The Good Council Network writes: On Wednesday night, Richmond Council's Regulatory Committee voted to recommend to the Council that a PSPO (Buffer Zone) be brought in around Richmond's BPAS abortion centre. As part of the consultation process BPAS had over 300 testimonies from women saying our presence distressed them in the space of just one month. 323 testimonies in fact.
In fact the BPAS centre is a very busy abortion centre and during the Consultation, there was clearly an effort made to ask clients entering the centre how the vigil (BPAS would say "protest") made women feel. Fair enough.
And how did the women feel? The comments they include in their report are as follows.
"Standing outside and opposite the clinic - handing out flyers and also had more posters beside them. [It made me feel] embarrassed and as if going into a clinic was almost evil - as if we were taking a life."
"[The protestors were]influencing our decision that we already had a hard time going through. [They made me feel] like we were doing something wrong, angry, every situation is different."
There are many more such testimonies, and I have left out several that accuse us of harassing and following women and telling both clients and staff that they are baby murderers and that they are going to hell. No-one at the vigil does these things, but I can't expect people to believe me in the face of overwhelming testimony to the contrary. So don't believe me. Go to a vigil, unannounced, unexpected. Don't turn up to bait people or to accept my view. Go quietly and see what the vigil does. For yourself. Any time you like.
But to get back to the comments above, I understand that women going through a traumatic moment, like abortion certainly is, would rather not have to see the mildest of placards (see picture above of what the placards at the vigil in Richmond consist of), or even have a person praying outside or offering a leaflet. Even though, as you can see from the two comments I have included behaviours such as offering a leaflet or just being present - which are neither frowned on by law, nor intended to cause any distress at all - can be difficult on such a difficult day. Yes, even though we try to be unoffensive and unobtrusive, we understand many women would rather we were not there.
So why are we there? Because despite the words of several Richmond Councillors tonight, we still see dozens and dozens and dozens of women entering Richmond who have - and are offered - no alternatives to abortion. I have spoken many times about those groups of women who cannot access services like refuges, housing, benefits, safe houses, even social services. And no amount of pretending that BPAS refer these women to such places means that they can get help from them.
You can help those mothers. See: www.goodcounselnet.co.uk/Donate.html
Devi's mum, Sara, one of seven who shared their stories with Richmond Council, said Richmond BPAS didn't speak two words to her in the clinic about alternatives to abortion. "They just filled a form and do a blood test then procedure starts." She chose life instead, because Good Counsel were there to offer an alternative when she was entering BPAS.
Seven of these very women - excluded from much of this help - gave their testimonies to Richmond Council. Those testimonies were distributed on Wednesday evening to Richmond Regulatory Committee members, at the start of the meeting, it was more than clear that they had no chance at all to read them before the vote.
Here is one of them.
I found out I was pregnant, I booked an appointment to terminate, in the clinic. And so I met Good Counsel Network by the gate and we started talking. No one said that I need to, I have to or I should, do anything. It was just an offer and I accepted it. I believe if the person from the Good Counsel Network wasn't there, a person, it wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever, I would not have felt able to keep my baby if I had just been given a leaflet - I needed to meet someone there who I could speak to about the help.
I heard someone say some people are offended by GCN?
We need to think of this in two ways, if there is offence - if you're offending me, you need to be doing something that I don't want you to, and you keep pushing me. But an offer is different. I can offer you something, and you can say 'No, I'm sorry, 'I'm fine'. Then OK, this is an offer, but causing offence is completely different. This is a very emotional time for every woman. If you go to an abortion clinic, you go there because you have no choice. You know, we all have different problems, we all have different reasons, especially if you look at me, I'm like this (pregnant) and I don't have a partner, and not having a partner is not a big problem, but a violent partner, that's a different thing! So it's nice that when you feel you have to make a choice that you don't want to make and you don't know where to turn to and get some help. -If someone, was telling me, actually there is help, there is an offer, would you like to take it? When I was ready to go into the clinic and I was crying, this is so important!
I think we need to ignore, the fact that sometimes, even when you do good things, some people might get offended for some reason, we can't make everything right for everyone. The important thing, when you put it in balance, which one is important? The unborn child's future, and mother's future, or some people, they might have some experiences, or they can get offended for no reason. I think we need to keep the balance, sometimes I think we just need to ignore when people get offended, because the important thing is the Mother and her unborn baby's future. It's more important than those people's feelings. I think it is more important.
Because I wouldn't be pregnant at the moment if Good Counsel didn't give me the leaflet and if they didn't say "Hi", because there was no other option in my mind. Without that, keeping the baby wasn't going to happen. So sometimes, just a smiley face, 'Hi, hello!' You know, shaking your hands and showing you that there are good people out there, but they genuinely care about people, and babies. It's important, babies still in the mummy's tummy, you know they have no choice, they didn't choose to be there. And at the same time they don't choose to die as well. Just give unborn babies a life, a chance. Just an offer. No one is pushing anyone, no one is offending anyone, it's just an offer. I think we all need an offer but it is up to you to accept it or reject it.
Here some people are just nicely standing by the doors just to give a leaflet, I don't use rude words, but I think what I am going to say is going to fit perfectly, do people need to kill their babies in order to make other people comfortable? It's a very big question.
I think after this meeting you have to be very careful...honestly, you cannot receive that kind of support anywhere else. So if the people from GCN can't stand by the gate, it means you put vulnerable women, mothers, human beings, in danger. Because I have been there by myself. In my experience I have even been to a woman's refuge and I have been "let go", left on the road, with no money, with nothing. So these pro-life people need to be standing there outside the abortion clinics. I have never received such support - when you go to some places, -they say - we are here for you, we are here to support you, they always start like that. But everything is just on paper or it's just what they say. Others say that they will support but you get nothing. But here with GCN it's not like you get your baby and you are on your own after that - this is very important. They are there from the beginning until you are ready to stand on your own two feet - what is wrong with that? I really believe if I had met them years ago, my life would have been different. Honestly.
This is nothing to do with "offensive", [banning] this is not right on a human level, it's not right. You want me to kill my baby so that you can feel relaxed? - I think this question finishes everything.
Short videos with some of the other mums that we have helped can be seen here: www.goodcounselnet.co.uk
Read the Good Council Network blog here: https://mariastopsabortion.blogspot.com/2019/02/richmond-mother-says-if-gcn-cant-stand.html
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