The right to pray peacefully and offer help to pregnant women came under severe attack in the House of Commons today, says SPUC, as MPs voted by a huge majority to support a ten-minute rule bill that would introduce buffer zones.
Dr Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Action introduced a ten-minute rule bill to bill “to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics” – a measure designed to ban peaceful pro-life prayer vigils nationwide. The first reading passed by 213 votes to 47.
“SPUC will respond and fight back”
“Although ten minute rule bills very rarely become law, and this particular measure is unlikely to go any further, this bill is dangerous,” explained SPUC’s political assistant Alithea Williams. “We’ve seen in the past that such bills can be used as a springboard to gain momentum for a pro-abortion measure. That this bill passed by such a large margin is a stark warning that the abortion lobby haven’t given up. We also will not give up on vulnerable women who need help outside abortion clinics, and on the rights of pro-life citizens to provide it.”
“The right to pray peacefully and offer help to pregnant women came under severe attack today – and as always, SPUC will respond and fight back.”
Bringing her bill today, Dr Huq, who was instrumental in the imposition of a buffer zone around the Marie Stopes clinic in her constituency of Ealing, made a number of attacks on people who take part in pro-life vigils. These included claims that they distribute “medically inaccurate foetus dolls and graphic images” and “grossly inaccurate quasi medical leaflets.” She also spoke of the cost to councils of fighting legal challenges from “these well-endowed people”.
The legal case she was referring to was that of Alina Dulgheriu, a mother who was given support to keep her baby outside a Marie Stopes clinic. The money for her legal case against Ealing Council was raised by crowdfunding.
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A threat to freedom
The bill was opposed by pro-life MP Fiona Bruce, who countered that a Home Office review in 2018 has already rejected calls to bring in nationwide buffer zones. She said that the bill was “dangerous” and threatened freedom of speech, as well as freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of conscience and the right to receive information. “The law does not prohibit speech that others find upsetting or offensive,” Mrs Bruce said. “I find it upsetting to hear that nine million unborn children have been aborted since 1967. One every three minutes in Great Britain today, 600 every working day.”
“How soon will it be before legal pro-life expression is unacceptable anywhere in the public sphere?” she asked.
In September 2018, the Home Secretary rejected calls to bring in nationwide buffer zones around abortion clinics, following a hard-hitting campaign by the Society for the Protection of Unborn children. At that time, an extensive review by the Home Office found that the activities of pro-lifers were peaceful and that there was no justification for curtailing their freedom of speech and association in this way.
How your MP voted on this bill can be seen here.