Abortion clinic censorship zones bill fails to pass at Second Reading

A radical abortion clinic censorship zone bill brought forward by Rupa Huq MP has failed to pass through the Commons at its Second Reading today.

The Bill would have introduced censorship zones around abortion clinics in England and Wales but failed to pass after an objection from a fellow MP stopped the Bill from proceeding. 

Censorship zones would criminalise the offering of practical and emotional support to women entering abortion clinics across England and Wales, bringing a possible prison sentence of up to two years for those who offer support to women within 150 metres of abortion clinics.

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 could 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.”

Opposition to censorship zones extends beyond pro-life advocates to unite a large part of society, which may not agree with the pro-life position on abortion but opposes censorship zones as a threat to freedom of speech.

Despite supporting abortion, a number of prominent human rights groups and campaigners have 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.

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

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

Alina Dulgheriu launched the legal challenge so that other pregnant women could receive the same practical and emotional support she was offered – support which ultimately led to her keeping her daughter, Sarah.

Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:“Today brings the good news that this radical abortion clinic censorship bill has failed to pass through the Commons. This is often the case with Ten Minute Rule Bills however the extreme changes proposed in this particular Bill were very worrying.

Sadly, this is unlikely to be the last we hear from the abortion lobby. While this Bill is very unlikely to become law, the abortion lobby will likely be back very soon with their next attempt to criminalise support outside abortion clinics.

“By attempting to restrict women facing unplanned pregnancies from receiving compassionate emotional and practical support, the ‘pro-choice’ lobby reveal their opposition to real choice for women and revealing they’re really just pro-abortion.

“Many babies are alive today because their mothers were able to receive the help they needed outside of an abortion clinic.

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