"They are not the ones facing a life changing choice”: public attitudes to anti-reproductive choice (“pro-life”) protests

Brian Jay Frederick, Louise Livesey, Kerry Rees, Pauline Dooley, Joanna Kesy

Research output: Working paper


For respondents to this study attitudes to restricting Pro-Life protests was not, in general, one of limiting freedom to protest but rather of enforcing appropriate responsibility in selecting sites for protest for this issue. Buffer zones were supported by 84% of respondents including 60.9% of those who favoured no restrictions on the freedom to protest. Pro-life protests are viewed significantly more negatively compared to other protests by the general public. In both the case of photographic prompt questions to the general public and reflection on actual protests seen, there was a similarity in the issues raised around Pro-Life protest activities which included the Attributes and Nature of Materials Used (particularly inaccurate and/or graphic materials); the emotional response it engendered; the impact on others including service users, staff (through attempts to disrupt legitimate activity) and passers-by and the imposition of moral or religious conduct/discourse into public spaces. Concerns were raised about the amount of disruption that Pro-Life protests caused by “pavement counselling” (i.e. handing out leaflets, attempts to engage in conversation etc) (Jackson & Valentine 2017) and filming of both building/site users and of those who object to their presence/ tactics/message. Intimidation, distress, judgementalism and anger were the most cited emotional responses to seeing Pro-Life protests. There were no positive emotional descriptions of seeing Pro-Life protests (such as “it made me happy to see this”) even from those who stated they held a Pro-Life position. Much of the concern about the wording of visible materials related to the stigmatisation of a legal healthcare choice. As such the purpose of such material seems to be less to debate the issues than to shame both service users and passers-by who may fit into this category. There appears to be no clear requirement for Pro-Life protests to be able to protest directly outside of reproductive choice providers other than the attempt to disrupt both individual’s healthcare choices and the legitimate activities of such providers and anyone else who is co-located with them.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

Publication series

NameSocial Science Research Network
ISSN (Print)1556-5068


  • Protest
  • Abortion
  • Buffer Zones
  • Policing
  • Reproductive Rights


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