Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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British group using graphic images grateful for negative media coverage

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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BRIGHTON, May 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Andrew Stephenson, head of the pro-life activist group Abort67, said today that he and his rapidly expanding group are grateful to Britain’s rabidly pro-abortion national news media, and even to the heads of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), for the repeated attempts to silence their message.

Stephenson, together with colleague Kathryn Attwood, is facing a criminal charge for using enlarged photos of aborted children in a demonstration in Brighton in June last year. He told LifeSiteNews.com that support for their work has come, paradoxically, through the negative publicity.

“The amusing thing is, this all started when Clare Murphy [Director of Press and Public Policy] from BPAS contacted my church leaders saying they should shut me down.” When they refused, Murphy went to the press complaining that “a local church was intimidating women outside abortion clinics,”

That complaint launched Abort67 into the public eye, Stephenson said in an interview today with LSN, and has created a national platform for their message that the group could not have hoped to pay for.

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In an interview this week with the BBC, Stephenson said that many British people are “horrified” that police have the power to shut down a peaceful demonstration on the grounds that it might be found “offensive” by some.

At their demonstrations, Stephenson told the BBC, “We’re finding a lot of common ground up here with people who both agree and disagree with the content of our message. People who are supportive of abortion but horrified that the police and the public combined have the power to shut down a message they simply disagree with.”

The reaction of the authorities to the increase in public pro-life demonstrations has shocked even pro-abortion Britons, Stephenson said. “Because if it’s our freedom now, we don’t know who it’s going to be next.”

Abort67 uses materials from the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), which employs large photos of aborted children juxtaposed with photos of other historic atrocities to stir public debate. Stephenson and Attwood are being prosecuted under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, an offence that has come under repeated scrutiny in recent years after it has been used extensively by homosexualist activists to charge Christian street preachers who speak out against homosexual behaviour.

Under the Act, a person can be arrested and charged under the criminal code if one person testifies to having felt “personally offended” by his actions or words. 

Stephenson and Attwood were arrested June 11, 2011, for holding the photographic signs and refusing to take them down. They have been demonstrating, along with a group of other pro-life campaigners, outside the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) abortion facility in Brighton for four years. Despite the accusations of BPAS that they are “harassing” women, the group does not engage in discussions with either abortion-minded women or ordinary passers-by, unless they are first approached.

“The ground is shifting in the pro-life movement,” Stephenson said. His group has been using the GAP displays since 2007, but “in the last couple of years it been picking up momentum,” with more complaints from abortionists fuelling greater public interest in their cause.

“It’s amazing that at the mouthpiece to the abortion lobby, the Guardian, the writers don’t have a lot of creativity. They make same accusations against us that they made against 40 Days for Life and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants,” two mainly Catholic pro-life groups who have started to expand their work in the UK.

Local papers are jumping on the big press bandwagon, Stephenson said, but the publicity is working in favour of the pro-life movement. “They are very keen to publish complete lies about us but won’t give us a platform to defend our position,” he said.

The Evening Argus, the local paper of Stephenson’s native Brighton, has accused him and his group of “intimidating rape victims,” but at the same time the paper published photos of the signs, “So that got seen by a lot more people.”

Although the media “have been very unhelpful” in their direct coverage, the Guardian published video footage of one of the displays as well as images from the Abort67 website. “So to us, that is quite positive.”

Stephenson has also been invited to speak on the BBC program the Big Question. “That gave me an opportunity to explain what we do, to refute and correct some of the lies they tell about us,” he said.

In addition, the publicity has attracted the interest of more people around the country who want to get involved and bring the project to other British cities, including Manchester, London, Taunton, Nottingham and Bristol. “Too many to mention, in fact,” Stephenson said.

“It looks like we’ll have other groups working from those cities soon.

“As a response to Clare Murphy’s attempts, we’ve stepped up from one to three displays and it’s spreading to other towns. It would never have happened if they’d ignored us.”

Stephenson recounted a conversation with Gregg Cunningham, the founder of the GAP project in the US, who expressed his dismay at the delicacy of the British public, the same people who had withstood the Blitz.

“He was astounded by a country where, during the Blitz, people could withstand all this bombing and disruption and destruction. And their attitude was ‘Is that all you’ve got?’ People were strong and resilient, and now if you offer them a leaflet, they run to the nanny state crying about being offended.”

“He was shocked by this ridiculous dependence on the state.”

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