Home Affairs Committee reminded on harassment "there's no evidence... because it's not happening"
13 December 2017
The Committee heard from Ealing Councillors, abortion industry representatives, and pro-life campaigners.
The Home Affairs Committee evidence session yesterday aimed to inform the ongoing Home Office investigation into alleged intimidation and harassment outside abortion clinics.
A number of witnesses repeated previously-heard allegations of harassment, intimidation, filming of women entering the clinic, the use of graphic images and inaccurate medical information on leaflets. As before, no evidence was provided to substantiate these claims.
John Hansen-Brevetti (MSI) pointed to the existence of a "log book, detailing hundreds of incidents" of harassment outside of a clinic but did not give further details of incidents mentioned. Clare McCullough, of Good Counsel Network, reminded listeners that Marie Stopes in Ealing has two cameras trained on the gates, where the harassment was said to have occurred.
"All these things are [claimed to be] happening, but there's no evidence of it. Why is there no evidence? …because it's not happening."
"If these things were happening, we'd be in prison, not sitting here."
"I sincerely hope that you will ask for evidence of this activity because it does not exist, and I absolutely do not agree with harassment or intimidation."
The Committee, Ealing councillors and witnesses recognised that there had been no prosecutions in connection with alleged harassment. All witnesses also reported "heightened activity" in the last two years, which was linked to increases in claims of harassment and intimidation.
"I've seen Marie Stopes' log," reports Mrs McCullough. "In the log there are half a dozen incidences of there being a huge protest round the door. On every single one of those days listed, Sister Supporter (SS) – a group set up two years ago to cause an incident so we can be moved – are present… That road is so full of protesters on a Saturday morning I'm not surprised that the residents want people to be removed." [emphasis added]
"Women going into the clinic often don't know who the protesters, and who the peaceful counsellors, are. When you're walking into the clinic and someone shouts "Back Off" [the Sister Supporter rallying cry]… the women don't know who the "Back off" is meant for, sometimes they think it's meant for them."
On any given day, there are usually 5-7 representatives from the Good Counsel Network, but there could be as many as 25 Sister Supporter members, creating an intimidating presence, explained Mrs McCullough.
Nothing but abortion
Antonia Tully of SPUC, pointed out the problems with the apparent assumption of guilt on the part of pro-life groups.
"The Home Secretary appears to be assuming that intimidation and harassment are taking place. We don't believe that it is. Praying and leafleting don't constitute intimidation."
"It's noticeable that the Home Secretary is not interested in hearing from the groups offering help and support."
"We've got to think about the women entering the clinic," Mrs Tully continues, "we are an organisation that cares deeply about women."
"Studies repeatedly show that women rarely feel hostile towards their babies… it's their circumstances that trouble them, and here we have a lifeline for them. Organisations like GCN will offer women the help that they need, and a true choice."
"I think we absolutely must retain the right to offer the help that no one is else is giving them."
Mrs McCullough added, "last night I brought nine women with me to Ealing Council. The council only listened to 2 of them. [One of their complaints was that] the clinic offered them nothing but abortion."
Mrs McCullough also offered witnesses to the Committee, in a move which appeared to stun her questioner:
"I've written to Amber Rudd to ask her to meet with these women… she stated she doesn't want to meet anybody... I've got the evidence, so when would you like to see it? I've got hundreds of women who would love to speak to you."
The response was revealing:
"I'm sure you can feed that through to the Chair, and I would actually have expected that to have been provided to us before this session. Thank you."
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