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Shocking scenes in Manchester show the sorry state of free speech in Britain

I don’t know how you couldn’t not feel at least a hint of admiration for the students who left a meeting of Manchester Pro-Life Society last night, and walked calmly out of the building to vicious jeering and shouts of “shame on you” while being flanked by police officers:

The classic mob tactics, on shameful display on Thursday night, evidence the sorry state of free speech in Britain, but should alarm us all, given the relentless attacks we’re seeing on the right to free expression in Ireland too.

The pro-life students showed admirable dignity, as mobs of noisy students charged at them with placards, as ‘F**k you’ by Lily Allen was blasted through speakers until the group of around 25 made it safely away with the help of a large police escort.


Stopmanchesterprolifeaociety via

Credit: Stopmanchesterprolifeaociety (Instagram)

The Manchester Pro-Life Society was set up little more than a month ago, with the pledge of engaging students on life issues, yet has already faced tantrums from the oh-so ‘pro choice’ cry babies, who have launched a petition to dissolve the society. Pro-choicers trying to shut down debate and conversation on the issue of abortion has now become so prevalent that the petition in question is on track for 20,000 signatures in just a couple of weeks.

Another campaign against the group, ‘Stopmanchesterprolife’ is an Instagram account which posts regular updates about its plans for so-called “peaceful” demonstrations. The comments on the page are littered with expletives and  personal attacks, while student supporters robotically drone on about the supposed evil intent of “controlling pregnant bodies.”

While the Instagram campaign and the petition create the idea that banishing the pro-life society is all about generating peace and respecting rights on campus, those behind it – who like to view themselves as society’s most tolerant – have shown that they are in fact the least tolerant of all.

What unfolded on Thursday evening was a scene of frightening intolerance, and makes the phrase ‘pro-choice’ appear patently ridiculous – as these protesters are clearly anything but. 

The attempt to take away the students’ choice to host a private event, and intimidate through abuse and harassment is nothing short of despicable. But it highlights a desire to crackdown on free speech which has spread across Britain and elsewhere. It is seen nowhere more starkly than in the conversation around abortion, and with today’s students, who are all programmed to go after anyone who dissents from the prevailing groupthink.

Our universities, in Britain and in Ireland, have created a class of students who demand the right to live in a cosseted safe space where their views are never challenged, and who have absolutely zero regard for free speech on campus when it does not suit them. Being coddled and comfortable is priority. We are building safe spaces while tearing down resilience and independent thought.

Those whose views do not fit the narrative on campus are at risk of being cancelled – with students publicly highlighting their names and faces on social media in a kind of ‘no platform’ witch hunt.

It is forbidden especially for men, apparently, to talk about abortion – because students are now overgrown children who demand to be guarded against any idea or conversation that might prick their conscience or challenge their worldview.

Free and open debate, and allowing differing opinions to be heard, is an outdated concept, as we saw this week. The maniacal response to Manchester University’s pro-life society tells us that free speech is in a dangerous place – moreover, it is evidence of Britain’s non-existent abortion debate.

This is something which is quickly taking hold in Ireland too, since the right to have a societal conversation about abortion was apparently shut down the very day after we went to the polls in 2018.

There is no inkling that there might genuinely be a debate to be had about abortion, almost 60 years into a legal regime which has snuffed out a population of ten million. There were some particularly ugly and crude signs on display on Thursday, including ‘Get F****d” and “C**t” but among them of course were the usual pro-choicer slogan, “My Body My Choice,” and the tired, overused – but faithfully reproduced, ‘Girls just wanna have Fun-damental rights.”

Underneath all the slogans and jeering and shouting, there is deep-rooted anger, which I would argue is the fallout of a society where abortion is offered as a quick-fix solution but fails to keep any of the promises it makes to young women. Under all of the anger, there is no conception that there might be more to the question of abortion than the reflex slogans upon which so much of the political discourse is based.

The idea of attacking students for daring to assert that unborn children are indeed human appears all the more ludicrous in light of a tweet I saw last week from the chief of staff at British abortion provider, BPAS, Rachael Clarke.

Clarke wrote – in response to the news that parents in England who have lost a baby before 24 weeks can now apply for a certificate from the government (recognising their grief) – that such certificates should be extended to women who have had an abortion.

Cementing the seemingly outrageous pro-life idea that a child is a child at any gestation, she wrote of the baby loss certificates: “At BPAS1968 we know there are many different reasons a woman may choose to end her pregnancy. That’s why we strongly supported the extension of voluntary pregnancy loss certificates to women who have had a termination at any gestation.”

Frankly, we have an abortion movement in the UK and Ireland which knows that abortion is the destruction of a human being. But because that truth is uncomfortable, especially in the hands of the wrong people, it must be censored and hidden and quenched at all costs. 


Maria Maynes

This article was published on Gript and is printed her with permission

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