Sunday, 25 March 2012

Spin, Lies and Videotape: 40 Days For Life

On Monday 12th March, a man with a video camera came to Bedford Square, apparently to interview the people on vigil there with 40 Days For Life. There have been reports that he turned the camera around and fimed the clinic, or that he was filming a 40 DFL person with the clinic behind her, which have morphed into reports of him filming women, "sticking his camera in women's faces" etc.
Given the nature of what is happening there, and the attention that 40 DFL is getting- especially among 'pro choicers' for whom the good behaviour of those involved poses an interesting problem - those on the vigil are under intense scrutiny for anything with which the opposition could make hay.

Filming around the square, especially if done by someone apparently simpatico to the pro life cause, was always going to be potentially incendiary.
I don't know whether the camera was only trained on those who were being interviewed, or whether it swung around to take in the Square, including the clinic itself.  I cannot believe that anyone would be so enormously crass as to purposefully "film the women going in and out", as has been alleged.  Certainly that remains an allegation with no actual factual support. But no matter, this is what has been reported in the press, for as we know, a lie can travel twice around the world before the truth has got its boots on.
Nonetheless, even the possibility of such filming is naturally terribly upsetting and invasive for any woman visiting the clinic and for that reason, best avoided altogether in my opinion.
What we have seen is the pro choice lobby quickly taking full advantage of this incident and spinning it into a narrative in which 40 Days For Life themselves were filming women going in and out for the purpose of intimidating them.
A reporter from the BBC Today programme visited the square and asked about reports that women were "encircled and shouted at", a scenario SO depressingly spurious that it was plain, to me that there was some mischievous misrepresentation of the actuality going on.
During some ensuing Twitter conversations with the concerned and the outraged ,  I have put it to them that the cameraman was not himself part of the vigil, and that he was just  filming those who were.
How much authority, I wondered, are those who attend the vigil expected to have over other people who turn up and film in the Square?
A couple of days after this incident I was in the Square and a man from Reuters was spending lots of time taking pictures with his great big conspicuous Press camera. He wouldn't give his name and told me he didn't need anyone's permission and could take pictures whether we liked it or not.
The day before this ( a day after the filming brouhaha had broke) Sunny Hundal of the blog Liberal Conspiracy, visited the Square to interview people on the vigil.
He called his post "Anti Abortion Preachers Caught On Film"
Ironically, it might have been called "The Hypocrisy and Conceit of So Called Pro Choicers Caught On Film"
Take a look at the video. Watch where the camera goes at about 1.17 minutes in:

See that? It pans right around and films the clinic entrance itself.
The very thing 40 Days for Life are accused of doing.
Or at least accused of not stopping.
So I suppose they were doubly guilty for not also stopping Sunny himself?

Sunny is mostly the one holding the camera.
But then an interesting conversation developed. This time, not about the alleged filming of women, but about the accuracy of the fetal models which were kept in a small black box..
Most of the talking is done by a woman who identifies herself as Heather Wallace. She presents herself to them as being an expert in fetal development and someone who knows what she is talking about when she critiques the accuracy of the fetal models. Models which by the way, were  positioned with those praying on the other side of the road to the clinic.
The two men who she is talking to say little, and don't take much issue with her repeated insistence that "it doesn't look like that!" as she fingers a model of an eight week fetus.
In fairness to them, they have turned up to pray, and haven't made any claims of expertise for themselves in the area of embryology.
 Likely they were also mindful of the 40 DFL statement of peace and unwilling to be drawn into an argument.

 I sensed that her lexicon was not typical of a specialist and that she was likely to be pretty much bluffing about the extent of her knowledge in this area. I guessed that she was someone with probably enough tangential experience to give her the confidence to challenge, on the assumption that the men she was talking to probably wouldn't know any better.
 Besides, I believe an 8 week embryo does pretty well "look like that".
I left a question on Sunny's blog asking where Heather got her information from and what then, she thinks the 8 week embryo does look like.
Turns out she works in medical publishing.
And she never did come back to say what she thinks the eight week embryo looks like.
So in the interests of clarity and accuracy, I thought I'd post pictures of the model in question and show you detailed colour pictures of an embryo of the same gestation.
You can judge for yourselves whether or not you think  "it doesn't look like that!"
Here are some photos of the actual model Heather objected to:

Here are some photos of actual embryos of 8 weeks gestation:

Here is a fetus at 7 weeks and 4 days:

And here is one at 9 weeks:


This is a very good quality video of an ultrasound at 9 wks 2 days.

And finally, at 10 weeks gestation, still in the intact amnion, held in a gloved hand.