In the U.K., Aborting a Baby is Legal, but Depicting it is a Crime

Steven Mosher
PRI Weekly Briefing
30 May 2006
Vol. 8 / No. 20
Reproduced with Permission

Our cousins in Great Britain, from whom we inherited a language, a political culture and, most specifically, the principle of freedom of speech, are going off the deep end, to judge from the jailing of Edward Atkinson.

Here's the background. Last year, the U.K. was rocked by a high-profile abortion case. This was because the demise of "Baby A," as she became known, was photographed and videotaped. This evidence of her brutal end was widely distributed in the U.K.

The abortion took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, not far from where Mr. Atkinson lives. This veteran pro-life campaigner decided to educate the Hospital's chief executive, Ruth May, in the horrors of such events. He sent copies of the photographs and other literature to Ms. May.

Upon receiving the pictures, Ruth May complained to the authorities. The Director of Public Prosecutions, as district attorneys are known in the U.K., promptly ordered his arrest on the charge of "sending offensive materials through the mails." The policy then dragged the 75-year-old Catholic, who is nearly crippled with arthritis, from his home and held him in prison until his court date.

In court, the hospital staff recounted how the photographs had upset their delicate sensibilities. Ruth May's secretary, Christine Rogers, said she was "upset" when she opened the letter from Atkinson containing a picture of Baby A. The hospital's "Complaints and litigation manager," Karl Perryman, said that as a father of two daughters he had been quite disturbed" by the images he had been shown. Ms. May herself opined that "It is upsetting for everyone." She went on to say that "I believe people who work for the National Health Service, and particularly at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, are passionate about providing excellent care for their patients."

All except for those they abort, of course. In that case their "passion" is reserved for those who have the courage to remind them of what they are doing to tiny babies. Such pricks to their (perhaps guilty) consciences make them "upset" and "disturbed."

Atkinson himself said that he had sent the images "to educate," adding "I accept that the documentation was highly distressing. It's horrendous, monstrous and sickening … but it represents the truth of what is going on in our world. Everyone in this courtroom knows that abortion is murder and no one has the guts to say it."

On the basis of the hospital staff's testimony, Mr. Atkinson was convicted and ordered to serve a month in jail. In sentencing Mr. Atkinson, District Judge Phillip Brown said "It is clear that you intended to shock and I am certain that your purpose was to cause distress and anxiety."

Somebody ought to tell the BBC, which specializes in broadcasting shocking footage from Iraq intended to cause distress and anxiety among the British public over the British troop deployments there, that these are now punishable offenses in once jolly olde England.

Mr. Atkinson was also fined 500 English pounds in court costs to be deducted directly from his pension and given a five-year anti-social behaviour order. Judge Brown warned that disobeying the order would result in five years in jail. In that case, the stalwart Mr. Atkinson replied, "you may as well lock me up and throw away the key."

He has been punished in other ways as well. The Norfolk hospital boss, Ms. May, struck him off the waiting list for a hip replacement, and now formally denies him all medical treatment save for life-threatening illnesses.

All this for having exercised his right to freedom of speech on behalf of the voiceless unborn.

I have some advice for our English cousins, at least those of the pro-life variety: someone ought to organize a postcard campaign directed at the offended hospital staff -- whose hospital apparently continues to authorize abortions, by the way. Let them complain to the police about the thousands, if not tens of thousands of postcards that they are receiving.

Ms. Ruth May
Chief Executive
Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Gayton Road, Kings Lynn
Norfolk, England
PE30 4ET

Now is the time to stand with Mr. Atkinson. They can't arrest you all.