Mother could take major pro-life case to European Court of Human Rights

The use of criminalised free speech zones (‘buffer zones’) around abortion clinics could be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

It comes after the UK Supreme Court refused to hear the legal challenge against Ealing Council’s Public Space Protection Order which criminalises offering emotional and practical support outside the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in West London.

Alina Dulgheriu had wanted to challenge the criminalised free speech zone after receiving support from pro-life campaigners outside an abortion clinic several years ago.

The mother launched a legal fight against the Council’s Public Space Protection Order in April 2018 because she wants other potential mothers to receive the same help she was offered, and because it prevents the help some women need to escape an unwanted or coerced abortion.

The High Court accepted that her rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly had been infringed, but ultimately upheld Ealing’s criminalised free speech zone.

The Court of Appeal had granted permission for the challenge to be appealed, but also sided with Ealing Council in a ruling last year.

It means Alina’s only legal option now is to challenge the council at the European Court of Human Rights – something she and her legal team are now considering.

Before it had been displaced by the criminalised free speech zone, the pro-life demonstration outside the MSI abortion clinic in Ealing had seen more than 500 women accept an offer of help which led to them choosing to keep their baby rather than have an abortion.

Additionally, In 2017, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee heard that there was no probative evidence to suggest women were being harassed outside abortion facilities, whether in Ealing, Portsmouth, Birmingham, or elsewhere in the country.

In contrast, the Be Here for Me website tells just some of the many stories of women who have been helped by people outside abortion clinics – including some of mothers from Ealing.

In a similar case, a PSPO passed by Richmond Council has been challenged by Justyna Pasek, who has personally supported women visiting the abortion clinic in Richmond for over five years.

Earlier this year, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan reiterated his support for criminalised free speech zones. In 2018, he claimed that those living in London would be “deeply disappointed” over the then Home Secretary’s decision not to roll out ‘buffer zones’ nationwide.

Meanwhile the former Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, chose not to introduce nationwide criminalised free speech zones. He said that such a move would not be proportionate in light of the ‘passive’ nature of activities outside of abortion clinics, as well as the existing powers of local councils and police.

Prominent human rights campaigners, including those who would describe themselves as pro-abortion and ‘pro-choice’, seem to agree. A number of them have expressed their concerns about the ease with which the use of criminalised free speech zones allow councils to override basic human rights law. 

Reacting to the decision, Alina Dulgheriu said:

“I am devastated to hear that the Supreme Court has decided not to consider my appeal. My little girl is here today because of the practical and emotional support that I was offered outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I brought the appeal to ensure that other women did not have this vital support option removed.

“It is unthinkable that any council would criminalise an offer of help to a woman who might want to keep her child. Ealing Council could have taken action in a way that would have safeguarded the essential help offered at the gate. Instead, they made charity a criminal offence and removed dedicated and caring individuals from public space without justification.

“It is a travesty of justice to see the courts ignoring the impact this decision will have on vulnerable women who are in desperate need of a little help and support. The voices of these women have been sidelined throughout this process, even though they will be the ones most deeply affected by the removal of this life-changing support.

“I am deeply grateful to all those who have supported me in bringing the legal challenge – without their incredible generosity this appeal would not have been possible. I am discussing my position with my legal team and will be considering all options, including an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

Elizabeth Howard, Be Here For Me spokesperson said:

“Eight years ago, Alina Dulgheriu found herself jobless, homeless and alone after an unplanned pregnancy. She’d been fired from her job as a live-in nanny and abandoned by her boyfriend. 

“She went to Marie Stopes to get advice on her options, but all they could offer her was an abortion. She didn’t want that but didn’t know where to turn.

“Her life was changed when she met a pro-life volunteer at the gates of the abortion centre who told her that she did have options, that there was help available, and that she could keep her baby if she wanted.

“She accepted the offer of help and her daughter was born. She is now seven years old, a beautiful, lively and beloved child.

“Ealing Council has banned pro-lifers from helping women like Alina. Alina has challenged their decision in court, but twice the court have ignored her story.

“In five years of the pro-life vigil’s work in Ealing, hundreds of women have accepted an offer of help and chose to keep their baby rather than have an abortion. These women have tried again and again to have their voices heard, but they are ignored.

“It is disgraceful that in both court judgments, there is literally not a single sentence, not a single word, dedicated to the women who have been helped by the vigil, who are grateful for the vigil, and who have given the other side of the story.

“The Supreme Court had an opportunity to rectify this deep miscarriage of justice, but has now declined to do so.

“This is a very sad day for vulnerable women.”

Pro-abortion MPs accidentally remove buffer zone provision from their abortion bill

A bill that would introduce the world’s most extreme abortion law to New Zealand looked like it would emerge from the first of two committee stage debates unchanged, until pro-abortion MPs calamitously axed one of their own key proposals.

In an inadvertent victory for pro-life campaigners, pro-abortion MPs accidentally allowed an amendment preventing the establishment of “buffer zones”, which prevent pro-life help from being offered outside abortion clinics, to pass unchallenged. 

Pro-abortion MPs had hoped to establish so-called censorship zones up to 150 metres in diameter around abortion clinics.  

David Seymour, leader of the libertarian right-wing ACT Party tabled an amendment to remove censorship zones from the Bill, despite being a supporter of the bill and a staunch advocate of abortion and euthanasia. Mr Seymour brought forward the amendment because he believes that the speech needed to be protected, saying: “I’ve never defended anyone that I like when it comes to free speech, and that’s the test of free speech, you’ve got to protect people that you don’t like”.

The amendment failed, but by a very tight margin, 59 votes to 56, however later in the evening a second part to his amendment effectively passed by accident. 

The second part of Seymour’s amendment proposed deleting the parts of the bill that would give effect to the censorship zones. It then went to a voice vote, where MPs vote by saying “aye” and “no”, which was passed.

MPs then had an opportunity to call a conscience vote on the amendment but supporters of censorship zones failed to do this, meaning the amendment passed. A late attempt by pro-abortion Green MP Jan Logie to save the provision failed. 

While censorship zones remain in the legislation, the parts of the bill relating to establishing censorship zones and making them function have been removed. This effectively makes it impossible to set up censorship zones. 

Currently, abortion in New Zealand is permitted with the approval of two doctors when the pregnant woman faces a danger to her life, physical or mental health, with a 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortions.

If this proposed legislation were to pass New Zealand would have the most extreme abortion law in the world, essentially permitting abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

The Bill will now enter a second Committee Stage debate tomorrow, on Wednesday 11 March, ahead of the Bill’s third and final reading. One amendment that will be voted on tomorrow could see the extreme abortion Bill decided by a referendum, along with euthanasia.

Mayor of London reiterates his support for buffer zones to prevent pro-life support

The Mayor of London has reiterated his support for so-called ‘buffer zones’ which prevent pro-life help from being offered outside abortion clinics.

Noting the case of the country’s first arrest for praying in public outside an abortion clinic, London Assembly Member David Kurton asked Sadiq Khan what his thoughts were and whether such actions should be criminalised.

In response, Sadiq showed some hesitation, particularly around criminalising prayer, but outlined his full support of the Ealing Council’s ‘buffer zone’, saying: “I do not know about the facts of the case, and as somebody who himself prays, I would find it objectionable if somebody else is not allowed to pray or is criminalised. 

“That is not saying anything about the facts of that case, which I just do not know about, but I think we have to be quite clear. There is a very good reason and a very sensible reason why the council supported those women and others in relation to this buffer zone. You are right, I fully support this buffer zone outside this clinic.”

However, in 2017, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee heard that there was no probative evidence to suggest women were being harassed outside abortion facilities, whether in Ealing, Portsmouth, Birmingham, or elsewhere in the country.

In contrast, the Be Here for Me website tells just some of the many stories of women who have been helped by people outside abortion clinics.

The website, setup by mothers who offer pro-life help outside abortion clinics, outlines reasons to oppose ‘buffer zones’ amidst continued pressure from the UK’s largest abortion provider to introduce them out to all abortion clinics.

This isn’t the first time the Labour mayor has outlined his support for ‘buffer zones’.

In a statement read out at City Hall, Sadiq said: “I am very supportive of local authorities using enforcement tools at their disposal in an appropriate and targeted way and this is a good example of a local solution.”

He has claimed, in 2018, that those living in London would be “deeply disappointed” over the then Home Secretary’s decision not to roll out ‘buffer zones’ nationwide.

Sadiq finds himself entirely out of step with the views of those he is supposed to represent, given a recent Onward poll revealing London to be the most pro-life region of the country. More broadly only 1% of the population want abortion to be available up to birth and over 70% of women want the abortion limit to be reduced to 20 weeks or lower.

Despite this, Sadiq has continued to use his platform to push his extreme abortion views on the people of London.

Last year, he expressed his support for the pro-abortion group Abortion Rights and gave their countermarch to the UK’s March for Life his “full backing”. During the march, abortion activists chanted “we need abortions” while abortion survivor Melissa Ohden, was attempting to speak on stage:

(Image credit: Shutterstock: ID #474126064)

‘Abortion skills’ training could be forced upon pro-life students in the UK

Pro-life medical students who want to protect unborn babies from terminations could be forced to learn “abortion skills” under new proposals.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has released a report stating its intention to teach and assess “abortion skills” as part of its core curriculum but made no mention of any provision for conscientious objection.

In its Better for Women report, the College says “the General Medical Council (GMC) should review the Undergraduate medical curriculum to include the importance of abortion care to students.

“The RCOG will teach abortion skills as a part of its core curriculum and assess those skills through examination.”

All doctors who practise medicine in the UK must be registered with the GMC, meaning if the proposals are adopted, pro-life medical students could be forced to sit through undefined “abortion skills” training or risk losing their membership of the medical body.

In 2016, an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group found that UK doctors who do not wish to participate in abortion procedures are often refused the right to conscientious objection.

Fiona Bruce MP, who chairs the APPG, said: “This report reveals concerning evidence of doctors and other healthcare professionals being harassed, abused, and denied career choices, as a result of seeking to exercise their legal right to conscientiously object to being involved in the abortion process.”

Later that year, it emerged only 1% of trainee obstetricians and gynaecologists were taking higher training in abortion.

The document also outlines other extreme proposals:

  • A commitment to continue working with partner organisations [likely abortion clinics such as BPAS and Marie Stopes International] to advocate for the decriminalisation of abortion up to 24 weeks across the UK (page 16).
  •  The rollout of ‘facetime abortions’ across the UK allowing abortion consultations to take place over the phone or Facetime/Skype, rather than face-to-face (page 149).
  • The Government should “consider allowing” women to take the first powerful drug used to cause a non-surgical abortion at home, away from medical supervision and oversight. The second drug is already allowed to be taken at home (page 15).
  • Governments throughout the UK “must legislate” to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics – which will prevent pro-life help from being offered to those who need it most (page 16).

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists claims its proposals are ‘Better for women’ through its title, but the reality is the opposite.

“The RCOG’s report, with its misleading title, makes a number of troubling proposals that are worse, not just for women and unborn babies, but also for medical students.   

“The extremely low number of trainee obstetricians and gynaecologists who were taking higher training in abortion likely reflects an innate human reluctance to destroy life. Such doctors should continue to have their rights to conscientiously object to abortions protected.   

 “Rather, this is another attempt to trivialise the ending of a life and to rush women and teenage girls through the abortion process, while providing less medical supervision and support for women. 

“The RCOG should instead address the reasons women seek out abortion services in such high numbers in this country, often because of; vulnerability, isolation, lack of financial or emotional support, or pressure from a partner. Simply rushing women through the abortion process does nothing to address the problems these women already face and would only later compound these issues if coupled with post-abortion regret. 

“The only people who would benefit from these changes are the UK’s two big abortion providers.

“This is a reckless approach to healthcare. Women’s safety and mental or physical health should never be potentially compromised for the sake of expediency or convenience.”