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Home Affairs Committee Reveals Lack of Harassment Evidence

12 December 2017


The Committee heard from Ealing Councillors, abortion industry representatives, and pro-life campaigners 

The Home Affairs Committee held an evidence session on alleged harassment and intimidation near abortion clinics this morning.

The Committee heard from Ealing Councillors, abortion industry representatives, and pro-life campaigners. The aim of this session was intended to inform a Home Office review, which was announced in response to a petition by Rupa Huq MP to request the implementation of buffer zones around abortion centres.

An impartial committee?

The Committee was chaired by the Labour MP, Yvette Cooper, who has a consistent pro-abortion voting record, including a vote against better information and counselling for parents facing a disability diagnosis in pregnancy. Ms Cooper MP has also campaigned for buffer zones.

Antonia Tully, Campaign Director of SPUC was one of those who gave evidence this morning to the Committee, providing evidence for pro-life groups alongside Clare McCullough of the Good Counsel Network.

Mrs. Tully and Mrs. McCullough were eventually allowed to speak after Cllr Julian Bell and Cllr Binda Rai, of Ealing Council, John Hansen-Brevetti of MSI, and Clare Murphy of BPAS, all of whom spoke freely in favour of action to prohibit the pro-life presence outside of clinics.

Outraged viewers took to Twitter to comment on the frequency of interruptions endured by Mrs Tully and Mrs McCullough as they attempted to answer questions, while other witnesses spoke unhindered. 

Unfounded allegations

The line of questioning throughout was whether or not harassment and intimidation was taking place outside abortion clinics. Mrs Tully and Mrs McCullough stated clearly throughout that there was no evidence that such incidents have been taking place. Indeed, the committee, Ealing councillors and Clare Murphy from BPAS all recognised that there had been no prosecutions.

While the session was ongoing, BBC News aired a video on their website which included an interview with Kitty, a woman who had an abortion; the clinic she went to had a pro-life counsellor outside. Kitty went on to have the procedure, and admitted only to feeling insulted that she was handed a leaflet by pro-life counsellors on her way in: “…for them to think that handing me a leaflet could change my mind is a bit insulting. It just angers me, but they do it peacefully…”

Commenting after the session, Mrs Tully said: “The proceedings today exposed the utter lack of evidence that the abortion lobby has to justify its campaign to shut down pro-life vigils through illiberal buffer zones. Therefore, such drastic and disproportionate measures, either locally or nationally, should not be considered.”

Previously-heard allegations of harassment, intimidation, filming of women, the use of graphic images and inaccurate medical information were reiterated in this session; Cllr. Rai commented on the leaflets handed out by GCN: “I’m not a medical person, but I don’t think that the information on those leaflets is correct”. As before, no evidence was provided to substantiate these claims.

Mrs McCullough pointed out that MSI had cameras trained on the location where pro-life counsellors stand, and encouraged the other witnesses to observe the actions of GCN representatives: "We invite you to film what we're doing, we want you to see what we're doing." She repeatedly invited the other witnesses to bring forward the evidence for their claims, in order to inform a fair investigation.

Pro-“Choice”?

SPUC itself does not organise peaceful vigils outside abortion clinics, however the Society is committed to ensuring that pro-life organisations, like the Good Counsel Network must be allowed the opportunity to offer women the help that is not being offered anywhere else. Commenting on those, Mrs Tully said: “It’s disingenuous for the abortion industry to call themselves pro-choice, when in reality such groups as MSI and BPAS offer no alternatives to abortion. Indeed, the abortion industry seems to be more concerned about silencing those who would offer genuine and caring alternatives to killing one’s child.”

At one dramatic moment, during the course of proceedings, the Chair, Ms Cooper, asked Mrs Clare McCullough “Are you saying MSI and BPAS are telling lies?” To which Mrs Mccullough replied, “Yes!”

What was striking was that no reference to the recent and damning CQC reports was permitted, when Mrs Tully raised the issue. However, MSI and BPAS were given ample opportunity to describe the high standards, practise and counselling that they offer, the very points that were heavily criticised by the CQC.

Commenting after the proceedings, Mrs McCullough said: “As a small organisation we are impressed by the huge attempts being made by Marie Stopes and BPAS to stop vulnerable women being offered alternatives to abortion by us outside their centres. It’s tragic that they would put profits before real choice for women.” 

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