Anti-abortion activists are preparing to launch a landmark freedom of expression test case after they were arrested and held
in police cells for 15 hours for refusing to take down placards showing graphic images of an aborted foetus.
Andy Stephenson and Kathryn Sloane, both committed Christians, were detained after a peaceful protest outside a publicly-funded abortion clinic.
Stephenson and Sloane are both members of Abort 67 , an organisation which uses shocking images to try to deter women from going through with terminations. They believe the use of graphic imagery is critical in trying to shape public opinion and
to reduce the 200,000 abortions taking place in the UK every year. The images, obtained in America are, according to the group, perfectly lawful there and in most other countries across Europe.
The pair were arrested last month as they held a banner aloft outside Wistons abortion clinic in Brighton. Police were called by a member of staff concerned that patients entering the clinic felt traumatised and upset.
Officers asked Stephenson and Sloane to take down a 7ft by 5ft placard depicting an aborted eight-week-old embryo – which they duly did but only to replace it with another banner showing a 10-week-old foetus.
The pair were arrested and taken to Brighton police station where they were held until three in the morning.
The Crown Prosecution Service will decide next month whether to press charges against the pair for causing harassment, alarm or distress under the much abused catch-all Public Order Act.
Ann Furedi, the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service which runs the Wistons clinic, said she fully supported the right of pro-life activists to demonstrate against abortion clinics .. BUT... Furedi added: There is a distinction
between freedom of expression and actions that are designed to distress people who are accessing legal, medical services.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting the case, said: This is a test case for their democratic right to reveal what abortion really is like. In the 21st century it is not appropriate to silence and to censor those
who speak out against abortion, even if the manner in which they do so is not how many would choose.