By Melissa Steel
A pro-life charity’s social media campaign, backed by Nadine Dorries but accused of being “arrogant, callous and basically awful”, ended on Sunday after inflaming the abortion debate for over a month.
Life’s campaign questioned the right-wing stereotypes surrounding those who oppose abortion. The ‘#notblinkered’ website they set up contains a series of blogs and videos featuring actors telling the stories of pro-life people. While some applaud the initiative, others challenge the claims the organisation made.
One of the first to respond was Glosswitch, a feminist blogger and writer for the New Statesman. Glosswitch penned a blog attacking #notblinkered that quickly went viral. It was Glosswitch who said: “It would be funny if it wasn’t so arrogant, callous and basically awful.” One of the areas Glosswitch took particular issue with was Life’s concept that you could support feminism and the pro-life cause. Glosswitch said: “Saying “I’m feminist and prolife” is a bit like saying “I’m a turkey and pro-Christmas”. 78,000 women…die every year due to unsafe abortions, mainly in countries with severe restrictions on legal abortion.”
Life has released two blogs since then to confront Glosswitch’s claims. The final one said: “Most prochoice arguments skip over the whole issue of the status of the unborn, preferring to focus on wider political arguments about “reproductive rights” and the danger of the “backstreet abortionists”.
However, Mary Lubrano, Communications Coordinator for Life, maintains that the dialogue started with pro-choicers is positive. Lubrano said: “Debate is a good thing. To get it out into the open can only be a good thing. We are engaging the opposite side. It would be great to find some common ground.” In fact, the debate fulfilled one of the aims of the campaign. Lubrano said: “What was important to me and the charity was to get that debate started. Feminism and pro-life seem so polarised, but a lot of the aims are the same; we both want to make the world more fair and equal for women.”
The campaign also has a high-profile champion on Twitter, Conservative Member of Parliament Nadine Dorries. Dorries proposed an amendment to the law in 2011 that would have stopped organisations that supply abortions counselling females. However, it was rejected by Parliament. Dorries said on Twitter: “If the only choice you have is an abortion, it’s not really a choice is it [sic]?” followed by a link to #notblinkered. The predicament Dorries described was something Life was eager to highlight with the campaign. Lubrano said: “A lot of women don’t experience it [abortion] as a choice. They feel there is no other option. We wanted to address that group of women.”
Life has also had its opponents from the political sphere. Labour councillor Nina Killen for Harington in Sefton challenged the charity on Twitter. Killen said: “Women choose abortion for many reasons. The woman is best placed to decide.” Killen feels that the issue is more complicated than Life have portrayed it. Speaking to us, Killen said: “The message seems to be that some women only have abortions because there is no other choice. It is a lot more complex than that. I have never had an abortion, I have three children, but I support the right of a woman to end a pregnancy that she does not want.” Life said to Killen on Twitter: “[We want] enough financial, practical and emotional support for mothers so they don’t lose out in any way if they decide to go to term”. Killen said: “You sacrifice a lot when you have a child. The ‘don’t lose out’ idea of theirs is pie in the sky.”
The #notblinkered website says: “Do you have a stereotype of someone who’s “prolife”? White? Middle-aged? Middle-class? Right-wing? Religious? Anti-women’s rights? Blinkered? At #notblinkered we want to challenge those stereotypes”. It features six stories of pro-lifers. Parts played by actors include a feminist, a student and a left-winger. The choice to use actors was a practical one. Lubrano said: “A lot of it was logistics. The people we spoke to are all over the country. We had a tiny budget and had to pay a company to do it all in one day, but we have used real content.”
These stories were chosen to reflect the shifting social attitudes in the UK. Lubrano said: “There is a groundswell of people who think there are too many abortions in the UK.”
The use of social media was a conscious choice, too. Lubrano said: “We thought, “What’s the best way to reach people?” Using social media means we are not waiting for the press to notice us. It was a gateway.”
The charity offers education for schools, housing for vulnerable young mothers and counselling services for those dealing with pregnancy related issues. Their principle is that “all human life should be respected, from conception to natural death.”
Written for week commencing 11th November 2013.