The right to protest–against abortion

D.J. Webb

I have outlined in many blogs a unique perspective on libertarianism—and one not universally shared—although I believe my argument has been welcomed as a springboard for debate. I have made clear that actually I am a social conservative, and libertarianism is, for me, not contradictory to the traditions of England in the pre-war period. Then, social conservatism and freedom from too much state intervention were both the norm. I argue that conservative traditions are the very reason why the state was kept out: strong families do not require state intervention.

I do not believe in equality between the sexes (let’s avoid the excruciatingly poor English that uses the word “gender” to mean something other than a grammatical category of noun). Men and women are different—and I regard libertine behaviour by men as normal, but libertine behaviour by women as corrosive of civilisation itself. The family is the bedrock of society, and I see women who support the preservation of the family and attempt to keep their menfolk as playing an important role in keeping society together (and warding off the emerging reality that our individual lives are all subject to state intervention). I believe that decent women will overlook the peccadilloes of their husbands, and, as long as their husbands go back to them each night, will not pry into their natural philandering ways.

Consequently, as I see family values as the foundation of libertarianism—we are not individuals vs. the state, but families vs. the state, as individuation of society leads to state power—I cannot support abortion on demand. I might, in very restricted circumstances, allow it, but not the many millions of terminations that routinely take place today. I don’t expect many libertarians to agree with me. But the situation today is entirely different to that that obtained in the 1950s: no-one gets pregnant accidentally. With contraceptive pills, morning-after pills, and even the so-called abortion pill (RU486), I don’t see why abortion is needed. In a free society, people still have duties as well as rights, and having gone to considerable trouble to get pregnant—and getting pregnant is not easy—there are duties and consequences that flow therefrom.

However, where I do expect libertarians to agree with me is on the right to protest against abortion. The Spiked Online group of journalists appear libertarian in many of their instincts. I remember attending talks by many of these people back in their Marxist days in the early 1990s. Yet Ann Furedi, former Marxist, writer for Spiked Online, and head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, now opposes the right of opponents of abortion to protest outside clinics! She references J S Mill in her opposition to such protests.

Her recent article argues that “bubble zones” should be created outside abortion clinics within which demonstrations should be illegal—presumably she wants state power to enforce this. While she admits the number of protesters is vanishingly small, the small number of protests that take place should lead to arrests, according to her.

Ann Furedi is trying to have things both ways. She says:

Another unfortunate and predictable consequence is that many in the media have been prone to present the women bpas is defending as ‘victims’—firstly for needing abortion, secondly for facing bullying and harassment at the clinic’s entrance. This is just the image of women that bpas has fought hard to counter. In truth, most bpas clients are ordinary women in need of straightforward, simple clinical treatment in a place where their privacy and confidentiality is respected and they are answerable only to those who provide their care.

In other words, she has long claimed that abortion is a straightforward medical procedure, akin to sorting out an ingrown toenail, and that the women involved are not “victims” and should not be subject to the type of counselling that assumes there is a moral problem with a decision to have an abortion. In other words, abortion is a normal decision made by a grown-up woman who doesn’t need her hand held. She goes on:

When women say they are reduced to tears and feel unable to cope with the challenges made to them by protesters, when they say they feel vulnerable and distressed, this is not an expression of their weakness as women, nor is it evidence of the alleged awfulness of making abortion decisions. No, even the strongest among us can feel brittle and scared when we are about to undergo a medical procedure – even one that is not as emotionally loaded as abortion.

Clearly she is also arguing that such women are too vulnerable to be able to give short shrift to protesters outside abortion clinics. I would argue that, reading between the lines, she does look down on the women attending abortion clinics, and views them as fragile victims who should never be confronted with the fact that other people regard abortion as evil.

I could imagine a libertarian perspective—not mine—that said that abortion should be legal on demand, but that demonstrations immediately outside the clinic must be accepted, and the women should be prepared to run the gauntlet of protest if they wish to kill the foetuses inside them. I would also argue that Ann Furedi and other employees of BPAS should be arrested (and imprisoned) for wasting police time if they ever call for police assistance in an unwarranted fashion: there is a law against harassment, but the bar for a harassment suit is necessarily high in a free society, and the police should not be summoned to prevent a woman from facing protest alone.

Ann Furedi says:

Women attending an abortion clinic should not have to face anyone whose intention is to interfere with them or engage with them. They should not need to face people on the street asking about their circumstances or decisions. They should especially not need to face individuals with banners, placards and cameras, determined to ‘counsel’ them about what an abortion involves. A clinic entrance is not a debating forum or a street theatre. Bpas clients are not seeking a political discussion about abortion with anyone; they are seeking advice or treatment from a provider that they have chosen, and they should be able to access that service without people arguing that their decision is wrong or right.

Women having an abortion should not have to face anyone seeking to engage with them? Time to get out the cotton wool, girls!

All this is based on a distinction between “the right to freedom of speech” and “the right to freedom of protest”. Ann Furedi argues:

Traditionally, within the classical liberal tradition of John Stuart Mill, the right to protest was understood to be ‘contingent’, and as such is different to freedom of speech, which is ‘absolute’….

Freedom of speech, as properly understood (that is, the freedom to state one’s views for the purpose of being understood), cannot curtail the freedom of others because it impinges on no one but the speaker. It is sometimes described as ‘self-regarding’, in that its purpose is self-expression. For Mill, the premise for freedom of speech was ‘affirmation and respect for the individual’s moral agency and autonomy’. In short, to take away someone’s ability to express their thoughts through speech was to deny them a means to express their internal contemplation—their inner life….

Freedom to protest is different. It can impede others’ rights and freedoms; indeed, that may be its very intention—and when it does, the question of whose freedom triumphs rests in the balance of a number of factors. The law may limit the right to protest by curbing access to certain areas; or brute force may impose limits, as was the case in clashes between fascists and anti-fascists in the 1930s, or between loyalists and republicans in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s—or, indeed, in a milder way by local residents outside the bpas clinic in Southwark in London recently.

Clearly, the right to free speech, which includes private speech, is absolute. To be arrested for private comments would be monstrous in a free society. The right to freedom of protest is, as she points out, subjects to considerations of appropriate venue and timing. An anti-abortion protest that insisted on blocking the M25 every Friday would be tiresome—as it would go well beyond the form of protest required to make a political point and would disrupt other people’s legitimate activities.

The reason why this consideration does not apply to an abortion clinic is that there is a debate over where abortion is a legitimate activity. Protesters outside BPAS centres are not seeking to make political points—but, rather, to persuade the women not to kill their foetuses. It is a last chance to appeal to the girls to do the right thing. I think the legalisation of abortion in 1967—a legalisation the terms of which are commonly ignored by doctors who hand out abortion on demand (which is not legal)—did not envisage a situation where abortion was to be regarded as a normal medical procedure. It was legalised as a bad last resort—and nothing should be done (including the criminalisation of protest outside abortion clinics) to imply to the girls that nothing abnormal is going on inside the clinics.

Ann Furedi’s clinics offer destruction of life: while I don’t wish to attend protests myself, I do admire those who feel strongly enough to do so. If they persuade even one girl to turn back, then their work is worthwhile.

The abortion issue is, for me, one of the key problems with Spiked. On many questions, their views have evolved since the winding up of the Revolutionary Communist Party (of which Ann Furedi was a member) in 1994. Yet on this issue (and on immigration), we see unreconstructed propaganda from the 1970s—possibly because Ann Furedi makes money from abortion. It would make more sense in the context of the evolving views of Spiked to tell the girls to take charge of their own fertility—by using contraceptives and morning after pills—and to accept the consequences of their own actions otherwise. These “girls” are meant to be adult women, but as long as there are never any consequences to their chosen forms of behaviour, they will remain infantilised, adult-sized girls, which calls into question the whole of the feminist agenda.


  1. The deity the West worships now is sexual liberation and the right to have extramarital sex while compelling the taxpayer to bail out the stupid slut from the consequences of her promiscuity: the consequence of being left with a baby she is not fit to be the mother of. Protesting against abortion offends against this because if the stupid slut does not have her abortion she will be left holding the illegitimate offspring, which means facing the unwelcome consequences of her promiscuity.

    The other deity the West worships is feminism, and worshipping feminism means always protecting women from the consequences of their own stupidity, immorality and promiscuity.

    We now live in a totalitarian matriarchal society in which free speech and all the traditional liberties the West was associated with is being salami-sliced away. In the matriarchal West, all men are lower than these sluts, and libertarian men are basically too feminised now to really fight against it.

    You know Western men are now hopelessly feminised when they behave like risk-averse women like that moral coward Nigel Farage who, while claiming that UKIP is libertarian, has already announced that it will not be proposing to repeal either the Equality Act 2010 or abolish no fault divorce – the twin pillars of feminazism.

    If UKIP won’t say they will do it, will the BNP? No, because they too are terrified of alienating the female vote.

    We know who is in power by whom we cannot criticise, and we cannot criticise the slut or propose the narrowing of the franchise to taxpayers only.

    As you must already know, most British women are sluts, and a slut is a woman who has sex with men not her husband. It is already the case that most British mothers are Slut Single Mothers in Paedo Bastard Britain Slutland.

    If people deserve the government they get, what does a nation of sluts, bastards, paedos and effeminate men too risk-averse to stand up for their principles or too ignorant to what a principle is, deserve? Not good government, for sure.

  2. Well, it’s an awkward argument to have – but I see promiscuity as natural to men, but not to women. Promiscuity is not unmanly, but it is unladylike. It was always well understood in traditional England that as long as the women remained wedded to the family, the fabric of society remained intact. In fact, the male contraceptive pill is desperately needed to close down the whole generation of women who seek to entrap men and then sponge off them and the state for life.

    • There is much wrong with this. Being “natural” to men does not make it right or desirable (and I would argue, as a subpoint, that it is perfectly natural for women too). For a man to be unfaithful, there needs to be, correspondingly, a woman not wedded to family or sexual exclusivity for him to take as a mistress or casual fling. If it is the norm for most people to get married and for most men in these married couplings to stray, there have to be a lot of cheating wives and single women. Demographically, this becomes a mess.

      This issue ties in with the function of marriage itself: to restrain both male promiscuity and female hypergamy by formalising and announcing sexual exclusivity through matrimony, which (theoretically) assures paternity. Beta males also have a chance, through marriage, at sexual access to women they might not have been able to sniff at in a world of complete sexual freedom and non-monogamy. Even polygyny, which is not traditionally associated with liberal societies, is dangerous for men, while benefitting women. Marriage and fidelity are best buttressed by religiosity, since the idea of adultery as a sin originates in religion (indeed, some Christian denominations interpret regard adultery as so awful as to be the only grounds for divorce), and the threat of burning in Hell for eternity is perhaps a good disincentive, irrespective of its truthfulness. Marriage is civilising because, in its intention to last a lifetime and exclude all others from the union, lifts man out of his animalistic, sex-hungry nature.

      If by “manly” you mean that promiscuous men are doing what feels natural to males, you are right, but being a man, socially and ethnocentrically-speaking, goes beyond having a penis and rutting like an animal; it is about responsibility, duty, virtue, bravery, and self-control. It comes as no surprise to me to read that the findings of evolutionary psychological research on promiscuity show that low-IQ men are more disposed to cheat than high-IQ men, as monogamy is evolutionarily novel for men (but not for women); intelligent people are more likely to adapt to these new, evolved practices.

      Marriage should be encouraged and divorce discouraged; we can only do this by stopping the subsidy of moral breakdown through the welfare state, and punishing fault in divorce as one would breach of a contract.

      • To challenge totalitarian feminazi hegemony, the repeal of the Equality Act 2010 and the abolition of no fault divorce should be proposed by a non-establishment political party. This is not going to be what that moral coward Nigel Farage will be doing when UKIP launches its 2015 General Election manifesto, sadly.

        All leaders of all political parties in the West are terrified of alienating the female vote and being the moral cowards they are, they will continue sweeping the problem under the carpet until feminazi hegemony is complete.

    • Irrespective of what we think is natural to men and women, the point is that both men and women cheat and that it takes two to tango. What I am proposing is that we propose to change the rules so that anyone caught cheating is punished by law rather than continue to discuss the red herring of whether it is more natural for men to cheat than women or vice versa.

      Of course, when the law says that men and women shall be punished equally if convicted of extramarital sex, we would also know that men are in practice more likely to escape punishment than women who are invariably the ones left holding the baby.

      The prospect of punishment will see to it that women make more rational reproductive and partner selection decisions and the problem of national degeneracy will be thereby solved if the excellently effective practice of administering 100 lashes which the Koran prescribes is meted out to anyone convicted of extramarital sex.

      A rational libertarian would not blindly insist that sexual relations between consenting adults is not the business of the state. On the contrary, he would be addressing his mind to what would constitute a minimum state that would allow human flourishing.

      My view – as an atheist agnostic – is that it is only through a theocracy that could successfully give us a minimum state that would not be a return to the law of the jungle.

      • A rational libertarian would not blindly insist that sexual relations between consenting adults is not the business of the state.

        Criminalising consensual behaviour is contrary to libertarianism. The discouragement of premarital sex would, in a libertarian society, be left to social stigmatisation.

        Remember, though, that there would be no welfare state, which would have the effect, I believe, of increased rates of marriage and more self-responsibility, out of necessity if nothing else.

  3. Slut-shaming and criminalising extramarital sex through inflicting the corporal punishment of 100 lashes as the Koran prescribes would be the best way to retrieve the situation.

    The fact remains that both men and women cheat, but it is easier for women to be caught holding the baby, so to speak.

    If you want to deal with the problem of extramarital sex, you would have to deal with it at source, ie through the supplier. If sex were a drug, men would be the users and the women the dealers.

    Sexual morality is inextricably linked to general standards of morality and standards of morality linked to social cohesion in a society.

    The male contraceptive pill will doubtless have unintended long term side effects that will have a bearing on the genetic quality of any offspring they produce when they come off it, and already the Westerners are getting stupider and stupider.

    Are we becoming more STUPID? IQ scores are decreasing

    Humpback whales cleverer than promiscuous human females living in a welfare state

    Most British mothers are Slut Single Mothers

    By 1996, 70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy-two percent of juvenile murderers and 60 percent of rapists come from single-mother homes. Seventy percent of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers. Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced. A 1990 study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that after controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rates disappeared.

    • Khavian, I think you’ve misunderstood my point of view. I’m not arguing that extra-marital sex should be **illegal** and subject to **corporal punishment** by the state – I think you’ve wandered off the libertarian turf there.

      I’ve consistently argued that the break-up of the family has not been natural social change, but entirely dependent on state funding. And that, even though women are entitled, as any free people are, to pursue lifestyles other people disapprove of, that does not mean we should approve of their lifestyles or refrain from subjecting them to social pressure to behave with decorum.

      People who can afford to behave in non-traditional ways and don’t require state funding to do so, and who are willing to run the gauntlet of social opposition, should be free to do so. But that doesn’t change the fact that most such behaviour is dependent on state policy, and without those state policies, most of those people would behave differently.

      The same can be said for homosexuality and numerous similar themes: nothing should be done by the state to facilitate novel lifestyles or close down opposition to them, but people should be free to behave as they wish in their bedrooms.

      Beyond a certain point, if public decorum is not maintained, we slide into Derek Jarman’s Jubilee, and then most people would end up preferring state intervention to deal with the consequences.

      In any case, this article was about THE RIGHT TO PROTEST OUTSIDE ABORTION CLINICS, which ought to be a specific point libertarians can agree on, even if they don’t agree on abortion itself.

    • khavianlogic….we have met before on other fora, haven’t we. (I know who you are.)

      The British People in particular, and Western civilisations in general, are “becoming more stupid” and this is very sad and irritating and to be deplored – I presume you’ll agree with this, my first premise.

      And furthermore, for my second premise, this is not because of any conspiracy-theory stuff about drugs, “things in the water”, contraceptive chemicals etc, but because of strategically-directed Big-State-Policies, causing “education” to be:-
      (a) as far as politically-possible or achievable without people really noticing, State-Managed: and the Curriculum to be fully Directed,
      (b) put, as far as can be got away with, in the very responsible hands of certified Marxist-Leninist-Frankfurt-School graduates who have been “passed fit to teach” through having been through the (approved) “system”, and have then got the right bits of paper.

  4. First full disclosure – I am a opposed to abortion, the killing of unborn children who have committed no crime. If the removal of the child from the body of the mother did NOT result in the death of the child I might have a very different opinion. Not an idle point – as the advance of technology may eventually enable the removal of the child without the killing of the child.

    However, I hope I would fully support the right of people to protest in favour of abortion -just as I support the right of people to protest against abortion.

    An abortion clinic does have a right (as everyone does) to prevent “protests” on its private property – but not in the public street.

    However, no protest should involve obstruction – which is why (for example) the “protests” in New York and other American cities (based on LIES about “racism” in the police forces of various American towns and cities) are bad, as they do involve obstruction – for example of ambulances trying to use bridges.

    If someone really can not stand the sight of placards outside an abortion clinic and cries of “please do not murder your child”, perhaps they should reconsider what they are doing;.

    After all if someone can not bear the sight of an aborted child (on a placard) or the sound of someone talking about abortion (without using the special language – “special handling” rather than “killing” or “murdering”) they really do not want to do what they are doing – not if they have to hide the reality from themselves.

    As for pre World War II British attitudes…….

    Most British people in the 1930s were anti socialist and believed in a basic “safety net” for people who had hit extreme hard times (often by no fault of their own – due to world depression), only after the World War II did the “socialists of all parties” (Hayek’s words) convince most people that “universal provision” by the state was the right way to go.

    The pro liberty tradition was dying amongst the elite – for example P.E. Moore (the tutor of T.S. Eliot) was shocked by the ideological statism of Oxford and Cambridge – with (at that time – the 1930s) less dissent than in the United States. Although I would say that P.E. Moore was unfair in not considering some academic thinkers of the time – M.J. Oakeshott, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Harold Prichard, Sir William David Ross…..

    However, among ordinary people the old traditions of freedom (of civil society) still existed in the 1930s.

    For example I would point to Alfred Roberts (the father of Mrs Thatcher).

    The pro liberty politics of Mr Roberts was in accord with his philosophy (and theology) – he believed in everyday liberty (opposed slavery and “totalitarianism” – yes he used the word) – because he believed in universal moral human freedom philosophically (as John Wesley had) – with everyone in the world being capable of knowing the difference between good and evil and choosing good against evil (moral responsibility). [Actually the philosophy and politics of Alfred Roberts was far more in accord than the philosophy and politics of F.A. Hayek – but to examine the contradictions between the philosophy and the politics of this continental thinker would require a comment of its own].

    This led Alderman Roberts to reject German moral relativism and racialism (pushed to an extreme point by the National Socialists) as well as reject the socialism of the Marxists.

    The British were universalists in the 1930s – they believed in basic standards of decent behaviour (natural justice) for human beings in general (not just in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) – even British Imperialist thought (Kipling and Lugard and ….) reflected this to some extent – although there were some nasty developments in terms of “Marketing Boards” and so on in the African colonies.

    As Edmund Burke put it as long ago as the 1700s – because people do not have “your lilies and roses in their faces” (he was writing to a young lady – who questioned whether Indians were worth the time of Mr Burke) does not mean that they are not made in the image of God – and deserve to be treated by the same principles of natural justice.

    “What do they know of England who only England know?” – and even for the utterly self obsessed, the outside world should still not be ignored, and not just because Britain is a small island that depends on world trade.

    From the time of the first Elizabeth (indeed before) it was understood that the north east coast of Europe (and all the resources of continental Europe) must NOT be under the control of a single power – be that power Philip II of Spain, Louis XIV of France, Napoleon, the Keiser or whoever.

    British (English) liberty depends on the liberty of others – both in moral terms, and in practical terms.

    This Alfred Roberts understood – even though he understood that there would be a terrible cost.

    When the young Margaret wanted to study for the Indian Civil Service her father sadly advised her not to – as the cost of the coming war (the, in his opinion, unavoidable war) would bankrupt the Empire.

  5. As for other cultures – Napier had an answer to those Indians who said it was their “custom” to burn widows when their husbands died.

    “We too have a custom – when someone burns a woman we hang them, if you follow your custom we will follow our custom”.

    I suspect his answer would be the same in relation to the evil of female infanticide in India today. Both by selective abortion – and by post birth killing.

  6. “I regard libertine behaviour by men as normal, but libertine behaviour by women as corrosive of civilisation itself.”

    Disregarding libertine homosexual behaviours, and defining “libertine behaviour” as departure from monogamy, your way of looking at things reduces to becoming rather like looking at common salt, and pontificating that the sodium in salt is perfectly understandable, whilst the chlorine in salt ought not to be there. The numbers of NA+ and Cl- ions in salt are bound to be equal.

    To anticipate a possible refutation, based on the simplicity of this first metaphor, let us extend the metaphor, still remaining in the field of chemistry. In (for example) water, there are admittedly twice as many protons as there are in oxygen nuclei. On the other hand, the salt of a metal in its third oxidation state with a halogen, there are three times as many halogen nuclei as there are metal nuclei. Does that refute my counter-argument? Not all all. The true measure of the chemical hanky panky going on is the electron exchange – the donation and reception of electrons, or the sharing of electrons in the case of co-valency. And that is *always* equal, in any redox reaction, regardless of the reagents involved.

    To switch to a different metaphor, in case you are struggling, It takes two to tango, one of each sex. So even if the tango dance class has more men than women that week, or more women than men, the men and women present will, collectively, always end up doing exactly the same amount of tangoing between them. (Although, in God’s benign providence, in human populations, there are often naturally roughly equal numbers of men and women.)

    The way I look at the same issue that you have looked at by introducing a double standard, is somewhat different, as follows.

    The interests of the child require him or her to enjoy the benefits of an upbringing delivered both parents, where possible. But the difference between faith and knowledge (in the oft-quoted and jocular sermon illustration), is that a mother knows that her children are hers, whilst a man has to exercise faith that his apparent children really are his. Marriage and patriarchy therefore evolved socially, in order to compensate men for this natural disadvantage, in order to incentivise men (and, indeed, women alike) to engage in mating behaviours that children need their parents to have engaged in to have created the children in the first place. That is, if they are to enjoy their UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child Principle 6 right to be brought up by both their parents, where possible.

    Sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. The electron exchange or sharing, or the tangoing, are what can be potentially “corrosive of civilisation itself”, not the parties who tango (or the elements that react). Men’s and women’s co-operation are equally needed, in libertine behaviour as in monogamy, and average men and women, have always, necessarily, contributed equally to the tranquil social stability or the mayhem equally. To say that libertine behaviour on the part of one sex is normal, whilst it is the libertine behaviour of the other sex that is doing all the social damage (without which the libertine behaviour of the first sex would become impossible), can be refuted by the simple arithmetic of the matter, without any discussion of equality or equivalence of gender roles.

    To witness a recent violent assault on MY own ordinary “gender role”, may I please invite you to watch this short You Tube video?

    • Great post, John. You have more intelligently articulated what I was getting at in my reply above.

Leave a Reply