Theatre company drops anti-abortion group support after 'abortion lies' concerns in new Edinburgh Fringe play

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A charity feared potential misinformation on abortion being spouted to an “unsuspecting audience” at the infamous Scottish arts festival.

Organisers of the play have now confirmed the play is not about abortion and have dropped the support of and association with an anti-abortion group.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival – which sees talents and audiences from across the world flock to the Scottish Capital – will begin early August.

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The play in question, called ‘Do I?’, was previously being brought forward by Parley Theatre, a Christian theatre company based in London, and Life Voice, an “educational” theatre group set up by the anti-abortion group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

Abortion care charity, BPAS fears 'anti-abortion lies' will be spread in a new play from an anti-abortion society, SPUC, being presented at the Edinburgh Fringe.Abortion care charity, BPAS fears 'anti-abortion lies' will be spread in a new play from an anti-abortion society, SPUC, being presented at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Abortion care charity, BPAS fears 'anti-abortion lies' will be spread in a new play from an anti-abortion society, SPUC, being presented at the Edinburgh Fringe.

However, due to “negative interest”, Parley Theatre took the decision to drop their “public endorsement” from Life Voice and are now continuing without the backing from the group.

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

The word “coercion” is frequently used by SPUC, who previously told The Scotsman, “many abortions take place because a woman feels she has no choice”.

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However, Parley Theatre has now said the play “has nothing to do with abortion”, adding: “At no point is there any reference to abortion. There is not even a reference to pregnancy. Abortion is not a theme, and the word does not even appear in the script.

Katherine O'Brien - British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)Katherine O'Brien - British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)
Katherine O'Brien - British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)

“Coercion in that context is about the coercion to take, and share, explicit images, and not in any other use, or context of that word.

"The aim of the piece is to engage the audience (particularly teenagers and parents) to reflect on the current situation being faced by teenagers; to support victims; encourage and educate all genders to make healthy choices about sexual imagery and personal identity.”

Asked if the play would contain any references to abortion, SPUC refused to say, with a spokesperson commenting: “I'm afraid I can't provide you with any further comments at the moment.”

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Parley Theatre told the paper that as a new company, they need “a series of funding streams to address the issue of sexting and Life Voice was simply one of those funding streams on this project”.

A spokesperson from the theatre company said: “Our association with Life Voice arose from their engagement in education workshops focused on sexual responsibility, and the pressures of entering sexual relations earlier and earlier. We are open to any other organisation wishing to fund our projects.

“Our experience of them had been a positive one in the arena of sex education, peer pressure and making the teenage generation aware of how important it is to communicate well within relationship building.”

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) previously spoke about the play, being performed throughout August at Surgeon’s Hall, having the potential to spread “anti abortion lies”.

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Katherine O’Brien, associate director of communications and campaigns at BPAS said: “Anti-abortion groups, like SPUC, have a long history of trying to infiltrate spaces by hiding their organisations true aims and beliefs.

"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 they truth, that nowhere on the advert for this “production” does it make clear that this is being staged by an anti-choice campaign group.”

Edinburgh Fringe confirmed the play is a registered show at this year's festival, with a spokesperson saying, “there is no mention of abortion in the show's description which we received”.

The spokesperson from the Fringe added: “The Fringe is an open access arts festival, which means artists' work is not programmed, curated or censored by the Society.”

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The SPUC group Life Voice claims to offer “educational” workshops on anti- abortion “alternatives” to secondary school students, specifically via their drama project ‘Hear Me Out’.

It markets itself as “ideal for Catholic schools”. In May, VICE News revealed Life Voice is “receiving tens of thousands of dollars from anonymous US-based backers”.

When asked if the initiative was popular in Scotland, SPUC told The Scotsman they do not share information about the schools they have visited.

Ms O’Brien from BPAS added: "Life Voice peddle scientifically inaccurate, and potentially damaging, abortion myths, suggesting that ending a pregnancy can have “serious and life long consequences” for women which is simply untrue.

"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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