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Home Secretary Urged to Take Action in Defence of Pro-Life People Facing Asbo-Style Orders

12 October 2017

Pro-life campaigners will today deliver a petition to Home Secretary Amber Rudd in a bid to stop councils using ASBO-style orders to stop peaceful vigils outside abortion clinics.

The petition, signed by more than 8000 people, will be handed over following  a decision on Tuesday  by Ealing Council which could see a ban on people conducting prayer vigils near premises where abortions are carried out.

The London borough is thought to be planning to use Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), which replaced ASBOs, and  give councils the power to take action against what they perceive as anti-social behaviour.

PSPOs are usually taken against those drinking or drug-taking in public.

The proposal has outraged the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the world’s oldest and largest pro-life group which was founded in 1967.

The Ealing vote followed complaints made by the aggressively pro-abortion group Sister Supporter which complained about the peaceful and trouble-free vigils which have held for more than 23 years by the pro-life Good Counsel Network and other groups.

SPUC is sending its petition to the Home Office less than two days after Ealing councillors made their unprecedented decision.

It contains in excess of 8000 names - more than double the 3000-plus names contained in the Sister Supporter petition lodged with Ealing.

The  SPUC petition states that pro-life pavement counsellors stand near abortion clinics and offer women free help, without coercion, to avoid abortion.  It is currently lawful to do this provided there is no obstruction or harassment. The privately run clinics want to make it illegal to offer women help near their premises. These clinics receive around £600 for each abortion they perform.

The petition calls upon the Home Secretary to reject calls to make it illegal for peaceful pavement counsellors to offer pro-life alternatives near abortion clinics.

Urging the government to step in and take action to defend the right of pro-life people to offer such help, Dr Anthony McCarthy, SPUC’s Director of Education Research and Communications , said:

"Clinic staff make a living from taking young unborn lives, and Sister Supporter aggressively helps them do so.  Neither group can tolerate those like Good Counsel Network who peacefully offer women the help and information the clinic itself was so careful not to give them. Those who offer such help are warmly thanked by the women who change their minds at the very last moment and have their babies.”

He added:

“It is those offering a lifeline to women in crisis who need protection from those pushing abortion, not vice versa.

“For a local authority to consider categorising pro-life people offering help with drunks and drug addicts is almost beyond comprehension.”

Dr McCarthy insisted pro-life volunteers are entitled to freedom of speech and to be allowed to stand outside abortion clinics and offer life-saving alternatives to pregnant mothers contemplating abortion.

He added:

"We know through the witness of many women who have come to us that there are children today who owe their very lives to the courage of these volunteers, standing out in all weathers and sometimes facing abuse from members of the public or even from officials.

"The abortion industry, which includes the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) - the chain responsible for 65,000 abortions each year in the UK - is lobbying for the introduction of "buffer zones" to ban pro-lifers from standing outside their premises. BPAS stands to lose out financially every time a woman is helped to choose life for her baby. On average, each time a woman decides not to proceed with an abortion the clinic in question stands to lose well in excess of £500 in revenue.”

The council motion’s stated aim is to stop "anti-abortion protesters from intimidating and harassing women outside the Marie Stopes Clinic on Mattock Lane”.

But SPUC state that there have been peaceful pro-life prayer vigils there  for 23 years, without anyone being charged with harassment.

Dr McCarthy said: “It seems that because no laws are being broken, Sister Supporter are trying to find new ways to stop pavement counsellors offering help to women.”

The motion commits the council "to fully explore every possible option and... take all necessary actions within its powers, utilising all necessary resources" to this end.

One option  is imposing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around the clinic. PSPOs, which replaced ASBOs, are more commonly used to stop anti social behaviour such as public drinking and drug-taking. 

Clare McCullough of the Good Counsel Network, which holds vigils outside the clinic, said: "The whole reason for using this PSPO, as they're trying to do in Ealing is because there is no harassment or intimidation, or they would be using the current laws to prosecute us."

She added: "I’m amazed at the lengths people will go to stop pregnant women from looking at the alternatives. We try to make sure women are not being pressured into abortion. We’ve had hundreds of women accept help outside Marie Stopes.

"Harassment is a crime. If we were harassing anyone we would be arrested. In fact, what we’re trying to do is help women to have an alternative, if they’re willing to accept it."

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