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What's it like spending two days with Abort67? - Day 2 | Camilla Olim

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Christian Concern works closely alongside pro-life campaigning group Abort67, and many volunteers are Wilberforce Academy graduates. Camilla Olim spent two days with them to find out what it's like being at their displays. Writing about her second day, displaying outside the Department of Health, she discusses election strategy, church engagement, and the importance of collaborating across the pro-life movement to truly instigate change.

Is there any truth to the stereotypes and media portrayals of pro-life campaigners?

I spent two days with Abort67, which works alongside Christian Concern, to find out. You can read all about the first day here.

On the second day, I joined a group holding up a display outside the Department of Health. The team are displaying there once a week in the run up to the election, to highlight abortion as a voting issue.

Abortion as a voting issue

For this display, they held up two banners: one with an image of a premature, surviving baby born at 24 weeks – the time up to which abortion is legal in England and Wales. The other depicted a baby, also 24 weeks old, who had been aborted. They always say that an image is worth a thousand words; certainly, nothing else could have driven home the reality of our law quite so powerfully.

I'd expected this to be harder than the Lewisham display – and it was, though not as hostile as I'd anticipated.

After we prayed together again, Jessica, who had been at the Lewisham display along with Ruth, said that this was "higher ground" to take.

A way out of ignorance

As before, I didn't participate in the conversations, but simply observed and listened in. Once again, the volunteers were never accusatory, obnoxious or 'preachy'. There was a huge contrast between what I saw, and the stereotypes about pro-life groups that are sometimes perpetuated by the media.

I noticed more apathy from the public this time – more hardened faces, particularly belonging to those who were well-dressed, or coming in and out of the Department of Health building.

I also saw many glance involuntarily at the images, then quickly avert their gaze, resolute in their refusal to engage. I believe that for some this was due to a deep conviction that once they looked, they could never again say, as William Wilberforce famously said, "that they did not know".

Christian Hacking, who was leading the group, said during the course of the two hours: "We've done these people a kindness by allowing them the chance to see these images."

In print, this probably comes across as sarcastic or callous. But I could hear the compassion in his voice. In reality it was a profound statement. As Christians, we are responsible for speaking truth, even into the areas that are the most uncomfortable. The public's response is their prerogative, but Abort67 are giving them a chance to change their minds.

Moral relativism

Some did engage though, and I overheard several interesting conversations where it was clear that passers-by were being challenged.

One man who worked at the Department of Health discussed his stance with Christian as he returned from his lunch break. He and his wife had made a decision, while she was pregnant, not to have any pre-natal tests after a certain point, because they believed abortion was "culturally" wrong. But whilst he felt this personal conviction, he was completely unwilling to make a moral pronouncement on abortion in general, maintaining, as so many do, that the decision is the choice of the individual. Christian pressed him to think deeper, but his female colleague was hovering, trying to get him away from the conversation.

Our law is considered extreme

Christian said to me afterwards that this kind of thinking is effectively giving others permission to take innocent lives. He seemed quite troubled by the conversation that had taken place and I wondered what it must feel like to be a regular volunteer and frequently receive this kind of response.

Something I noticed was that tourists were more likely to engage with us than locals, and not only engage, but express support for what we were doing. There were several interactions with tourists from South America, such as Chile and Brazil. In much of South America, abortion is completely or almost-completely illegal.

There were also a few conversations with tourists from parts of Europe such as Germany and Belgium, where the abortion limit is 12 weeks' gestation. They considered our law extreme -  because it is. It is extreme to abort an unborn child up to 24 weeks. It is extreme to abort a baby with a disability up to birth.

Church engagement to bring freedom

During our time outside the DofH, I had more opportunity to chat with Ruth on the issue of engaging the church – something I could tell she was especially passionate about, and which has also been weighing on my heart of late.

Churches are often quick to expose the evils of human trafficking and poverty – and I say this as a volunteer for an anti-trafficking organisation. But abortion seems to be the dirty laundry that must be kept in the dark. The reality is that as long as it stays in the dark, it cloaks those in the Church who have had abortions, and those in local communities who need the Church's support, in a blanket of shame.

True freedom does not come from tip-toeing around issues like this, afraid of the mess. Jesus wades right into our mess, and He cleans us up, if we're willing. There is always healing and restoration available – churches need to be facilitating this, one way or another.

Ruth said that she'd found that the best way to open up opportunities for discussion at church was to start in the context of friendships. Friends who felt safe around her had gradually opened up about their own abortions. I was encouraged by this. Maybe there is a way to shift the culture so that this topic will no longer be considered taboo.

Tightening the abortion debate

After we'd packed up, we debriefed over coffee, where I had opportunity to ask about their thoughts on the upcoming election, and what they are hoping to achieve.

To paraphrase what Christian said, the intention is "to heat up the debate". In doing so, the other side reacts, the two opposite positions tighten and tension rises. This 'tightening' of the debate means that it becomes easier for public opinion to be swayed.

Working together to bring change

As I had on the first day, I left the group with a lot to think about.

What struck me most, perhaps, was that this work, though effective, is a lonely task that few are willing to undertake. To really turn the tide on this issue, we need to collaborate.

The pro-life movement, like the body of Christ at large, is made up of many parts. There are other necessary components that also need to be promoted and supported – the work of people like Pauline Peachey who provide post-abortive support; or organisations that provide crisis pregnancy counselling; or groups that seek to engage with the issue on a political level. The work of Abort67 may be the least 'attractive' part; the part that will bring the most hostility and ridicule. But I felt convicted after spending time with them. As we prayed after packing down, Jessica thanked God that the work is not too great a burden, but instead a joy and privilege.

Most people are not called to stand outside holding up photos of aborted babies. But we can support those who do. If we do nothing else, we can pray.

How to pray?

If you're wondering how to pray - here are some suggestions:

Pray for the volunteers. Pray for those who walk past the images, that God would move in their hearts and minds. Pray for the areas in which Abort67 display, that God would prepare the way for their work to bear fruit.

Pray for more churches and organisations to offer counselling services for women in crisis pregnancies and for post-abortive women.

Pray for your church leaders. Pray that God would show you if and how you can be a part of the pro-life cause.

Take action

Finally, as the General Election 2017 approaches, use your voice to remind candidates that abortion is a voting issue.

Our election website makes it easy to contact your constituency candidates. Although we have provided some suggested questions, feel free to create your own.

You can also ask candidates about their views on abortion at hustings, or enter the media debate by phoning-in, submitting a letter or leaving a comment.

Related Links:
What's it like spending two days with a pro-life campaigning group? | Camilla Olim 
Introducing 'DIY abortions' | Regan King
New figures challenge pro-abortion rhetoric | Regan King 


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