Bill introduced to ban pro-life support outside abortion clinics

Women facing unplanned pregnancies could be denied emotional and practical support outside abortion clinics under a new Ten Minute Rule Bill being brought forward this week.

On Wednesday 24 June, Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq will introduce the Demonstrations (Abortion Clinics) Ten Minute Rule Bill calling for legislation “to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics; and for connected purposes.”

While Ten Minute Rule Bills rarely become law, the abortion lobby are likely to call for a vote on Wednesday.

Pro-abortion MPs could then attempt to bring forward a censorship zone amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, during the Bill’s Report Stage, claiming there is support to do so should they win the vote on the Ten Minute Rule Bill. 

If introduced, censorship zones would effectively ban volunteers from peacefully praying and offering support to women entering abortion clinics across England and Wales.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “By attempting to restrict where women facing unplanned pregnancies can receive compassionate emotional and practical support, the ‘pro-choice’ lobby are removing real choice for women and revealing they’re really just pro-abortion.

“Today, many babies are alive because their mothers were able to get the help they needed outside of an abortion clinic.

“We would, therefore, urge MPs to vote against this motion and send a clear signal that women should not be denied the choice of life-saving support for them and their baby.”

Home Office review

Due to additional powers handed over to councils in 2014 by the former Prime Minister Theresa May, a number of councils have already introduced localised censorship zones. 

Ealing council, in Dr Huq’s constituency, is one such council along with Richmond. In addition, Manchester City Council has consulted its residents on the matter, while seven other councils are reported to be looking into the issue. 

In 2017, former Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched a review into the scale and nature of pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics to establish if the Government would recommend the introduction of censorship zones. 

In the investigation continued by the succeeding Home Secretary Sajid Javid, over 2,500 responded to a call for evidence, including abortion service providers, abortion service clients, those engaging in anti-abortion demonstrations, police forces and local authorities.

In 2018, Sajid Javid announced that the Home Office did not find adequate reason to introduce censorship zones, stating that: “…introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature. In making my decision, I am also aware that legislation already exists to restrict protest activities that cause harm to others.”

Widespread opposition

Opposition to censorship zones goes beyond pro-life advocates to a large part of society, which may not agree on the pro-life position on abortion, but oppose censorship zones because they infringe on free speech.

A number of prominent human rights groups and campaigners, all of whom support abortion, have also spoken out against the introduction of censorship zones. This includes Peter Tatchell, the Manifesto Club, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and the Freedom Association.

Dr Huq has been a longtime and proud supporter of abortion provider BPAS’ ‘Back Off’ campaign which calls for nationwide ‘criminalised free speech zones’ which ban peaceful pro-life activity outside abortion clinics.

Abortion lobby’s longterm plan to limit choice

In a 2017 opinion piece for the Guardian, the Labour MP revealed “ideas have been percolating” on how to go about restricting pro-life demonstrations since January 2017. 

Over three years later, it appears the abortion lobby are now testing whether they have the momentum to limit women’s choice and the support offered to them. 

It follows “tragic” votes approving the UK Government’s imposition of an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland in the House of Commons and House of Lords last week. 

The Be Here for Me website highlights just some of the many stories of women who have been helped by people outside abortion clinics, and the stories of future women who could miss out on such support in the future. 

One mother who who kept her daughter as a result of the pro-life support she receieved outside an abortion clinic, in Ealing, will soon challenge the use of ‘criminalised free speech zones’ at the European Court of Human Rights.

Alina Dulgheriu launched the legal challenge because she wants other potential mothers to receive the same practical and emotional support she was offered – support which led to her keeping her daughter, Sarah.

Explaining why she’s taking the case forward, Alina said:

“My little girl is here today because of the real practical and emotional support that I was given by a group outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I am going to appeal this decision to ensure that women do not have this vital support option removed.

“I will continue to stand up for the women whose voices have been sidelined throughout this process and for women who need life-saving support today but cannot get it. 

“Ealing Council could have taken action in a way that would have protected women and safeguarded the essential help offered at the gate. Instead, they criminalised charity and attempted to remove dedicated and caring individuals from public space without justification.

“It is very clear that many are opposed to Ealing’s ban on peaceful and charitable activity, and like me, they want to see support available to vulnerable women where it is most needed.”

Doctor defends euthanasia on vulnerable patient who said ‘no’ three times

A doctor cleared of murder for euthanising a vulnerable woman with dementia has waived her anonymity to declare she did the “right thing”, even though her patient said “no” three times. 

In an interview with Dutch current affairs programme Nieuwsuur, Marinou Arends attempted to justify her actions saying they were “for the best”.

On April 22, 2016, the now-retired doctor euthanised a 74-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s who had been admitted to Mariahoeve care home in The Hague seven weeks before.

The vulnerable patient had earlier written a directive asking for euthanasia in the event that she was admitted to a nursing home due to dementia, but indicated she wanted to determine when “the time was right.” 

But, once in the nursing home, she gave “mixed signals” about wanting to die.

And in the days leading up to her death, the patient affirmed her desire to live, saying, “I don’t want to die,” on several occasions. 

Arends asked the woman three times if she wanted euthanasia, but on each occasion, she answered that she did not.

“I couldn’t get this confirmation, and without it I had to take this step,” said Arends.

“If you asked her: ‘What would you think if I were to help you to die?’, she looked bewildered and said: ‘That’s going a bit far!’ I saw in her eyes that she didn’t understand it anymore.”

She added: “It was tremendously difficult, but for the best. I believed I was working within the boundaries of the law.”

Despite her requests, Arends judged her mentally incompetent and in “close consultation” with her family decided that she should be euthanised because of her prior directives – a decision that the Dutch courts eventually ruled was legal.

The doctor slipped a sedative into the woman’s coffee to relax her before administering the lethal injection. 

During the assisted suicide, the patient awoke and started to resist the procedure causing the doctor to ask the family for help in holding down the vulnerable woman while she finished the procedure.

In the court case that followed, prosecutors argued the doctor did not properly consult with the 74-year-old patient.

However, in 2019, a district court in The Hague ruled that doctors in the Netherlands can no longer be prosecuted for carrying out euthanasia on dementia patients who have previously given written consent.

Previously, those with dementia would need to reconfirm their earlier request.

in a summary of its decision, the Dutch Supreme Court stated: “A doctor can carry out an (earlier) written request for euthanasia from people with advanced dementia”.

The ruling, which was upheld earlier this year, not only exonerated Arends’ actions but means another legal safeguard protecting vulnerable people from euthanasia has been removed.

The case attracted critical attention when details were reported to the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, which assesses all of the Netherlands’ roughly 6000 annual cases.

Over 200 Dutch doctors took out a newspaper advert saying they would not perform euthanasia for a patient with dementia without their confirmation.

However, Arends mantains she did the “right thing”, saying: “This was [a] unanimous [decision], a choice between an average residency of seven years, seven years of suffering, or – on the basis of the fundamental message in her living will – giving her the euthanasia she longed for.”

The country’s only euthanasia clinic recently revealed that it had seen a 22% increase in requests from people seeking assistance to end their lives last year compared to 2018.

There was also a 37% rise in requests from dementia patients, from 70 in 2018 to 96 in 2019.

(Image credit: The Dutch Broadcasting Foundation (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting – NOS))