An Anti-Abortion Group Is Staging A Play At This Year’s Edinburgh Fringe

today6 July 2022

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As outrage about America’s Roe Vs Wade repeal continues, Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts festival – is soon to host a play by an anti-abortion group.

The production, titled Do I?, is coming to the Fringe courtesy of Life Voice, a subsidiary group that’s part of SPUC Pro-Life, which stands for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

‘Life Voice’ is an organisation offering supposedly “educational” workshops on abortion to secondary school students, via dramatic monologues and real-life testimonies. It markets itself as “ideal for Catholic schools”.

In May, VICE World News uncovered evidence that Life Voice is “receiving tens of thousands of dollars from anonymous US-based backers”.

And in the course of her investigation, journalist Sophia Smith Galer learned that the company was also planning to send a play to the Edinburgh Fringe.

The listing for that play – scheduled to run from August 22 – 27 at the Surgeons Hall venue run by thespace – is now live. The show has been created by Life Voice in association with Parley Theatre, which describes itself as “a Christian Theatre Company based in London”.

The play’s description does not explicitly mention abortion, instead promising “a twisted and gripping dark comedy exploring coercive control and the damaging impact of an over-sexualised culture.”

“Coercion” is a word frequently used by SPUC, who claim on their website that “many abortions take place because a woman feels she has no choice”.

While a matter to be taken seriously, coercive abortion does not relate to the vast majority of abortions. Pro-choice advocates have previously raised concerns that anti-abortion groups disingenuously conflate the issues in order to push their own agenda.

It’s no coincidence this language is used in the play’s Fringe programme description, says Katherine O’Brien from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the UK’s largest provider of abortion services.

“Anti-abortion groups, like SPUC, have a long history of trying to infiltrate spaces by hiding their organisation’s true aims and beliefs,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“On the face of it, a play addressing ‘a tangled Gen-Z web of abuse and exploitation’ might sound inoffensive, if rather hackneyed, but of course we don’t know if this is a vehicle for SPUC to use to promote their anti-abortion lies to unsuspecting audiences.

“It is ironic, given that these groups so often accuse abortion providers of hiding the truth, that nowhere on the advert for this ‘production’ does it make clear that this is being staged by an anti-choice campaign group.”

Louise McCudden, advocacy and public affairs advisor at MSI Reproductive Choices, is also shocked to see the play listed in the Fringe’s programme.

“In the UK, nine out of 10 adults are pro-choice, and one in three women will have an abortion before she is 45. The anti-choice ideology from SPUC is an extreme minority position and has neither medical nor democratic legitimacy,” she says.

“These extreme groups are completely out of step with public opinion and they have no expertise on the subjects they speak about, so it’s unclear why they would be given a spot at such a prestigious festival.

“If people want to find out about abortion or any other aspect of reproductive healthcare, we encourage them to reach out to reputable organisations so they can be sure they’re getting an impartial, fact-based, rights-based perspective.”

HuffPost UK contacted the organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, asking if they were aware of SPUC’s anti-abortion stance. We also asked for a response to the concerns raised by BPAS and MSI Reproductive Choices.

In response, a spokesperson said: “The Fringe is an open access arts festival, which means artists’ work is not programmed, curated or censored by the Society.”

We also contacted Life Voice for a comment on this story and did not receive a response.

O’Brien does not believe Life Voice should be pulled from the Edinburgh Fringe programme, but she does think audiences should be warned about the nature of the organisation’s work, before they sign up for tickets.

“Life Voice peddle scientifically inaccurate, and potentially damaging, abortion myths, suggesting that ending a pregnancy can have ‘serious and life long consequences’ for women. This is simply untrue,” she says. “We hope that SPUC and Life Voice are more upfront with their potential audience about who they really are – extreme ideologues with an indifference to truth.”

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