NSS “baffled” by anti-abortion protest against history talk

Posted: Thu, 2nd Nov 2023

Christian group warns it will "actively" engage attendees of NSS talk on Victorian birth control – which aimed to reduce abortion.

Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh

The National Secular Society is "baffled" after an anti-abortion group warned they would protest outside an event on Victorian-era birth control – which aimed to reduce abortion.

The UK branch of the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, a US Christian group which campaigns to "end abortion", contacted the NSS yesterday warning it would "actively" engage attendees to the event at Conway Hall in central London on Saturday.

The event will feature a talk on the history of contraception in Victorian England.

The talk will explain how NSS figureheads Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant (pictured) were put on trial in 1877 for republishing a pioneering birth control pamphlet, "Fruits of Philosophy".

The pamphlet, which provided basic contraceptive information, argued that contraception would reduce abortion and infanticide.

The Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform UK (CBR UK) says its founders and staff "are all committed Christ-followers". It adds: "Abortion is not unforgivable, and mercy graciously extends to all who turn to Christ in repentance."

A BBC investigation in 2018 found CBR UK claimed at least £29,000 in Gift Aid, despite not being a registered charity.

CBR UK uses graphic images at its protests. Its website features a photo of an aborted foetus next to Holocaust victims and compares abortion to genocide.

The group were criticised in 2019 for a campaign targeting Labour MP Stella Creasey while she was pregnant. This included putting up a poster in her constituency of her photo next to a picture of what it claimed was "a 24-week-old aborted baby".

Organiser: Targeting by anti-abortion group "bizarre"

Bob Forder, a member of the NSS council and presenter of the talk, said: "We are baffled by the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform's decision to target this event and its attendees.

"Our event is about contraception in the 19th century – which aimed to reduce abortion. It's bizarre that this group want to picket it.

"The NSS strongly supports the right to free speech. We remind CBR to also respect this right. It must not harass or obstruct members of the public who want to learn about British history, even if CBR doesn't want them to hear it."

The event, Condoms, Sponges and Syringes: The 19th century pioneers of family planning, will be held in two separate sessions: 11am and 2pm. Tickets available here.

Tags: Reproductive rights, Women