March for Choice

I missed the rally at the end of the demonstration in solidarity with Palestine in order to photograph the feminist rally in Parliament square for reproductive rights and the decriminalisation of abortion.

I felt by the time I left the Palestinian march I had enough pictures, particularly because I had managed to get what I thought was a decent picture of Ahed Tamimi who was to speak at the rally. Most of the other speakers were probably people I had photographed previously at other events.

I sometimes criticise news photographers who come to an event, take a few pictures (often setting up rather static group pictures) and then leave. I aim to tell the story of the event, and usually hang on for long enough to do so, while they want to get a single picture and send it (or more often a selection of single pictures) to the agency or newsroom before anyone else. In terms of making a living I’m sure they are right; what gets published is generally not the best picture but the one that arrives first.

And protests are rather like buses; you can wait for ages when nothing happens and then several come along at once. I think the most I’ve covered in a single day is seven, though there have been times when I’ve had double figures for the same date in the diary I make of protests I know about.

Of course they can even be in quite different places, though I very seldom leave London it can still involve a lot of travelling, and often I have to select not just on time but also on location, though my priority is always on the issues which the event is about. Though my definition of newsworthiness is often at odds with that of the mainstream media editors.

Abortion isn’t something to be encouraged or taken lightly, and I don’t believe that many women do, but the right of women to make choices about their bodies is a basic and important one. While at some point the rights of the unborn child also need to be considered, that time is most certainly not at conception but perhaps when that child becomes capable of an independent existence.

The 1967 Abortion Act was a great advance in clarifying law in this country, though unfortunately not in Northern Ireland and remains in force with the normal limit on abortion having been reduced from 28 weeks to 24 in 1990. It was a great advance as before 1967 the major cause of maternal deaths – around 60 -70 per year was unsafe abortions. And many children who might otherwise have been aborted because their mothers took thalidomide were born with severe or even fatal disabilities.

Apparently now 1 in 3 women in this country will at some time have a legal termination. Abortion outside the provisions of the Act (or in Northern Ireland under almost all circumstances) is still a crime – and can carry a sentence for both women and those who carry it out of life imprisonment.

The ‘March for Choice’ was not really a march, but a rally followed by a short walk to a static protest in opposition to the anti-abortion March for Life UK, a largely Catholic event based on extreme right protests in the USA. March for Choice say it is made up of extreme anti-women, anti-choice, evangelical groups which regularly harass women outside abortion clinics, and has links to homophobic, fascist and far-right organisations. As well as abortion, it opposes contraception, sex education and IVF treatment.

More pictures from both groups:

March for Choice defends women’s rights
Anti-Abortion ‘March for Life UK’


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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