There was no sign of Ann Widdecombe in Cardiff last night as the protest against her “Passion For Life”(sic) anti-abortion roadshow exceeded all expectations (video).
Over a hundred pro-choice demonstrators packed the pavement outside the City Temple to give the anti-abortionists a reception they will not forget in a hurry.
Speeches by Katy Ladbrook of Abortion Rights, Leanne Wood AM, Mariam Kamish of the Socialist Party and Jon Blake of Permanent Revolution stressed the bogus nature of the “pro-life” arguments and the need to keep up the offensive in support of progressive reform of the UK’s antiquated abortion laws.
Meanwhile the “Passion For Life”‘s clientele, bussed in from as far afield as Cheltenham, was given a clear message from chanting protesters: “Pro-life, that’s a lie – you don’t care if women die”. With 80,000 women estimated to die each year in backstreet abortions around the world, the slogan perfectly encapsulated the rank hypocricy of religious bigots who aim to put women back in the dark ages when they were classed with the mentally ill as people incapable of making moral decisions.
The protest was militant but commendably disciplined in the face of police heavy-handedness, confrontational meeting organisers and one cowardly anti-abortionist who sent a jet of water over two babies in prams from a passing car.
The police had been all warmth and sunshine to the members of Bristol Feminist Network who had contacted them about the picket. On the night, however, they suddenly sprang a demand that the protest take place on the other side of the road. When protesters refused, police reinforcements were called in and a well-known Cardiff anarchist singled out for arrest on a trumped-up charge of assaulting a police officer. If taking a photo now constitutes assault, civil liberties is in an even worse state than we feared.
Cardiff PR have often bemoaned the sectarianism of the Cardiff left, but the solidarity shown by protesters in heading off to the central police station after the demo was heartening indeed.
A grey-faced meeting organiser, clearly rattled by the strength and passion of the demo, demanded the right to speak. However, pro-choice activists can be assured of one thing: the Permanent Revolution megaphone will never be allowed into the hands of an anti-abortionist. He was given short shrift, along with his bogus talk of free speech – strange it hadn’t occurred to this bigot that the pro-choice argument had no chance of being raised in the meeting he supported.
In an age when awareness of sexual politics has been eroded by an overwhelming sexism in popular culture, the number of young people on the demo, both male and female, was encouraging. Now, however, we need to build on this protest to create a lasting pro-choice activist group in the Cardiff area which will go on the offensive to fight for the abortion rights that women need. Cardiff PR, in association with other local activists, have set up Pro Choice Cardiff for this purpose. Dozens signed up for this at the protest – it’s also possible to join on Facebook. Let’s ensure that Widdecombe and friends truly get the reward they deserve for daring to bring their medieval roadshow to our city.
Stop Press: Pro Choice Cardiff is organising a follow-up meeting next Weds, 12 March, at Cardiff University – details to follow.
Below: a reminder of how some of the left got suckered into an alliance with a well-known anti-abortionist – never again!