"!
Symmetry in an English bog
IN ORDER to remain sane, I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to get out of I.ondon every now and then. Actually, in many ways I love London; yet it is important to remember that London does not represent normal life.
Most of the real people of Britain actually live outside
As our out-of-London project for this winter, my husband and I have decided to take a series of weekend excursions to the Cathedral towns of England. So many of them are within easy reach of London Canterbury, Salisbury, Wells, Hereford, St Albans, Winchester, Norwich. We began last weekend with Ely, perhaps best known nowadays for being the constituency of Mr Clement Freud.
. Ely is a small town in East Anglia, an island in the lens. On inquiring what exactly was a fen, I was told it was another word for bog. The area is certainly flat, misty and beautiful, having a particularly incandescent quality of light. This is apparently why England's great painters Constable and Gainsborough came from East Anglia.
The Cathedral of Ely is among the classics of English Gothic architecture, being completed in the thirteenth century. I don't know very much about architecture, but it did seem to me to be a very beautiful building with a superb sense of logic and symmetry. It is peaceful and inspiring to sit in a place like this for an hour, and it. boasts, incidentally, an excellent religious bookshop.
The Cathedral has some fascinating little side chapels. especially a tiny one dating from an original construction in the eighth century dedicated to St Edmund.
It also has an old Saxon cross dedicated to St Etheldreda, the seventh-century East Anglian saint. This was especially interesting to me since my parish church in London is St Ftheldreda's in Ely Place and that has a long historical connection with the island of Ely itself, One cannot but notice, in Ely Cathedral, the spaces in the alcoves in the Lady Chapel and in
other parts of the Cathedral where statues have been ripped Out at the root and whole series of mural figurines have been despoiled. "Now you're learning,said my husband, "that it wasn't only the Irish who suffered from Cromwell." Cromwell was an East Anglian too, The town of Ely is old, quaint, tidy and neat, with a wellmanicured village green and many well-preserved houses from the 17th and Igth centuries. The most noticeable thing to me, however, was that you do not see a single black, brown, Asian or Chinese face in all of Ely. "The only time we ever see black people," I heard a rich East Anglian farmer say, "is When we take our hols in the Bahamas,"