Thursday, 16 June 2011

Holding the press accountable: Please complain!

I have just submitted my first ever complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

For background read here.

A recent article appeared in the Guardian newspaper, written by Clare Murphy who is head of public policy for BPAS. In her article she claims 'protesters waved their banners of dismembered foetuses at women as they entered our British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic in London.'
40 Days for Life held a recent prayer vigil over 40 days outside BPAS Bedford Sq. It was peaceful and prayerful. We informed the police, and they informed BPAS. The vigil was a great success, and at least 7 women rejected aborting their child. These are the ones we know about but there could be others.
We would like to categorically state that 40 Days for Life and those who have joined our prayer vigil have never used images of aborted foetuses and waved them in the faces of women going into BPAS. A particular feature of 40 Days for Life is precisely that we do not use any graphic images of abortion. We would also like to add that we held a peaceful prayer vigil, not a protest. 
We do have a set of 9 artistic images showing the development of the child in the womb. These images were on display during the vigil. You can see the images for yourself here. They are excellent and very well made, with useful information about child development at various stages during pregnancy. We highly recommend them and encourage individuals and groups to invest in a set. We found that passers-by, mothers, and couples going into BPAS were intrigued by such an educational and touching display. Along with these poster images, we also think that child development model sets are very useful for educational purposes in a variety of contexts. An example is 'How you Began' which can be viewed here. We will be investing in a child development model set for our next vigil.
We would very much like Clare Murphy to inform us whether: she has been badly misinformed on this matter, or has problems with her eyesight, or has simply written lies against 40 Days for Life and discredited the peaceful, prayerful and compassionate nature of what we do and the good intentions of those who have participated. We also expect Clare Murphy and the Guardian to withdraw the section saying we used images of aborted foetuses. It is utterly unacceptbale to write and print something so patently false.
We encourage our supporters to make a complaint to BPAS, the Guardian Comment is Free editors, and the Press Complaints Commission.

I have just emailed ALL the editors on the Comment is Free section, and submitted a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.
Please do likewise! Lets let them know that we will hold them accountable for inaccurate and unfair reporting.

Here is the letter I submitted to the editors. It  is very short. and I really don't have time to put together anything punchier because it's late and I need to get off the computer, but I couldn't let this pass.

I have just read this article by Clare Murphy in the Guardian online "Comment is free" section.
I cannot let such a grossly innacurate article go uncorrected.
Clare Murphy starts her article by saying:

"There is a moral divide between freedom of speech and deliberately intimidating women at a difficult time – as we found when protesters waved their banners of dismembered foetuses at women as they entered our British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic in London last month."
She is referring to a peaceful prayer vigil organised by a group called "40 Days For Life", which is in no way a protest.
One of the principle features of this group is that they NEVER have any gruesome pictures such as the one Clare Murphy describes.
She must know that this is a flat out untruth and is playing to the stereotypical, and rather repugnant images that many people have of anti abortion protests.
This  very serious distortion of the truth has prompted me to submit my first ever complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

Yours sincerely (etc).


  1. There are other organisations who use graphic images. I find myself torn between two arguments here; I can see valid points on both sides.
    One question which keeps returning to my mind is: "What would Christ do if He stood outside an abortion clinic today?"
    I rather think it might be something a little violent.

  2. Richard
    I'm a bit torn on this too.
    I do think there is a place for graphic images.
    Nonetheless, I'm very happy that groups like 40 days For Life have adopted a less confrontational approach, not least because it means that I can bring my children with me to vigils.
    One concern I have about showing graphic images is my childrens innocence being offended.
    Another is the fact that these are real human beings whose dismembered bodies are being displayed and I'm not sure that it is honouring their human dignity to display their little corpses like that.
    All that said, I am very glad that groups like Abort67 ( which I link to in the sidebar) are adopting this approach.
    They erect warning signs either side of their display and I'm sure that their campaign has been very effective in confronting people with the truth of what abortion is.
    But as I always have my younger children with me, I couldn't go along myself. I think they have a lot of guts.
    Thank God for Andy Stephenson and his team.

    The point about this article is that the writer was misleading the public, and I think this was quite deliberate.
    Pro aborts need to maintain the fiction that pro lifers are crazed, spittle flecked, gun toting loons, and reporting the vigil accurately undermines their handy stereotype..

  3. Yes, of course, good point Clare.

  4. Good for you!
    I suppose that article demonstrates why one should be cautious about the methods of protesting used. it's so easy for people with non mainstream views to be considered extremists whose opinions are therefore not valid. What I really like about your 40 days for Life is that it is action rather than statement making. You have stopped abortions with your gentle approach, that is really powerful.