Mr Atkinson, your abortion letters are an abomination
The term 'pro-life' has always bothered me, suggesting as it does that those of us who think women should have the right to abortion are somehow pro-death monsters.
This week, an 81-year-old pro-life campaigner was given a three-month suspended jail term at Norwich Crown Court after sending graphic material about abortion to the new chief executive at King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital: it's the pro-life equivalent of a 'Good Luck in Your New Job!' card.
Edward Atkinson, who lives in Hilgay, is banned from sending abortion-related material to any person, hospital, doctor, medical practice or public authority under an anti-social behaviour order imposed in 2006. It seems, however, that Atkinson isn't just anti-abortion, he's anti-ASBOs, too.
The letter he sent containing images of abortions to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital represented his third breach of the ASBO – after the last breach that attracted publicity, the hospital received 4,000 letters from pro-life Ameri-cans. I should imagine it's almost become a full-time job at the QEH dealing with the Atkinson-effect: how they must love the cuddly old rogue.
I am more than happy to support Mr Atkinson's right not to have an abortion if he finds himself pregnant and equally happy for him to believe that abortion is murder, as long as he doesn't expect me to agree with him, pay any attention to his opinions or act in a certain way because he says I should.
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In an ideal world for Atkinson – who has winningly promised: 'I am not going to stop until the scourge of abortion has been lifted from our law' – abortion would be banned and we would go back to the good old days when desperate women visited back-street butchers to be attacked with old coat hangers, dubious potions and knitting needles.
The 81-year-old was supported in court by a number of followers including Bible-twitching Victoria Gillick, she who campaigned against under-age sex – a lost battle if ever there was one – and fought against doctors being able to give contraception to those under the age of 16.
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Mrs Gillick, of the Fenland Life Supporter Group (there's an image), said she felt the case was a suppression of freedom of speech and added: 'It felt like a sick joke to see someone like Ted at his age and infirmity threatened with jail.'
Victoria, love, if cuddly old Ted is sprightly enough to skip off to the postbox to send endless envelopes of pro-life propaganda to be opened by impressionable young admin staff at hospitals, I feel confident that there's enough life in the old dog for him to be held accountable for his actions.
I never trust a single-issue fanatic, especially one whose opinion is based on a religion that I don't subscribe to, am not remotely interested in and don't expect to be governed by.
While I would fight for the right for Mr Atkinson to maintain his slightly creepy obsession with women's reproductive systems and his belief that abortion is wrong, I doubt his bleating about freedom of speech extends to everyone else being gifted the same courtesy.
Julianna Tolan, for Atkinson, said he now realised there were other ways he could put his views across and that he had simply wanted to make contact with the new chief executive because he felt aggrieved he couldn't have his hip replacement carried out at the QEH due to being banned from the premises.
Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not sure that the best way of 'making contact' with someone to prove that you're actually a hard-done-by old gent who needs a new hip involves stuffing an envelope full of distressing pictures and upsetting an innocent young woman.
The emotional artillery available to pro-lifers can inflict deep and devastating wounds on women: it's a strange mental process that brings you to the conclusion that a woman is always responsible enough to be a mother but not responsible enough to make an informed decision about her life.
Mr Atkinson has had his ASBO extended until 2017 and is now under a three-month curfew. Let's hope his local Post Office only opens at night and he hasn't got access to the internet.