Fake news and the right to life

[Robert Colquhoun] Fake news has become fashionable to talk about since two of the best known men on the planet, Donald Trump and Pope Francis have both referred to the phenomenon. Pope Francis dedicated his message for World Communications Day to the topic.

Fake news is false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting. It is usually spread to advance ideological agendas, political and economic interests.

In my work to defend the unborn I have seen how prominent fake news is in the area of reporting on abortion in the United Kingdom.

Advocates of abortion in recent years have led a public campaign called “Back Off” to introduce ‘buffer zones’ around the country, to stop Christians praying outside of abortion centres. At the same time, a collection of negative articles have been written about pro-lifers accusing them of harassment, intimidation and provocation.

The problem with many of these newspaper articles is that they simply are not true.

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In seven years of organising prayer vigils outside of abortion centres with 40 Days for Life, I am yet to see a single substantiated case of harassment from a prayer volunteer. And yet media outlets have produced a welter of articles about so called ‘harassment’ in recent years.

A South Yorkshire Times article produced a litany of falsehoods about protestors banging on car windows and crying as women walk past them.

A Daily Telegraph story reports unsubstantiated allegations of people being called “murderers” who will “die of cancer.”

An iNews article uses terms such as, “humiliation,” “distress,” “accost,” and “murders.”

When these statements are not fact checked, falsehoods are quickly reproduced in newspapers.

On the other hand, it is rare for newspapers to report of other activities that do happen at abortion centres such as ambulances arriving to pick up injured women and patients who were not allowed to see ultrasound pictures of their child.

40 Days for Life is a locally organised community initiative encouraging Christians to pray and fast for an end to abortion, and to organise a public prayer vigil outside of an abortion centre for 12 hours a day for a 6 week period. Many of these vigils are taking place during Lent.

The prayer vigils represent a peaceful and educational presence, sending a powerful message to the community about the reality of abortion. This mission has helped to save 14,000 lives from abortion. Abortion numbers have declined 17.5% in Twickenham and 13% in Ealing from 2015-2016. Many women feel like they have no choice when they schedule an abortion, and a peaceful presence offering alternatives outside abortion centres is an opportunity that can be positive and life changing.

What is needed in the abortion debate in Britain is balanced journalism, impartiality and honest reporting. When we have news stories that accurately depict the reality of abortion provision and campaigning in Britain, the public will be more informed to understand what is really happening.

Robert Colquhoun is a member of Catholic Voices and Director of International Campaigns for 40 Days for Life.

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