Written by Student Rights on 22 October 2012 at 4pm

Abort67 at the University of Sussex

UPDATE: Students at the University of Sussex peacefully counter-protesting against Abort67 by covering their banners.

An anti-abortion group called Abort67 caused disgust this morning when members set up an unauthorised demonstration on campus at the University of Sussex.

Notorious for its use of extremely graphic imagery, as well as for the intimidation of women outside abortion clinics, the group was moved off-campus by security before continuing its activity outside of Falmer train station, one of the main entrances to the campus.

Displaying a number of large banners featuring explicit pictures of aborted foetuses, the campaigners handed out leaflets and argued with students before leaving the campus amid angry opposition.

A PhD student and member of teaching staff at the university who spoke to Student Rights told us that after getting off the train at Falmer station she saw “a sign saying 'warning: graphic abortion images ahead'. However, there is no alternative path so the images were unavoidable. 

There was a group of about ten to fifteen anti-abortion protestors standing along the side of the path holding two very large banner posters. Both featured very close up images of bloody and gory 'aborted foetuses', in one image the 'foetus' was in the palm of someone's hand.

They were also handing out flyers and a few students were standing and arguing with them. Further along a woman was standing in the middle of the path, blocking the route, holding a placard that read 'I've had an abortion - ask me about it'.

She continued that “I was really taken aback by these images and the calm, callous way they were being displayed by the group; my first reaction was shock, I felt sick and close to tears, which I'm sure was the intention”.

In response to the protest, Kelly McBride, the President of the University Students’ Union, said "We've received comments from many students distressed and intimidated by the presence of this group...I am proud of the Students' Union's pro-choice position and deplore the actions of this group in our community".

As well as causing distress to women through its aggressive picketing, Abort67 also has a history of providing misleading information to scaremonger about the risks of abortion.

Members of the group were filmed earlier this year telling women that abortion could cause infertility, as well as claiming that there was a link between abortion and breast cancer. A campaigner also told an undercover activist that 80% of women who have abortions suffer mental health issues as a result, including suicidal tendencies.

In March 2012 it was reported that campaigners from the group had filmed a rape victim as she visited an abortion clinic in Brighton, leading her to say that “I feel intimidated by being filmed. I was raped and have post traumatic stress disorder. I felt calm coming here and now I can’t breathe and feel panicky and judged”.

A leaflet passed to Student Rights also shows vivid pictures of aborted foetuses, as well as stating that abortion is “the business of genocide” and that women should “not rely on your GP, or an abortion clinic for the truth”.

With links to anti-abortion groups in the US, Abort67’s confrontational style has led to members of the group being arrested under the Public Order Act and charged with causing “harassment alarm or distress” after they refused to take down banners outside an abortion clinic in Brighton, though they were cleared of these charges in September 2012.

Pro-Choice group Education for Choice told Student Rights that Abort67’s tactics show very little regard for the real lives of men and women who make decisions about pregnancy... Women seeking abortion have a right to evidence-based impartial support and to access a legal medical procedure without fear of intimidation or unnecessary distress”.

That a group which targets women at their most vulnerable is attempting to utilise university campuses to intimidate and mislead students is deeply concerning. Students have a right to express pro-Life views, but the detrimental impact that Abort67’s intrusive demonstrations have on students wellbeing, as well as on campus cohesion, should mean that they have no place on our campuses.