Abortion Picture Arrest a Test Case in Britain

Andy Stephenson and Katherine Sloane with their graphic abortion picture [Photo by Andrew Hasson, Daily Mail Online]

Two British pro-lifers were arrested this month for the use of graphic abortion photos in sidewalk counseling activities outside a British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic in Brighton.

Andy Stephenson and Katherine Sloane were holding a 7′ x 5′ picture of an aborted baby outside the clinic when police asked them to take the picture down because the clinic staff had called the police to complain that patients coming for appointments were being “traumatized” by the picture.

Stephenson and Sloane complied, but immediately put up a different large graphic abortion photo. They were ordered by police to take that sign down too, and when they failed to comply, were arrested and held overnight on charges of “causing harassment, alarm or distress.”

Director of the Christian Legal Centre Andrea Williams, who is supporting Stephenson and Sloane, said, “This is a test case for their democratic right to reveal what abortion really is like. This case raises important questions about whether our society will allow robust and rigorous debate about what remains a highly controversial issue.”

We at the League salute Andy and Katherine, and League Executive Director Eric Scheidler has been in contact with them and hopes to meet them in person on a trip to Ireland to speak at a pro-life gathering later this fall. It takes a brave soul to show the truth about abortion and these two certainly have that.

Free Speech in America is Unique

Their courage is even more impressive given Britain’s lack of free speech protections as thorough as those we enjoy here in the US. Here we are protected from what’s known as the Heckler’s Veto, where one person’s right to free speech is restrained because another person is offended.

The League’s September “Face the Truth” Day in Lake Zurich, IL [Photo by Sam Scheidler]

In Britain and most of the rest of the world, a few complaints about your message are all it will take for police to haul you off to jail for disturbing the peace. We ought to be thankful for the freedom we have in this country to expose the abortion industry by showing the truth about abortion, and it’s also imperative that we fight to keep our 1st Amendment rights alive.

Many people I’ve talked to while using graphic abortion images would gladly trample the 1st Amendment to see a display like the League’s Face the Truth Tours shut down. All too often, we run into police who think they have the authority to shut down our displays because they’ve received complaints.

Here in Aurora, Illinois, we were forced to sue the city and come to a settlement agreement governed by a Federal judge to make sure our sidewalk counselors have the right to do their work without police interference. Just last July, the city of West Chicago, Illinois tried to stop us from bringing Face the Truth there with an unconstitutional ordinance, but under the threat of a lawsuit they not only backed down, they actually changed their ordinance.

Cases like these are necessary to preserve the boundaries of our rights, and to make sure that these rights and freedoms are open to others. Who knows how many demonstrations had been squelched by West Chicago’s parade ordinance before a confrontation with the League forced them to change it?

If we sit idly by, we will lose these rights and that will be a huge loss in our fight to save babies and their mothers from the pain of abortion. Hopefully, this case in Britain will serve to help protect the right of pro-lifers there to use these life-saving images.

Be Grateful For Our Freedoms—and Use Them

The fact is that graphic images save lives. I’ve seen it on the streets first hand. Let the courage of Andy and Katherine be a clarion call to us as American pro-lifers to put these powerful tools to work since we still have the freedom to use them. And pray that Britain will not rule against the free speech of her people, but that this important pro-life effort will be allowed to continue.

What’s your take on graphic abortion signs? Let us know in the comments section!

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