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David Kurten: Banning Pro-Life Vigils Is a Chilling Assault on Freedom of Speech

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In the latest attack on freedom of speech in the UK, Ealing Council has banned peaceful pro-life vigils from 100 metres around an abortion clinic in Ealing, by creating what is known as a Public Safety Protection Order.

The effect of this is chilling: people could be arrested, fined, and dragged through the courts for talking to patients and staff, handing out leaflets offering help to mothers, or even praying silently in the vicinity of the building.

Ealing is only a test case: similar moves are now likely to happen around the country wherever there are pro-life vigils. But who are these terrible people that the public need to be protected from?

Some of them are Christians who believe in the sanctity of life and want to offer mothers an alternative to having an abortion; others are mothers who have themselves been helped by organisations such as the Good Counsel Network. They are grateful and happy that they were given help to keep their children rather than have an abortion and want to help to give other women the same choice that they had.

The issue was debated previously in the London Assembly in a motion proposed by Labour Assembly Members to mirror the actions of their compatriots in Ealing Council. The premise on which the ban was created, however, is such an utter calumny that it could be straight out of 1984.

Peaceful, pro-life vigils have been taking place in Ealing for more than 23 years. There was never any problem at all until a couple of years ago when a counter-protest group called Sister Survivor formed and decided to set up ‘counter-demonstrations’.

The face of Sister Survivor is Rupa Huq, the local MP for Ealing.

This band of ‘women’s rights’ advocates turned up outside the Ealing clinic with megaphones and pink high-visibility jackets in the same place as the long-standing pro-life vigils.

Observers have noted that they were the ones making most of the noise and their protests were not primarily aimed at helping mothers, but more at harassing the Christians and others who were kneeling in prayer and quietly handing out leaflets. In one video clip, some members of the group can be seen surrounding a pro-life vigil and chanting, “keep your rosaries off our ovaries”.

If there were ever a case for anyone complaining about harassment leading to alarm or distress under the Public Order Act 1986, this was surely it.

‘Progressive’ politicians then used these incidents to claim that there was a lot of noise outside the clinics which was distressing to mothers, so a buffer zone was needed to protect them from being harassed and distressed by the noise – even though the vast majority of the noise and harassment was being made by pro-abortion campaigners who were harassing and even abusing the pro-life advocates.

Moreover, in a diabolical application of neuro-linguistic programming, the pro-life advocates were smeared as being ‘anti-choice’, despite the internationally accepted labels for the two groups in the debate being pro-life and pro-choice.

The reality is the exact opposite. The Good Counsel Network and other groups provide a choice for mothers by giving them an alternative to an abortion.

What you will never hear in the mainstream media is that abortion is big business. Nine million abortions have been carried out in the UK since it was legalised in 1967, and currently about one in five of all pregnancies end in an abortion.

In 2016, there were over 190,000 abortions in England and Wales, 38 per cent of them to women who had previously already had one or more terminations. Over 4,000 were to residents of Ireland and Northern Ireland who travelled to the UK as abortion is against the law there.

Of those, 98 per cent are funded by the NHS: of these, 30 per cent are done in NHS hospitals and 68 per cent are outsourced to abortion providers who are paid by the NHS to carry out abortions.

The two biggest abortion providers are BPAS and Marie Stopes, the latter charging its private patients from £560 to £1,875 depending on the stage of pregnancy. Its chief executive Simon Cooke was paid £420,000 in 2015, making him one of the highest paid CEOs in the so-called ‘charity sector’.

The big abortion providers have a financial interest in making sure that everyone considering an abortion goes through with it. The Good Counsel Network and other groups which offer help, choice, and advice to mothers are very successful at what they do. It was estimated by one person that they have stopped one out of every eight mothers going for an abortion and helped to change her mind and offer her hope and support. This is a big cost to the abortionists as it eats into their turnover.

I went to visit mothers and children who have been helped by the Good Counsel Network.

The women there were a world away from the highly paid charity executives and the protestors of Sister Survivor, who one imagines view abortion as simply another form of contraception and who have persuaded themselves that the child growing within them is not a real human being, but rather an inconvenient bag of cells to be disposed of as quickly as possible so they can get back to their careers.

What struck me is that all of the mothers who have received the help and assistance of pro-life groups were full of joy that they had their children, but most of them lived in very difficult social and economic circumstances. They didn’t want to have their babies terminated, but had been given no other option; until they met a helping hand, they felt as though it was the only option.

They had been advised by doctors that it was their only sensible choice, and set on the grim conveyor belt to disposing of their child. They had certainly not been made aware of groups like the Good Counsel Network who are willing to help them find them homes and financial support and advice. Thus, they turn up at the abortion clinics, desperately sad, trapped between having to end the life of their babies and facing impossible hardship.

As usual, the unintended consequences of this attack on freedom of speech will hurt those who are out of the spotlight and have no voice in the public arena, in which this issue is dominated by totalitarian radical feminists who will not tolerate any dissent from their own dogmas. Those who will suffer are the poorest mothers who will no longer be offered a choice; who will forever pine the loss of a child that never was, because they never had the chance to meet someone who could show them another way.

David Kurten is a UKIP Assembly Member for London and UKIP’s Education Spokesman

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