MPs vote to ban pro-life support outside abortion clinics, but Bill is unlikely to become law

MPs have voted in favour of a Bill that would deny women practical and emotional support outside abortion clinics.

Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq’s Demonstrations (Abortion Clinics) Ten Minute Rule Bill passed by 213 votes to 47.

It calls for legislation “to restrict demonstrations in the vicinity of abortion clinics; and for connected purposes.”

However, as it is a Ten Minute Rule Motion it is very unlikely it will be given further time by the Government to be debated in Parliament. It is even less likely that it will become law.

‘Criminalised free speech zones’ would effectively ban volunteers from offering practical and emotional support to women entering abortion clinics across England and Wales. They would also ban individuals from peacefully praying in the vicinity of clinics.

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 ‘criminalised free speech zones’, called Public Space Protection Orders. 

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.”

Abortion lobby’s long-term plan to limit choice

Speaking earlier today, Dr Rupa Huq claimed the Bill “is about the rights of vulnerable women seeking access to healthcare in safety, anonymity and dignity.”

However the Labour MP 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.

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.

‘Drastic overreaction’

Speaking out against the Bill, Conservative MP Fiona Bruce described the motion as “regressive” and a “drastic overreaction” that would undermine freedoms of speech and conscience.

The pro-life MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said the majority of people gathering outside family planning facilities were acting peacefully.

She told MPs: “Let me clear, I do not condone aggressive protest activities outside abortion clinics.

“But these are in the minority and imposing national legislation where it is not required to tackle these would be a drastic overreaction because of the potential damage this bill could do to the more widely held freedom of speech in this country.”

In her closing remarks, Fiona then shared the testimony of Alina Dulgheriu, just one of many mothers who decided to keep their baby as a result of the practical and emotional support received outside of an abortion clinic.

Alina will soon challenge the use of ‘criminalised free speech zones’ at the European Court of Human Rights.

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. 

“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.”

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. 

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.

A Home Office spokesperson told the Independent: “There are already powers in place for police and local authorities to restrict harmful protests, and the previous home secretary asked the police to work closely with abortion services, to ensure that all those visiting these services are not subjected to harassment or intimation.”

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: “As this vote was on a Ten Minute Rule Motion, it is very unlikely it will be given further time by the Government to be debated in Parliament. It is even less likely that it will become law.

“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, encourage the Government not to give this Bill any more time.  In doing so they would send a clear signal that women should not be denied the choice of life-saving support for them and their baby.”

Division // Voting list

MPs who voted in favour of the motion 🙁

  • Diane Abbott (Labour – Hackney North and Stoke Newington)
  • Rushanara Ali (Labour – Bethnal Green and Bow)
  • Tahir Ali (Labour – Birmingham, Hall Green)
  • Mike Amesbury (Labour – Weaver Vale)
  • Tonia Antoniazzi (Labour – Gower)
  • Jonathan Ashworth (Labour – Leicester South)
  • Shaun Bailey (Conservative – West Bromwich West)
  • Duncan Baker (Conservative – North Norfolk)
  • Paula Barker (Labour – Liverpool, Wavertree)
  • Simon Baynes (Conservative – Clwyd South)
  • Apsana Begum (Labour – Poplar and Limehouse)
  • Aaron Bell (Conservative – Newcastle-under-Lyme)
  • Clive Betts (Labour – Sheffield South East)
  • Olivia Blake (Labour – Sheffield, Hallam)
  • Crispin Blunt (Conservative – Reigate)
  • Tracy Brabin (Labour – Batley and Spen)
  • Kevin Brennan (Labour – Cardiff West)
  • Sara Britcliffe (Conservative – Hyndburn)
  • Nicholas Brown (Labour – Newcastle upon Tyne East)
  • Lyn Brown (Labour – West Ham)
  • Felicity Buchan (Conservative – Kensington)
  • Karen Buck (Labour – Westminster North)
  • Richard Burgon (Labour – Leeds East)
  • Ian Byrne (Labour – Liverpool, West Derby)
  • Ruth Cadbury (Labour – Brentford and Isleworth)
  • Alan Campbell (Labour – Tynemouth)
  • Dan Carden (Labour – Liverpool, Walton)
  • Alistair Carmichael (Liberal Democrat – Orkney and Shetland)
  • Wendy Chamberlain (Liberal Democrat – North East Fife)
  • Sarah Champion (Labour – Rotherham)
  • Bambos Charalambous (Labour – Enfield, Southgate)
  • Feryal Clark (Labour – Enfield North)
  • Theo Clarke (Conservative – Stafford)
  • Chris Clarkson (Conservative – Heywood and Middleton)
  • Elliot Colburn (Conservative – Carshalton and Wallington)
  • Yvette Cooper (Labour – Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford)
  • Jeremy Corbyn (Labour – Islington North)
  • Neil Coyle (Labour – Bermondsey and Old Southwark)
  • Stella Creasy (Labour – Walthamstow)
  • Tracey Crouch (Conservative – Chatham and Aylesford)
  • John Cryer (Labour – Leyton and Wanstead)
  • Judith Cummins (Labour – Bradford South)
  • Alex Cunningham (Labour – Stockton North)
  • Janet Daby (Labour – Lewisham East)
  • Edward Davey (Liberal Democrat – Kingston and Surbiton)
  • Wayne David (Labour – Caerphilly)
  • James Davies (Conservative – Vale of Clwyd)
  • Geraint Davies (Labour – Swansea West)
  • Alex Davies-Jones (Labour – Pontypridd)
  • Dehenna Davison (Conservative – Bishop Auckland)
  • Thangam Debbonaire (Labour – Bristol West)
  • Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour – Slough)
  • Stephen Doughty (Labour – Cardiff South and Penarth)
  • Jack Dromey (Labour – Birmingham, Erdington)
  • Maria Eagle (Labour – Garston and Halewood)
  • Angela Eagle (Labour – Wallasey)
  • Mark Eastwood (Conservative – Dewsbury)
  • Clive Efford (Labour – Eltham)
  • Julie Elliott (Labour – Sunderland Central)
  • Chris Elmore (Labour – Ogmore)
  • Florence Eshalomi (Labour – Vauxhall)
  • Bill Esterson (Labour – Sefton Central)
  • Chris Evans (Labour – Islwyn)
  • Michael Fabricant (Conservative – Lichfield)
  • Stephen Farry (Alliance – North Down)
  • Simon Fell (Conservative – Barrow and Furness)
  • Colleen Fletcher (Labour – Coventry North East)
  • Yvonne Fovargue (Labour – Makerfield)
  • Vicky Foxcroft (Labour – Lewisham, Deptford)
  • Mary Kelly Foy (Labour – City of Durham)
  • George Freeman (Conservative – Mid Norfolk)
  • Gill Furniss (Labour – Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough)
  • Barry Gardiner (Labour – Brent North)
  • Nusrat Ghani (Conservative – Wealden)
  • Peter Gibson (Conservative – Darlington)
  • Preet Kaur Gill (Labour – Birmingham, Edgbaston)
  • Richard Graham (Conservative – Gloucester)
  • Kate Green (Labour – Stretford and Urmston)
  • Lilian Greenwood (Labour – Nottingham South)
  • Margaret Greenwood (Labour – Wirral West)
  • Nia Griffith (Labour – Llanelli)
  • Jonathan Gullis (Conservative – Stoke-on-Trent North)
  • Andrew Gwynne (Labour – Denton and Reddish)
  • Louise Haigh (Labour – Sheffield, Heeley)
  • Fabian Hamilton (Labour – Leeds North East)
  • Claire Hanna (Social Democratic & Labour Party – Belfast South)
  • Emma Hardy (Labour – Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle)
  • Carolyn Harris (Labour – Swansea East)
  • Helen Hayes (Labour – Dulwich and West Norwood)
  • Mark Hendrick (Labour – Preston)
  • Darren Henry (Conservative – Broxtowe)
  • Antony Higginbotham (Conservative – Burnley)
  • Mike Hill (Labour – Hartlepool)
  • Wera Hobhouse (Liberal Democrat – Bath)
  • Margaret Hodge (Labour – Barking)
  • Sharon Hodgson (Labour – Washington and Sunderland West)
  • Kate Hollern (Labour – Blackburn)
  • Paul Holmes (Conservative – Eastleigh)
  • Rachel Hopkins (Labour – Luton South)
  • George Howarth (Labour – Knowsley)
  • Rupa Huq (Labour – Ealing Central and Acton)
  • Christine Jardine (Liberal Democrat – Edinburgh West)
  • Dan Jarvis (Labour – Barnsley Central)
  • Bernard Jenkin (Conservative – Harwich and North Essex)
  • Mark Jenkinson (Conservative – Workington)
  • Diana Johnson (Labour – Kingston upon Hull North)
  • Kim Johnson (Labour – Liverpool, Riverside)
  • David Johnston (Conservative – Wantage)
  • Darren Jones (Labour – Bristol North West)
  • Gerald Jones (Labour – Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
  • Kevan Jones (Labour – North Durham)
  • Ruth Jones (Labour – Newport West)
  • Sarah Jones (Labour – Croydon Central)
  • Simon Jupp (Conservative – East Devon)
  • Barbara Keeley (Labour – Worsley and Eccles South)
  • Afzal Khan (Labour – Manchester, Gorton)
  • Stephen Kinnock (Labour – Aberavon)
  • Peter Kyle (Labour – Hove)
  • Ben Lake (Plaid Cymru – Ceredigion)
  • Robert Largan (Conservative – High Peak)
  • Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour – South Shields)
  • Tony Lloyd (Labour – Rochdale)
  • Tim Loughton (Conservative – East Worthing and Shoreham)
  • Holly Lynch (Labour – Halifax)
  • Justin Madders (Labour – Ellesmere Port and Neston)
  • Shabana Mahmood (Labour – Birmingham, Ladywood)
  • Seema Malhotra (Labour – Feltham and Heston)
  • Julie Marson (Conservative – Hertford and Stortford)
  • Christian Matheson (Labour – City of Chester)
  • Jerome Mayhew (Conservative – Broadland)
  • Steve McCabe (Labour – Birmingham, Selly Oak)
  • Kerry McCarthy (Labour – Bristol East)
  • Jason McCartney (Conservative – Colne Valley)
  • Andy McDonald (Labour – Middlesbrough)
  • John McDonnell (Labour – Hayes and Harlington)
  • Pat McFadden (Labour – Wolverhampton South East)
  • Ian Mearns (Labour – Gateshead)
  • Huw Merriman (Conservative – Bexhill and Battle)
  • Maria Miller (Conservative – Basingstoke)
  • Navendu Mishra (Labour – Stockport)
  • Gagan Mohindra (Conservative – South West Hertfordshire)
  • Robbie Moore (Conservative – Keighley)
  • Jessica Morden (Labour – Newport East)
  • Grahame Morris (Labour – Easington)
  • Kieran Mullan (Conservative – Crewe and Nantwich)
  • Holly Mumby-Croft (Conservative – Scunthorpe)
  • Ian Murray (Labour – Edinburgh South)
  • James Murray (Labour – Ealing North)
  • Lisa Nandy (Labour – Wigan)
  • Caroline Nokes (Conservative – Romsey and Southampton North)
  • Alex Norris (Labour – Nottingham North)
  • Matthew Offord (Conservative – Hendon)
  • Chi Onwurah (Labour – Newcastle upon Tyne Central)
  • Abena Oppong-Asare (Labour – Erith and Thamesmead)
  • Kate Osamor (Labour – Edmonton)
  • Taiwo Owatemi (Labour – Coventry North West)
  • Sarah Owen (Labour – Luton North)
  • Stephanie Peacock (Labour – Barnsley East)
  • Mike Penning (Conservative – Hemel Hempstead)
  • Matthew Pennycook (Labour – Greenwich and Woolwich)
  • John Penrose (Conservative – Weston-super-Mare)
  • Jess Phillips (Labour – Birmingham, Yardley)
  • Bridget Phillipson (Labour – Houghton and Sunderland South)
  • Luke Pollard (Labour – Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport)
  • Dan Poulter (Conservative – Central Suffolk and North Ipswich)
  • Lucy Powell (Labour – Manchester Central)
  • Yasmin Qureshi (Labour – Bolton South East)
  • Tom Randall (Conservative – Gedling)
  • Steve Reed (Labour – Croydon North)
  • Christina Rees (Labour – Neath)
  • Ellie Reeves (Labour – Lewisham West and Penge)
  • Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Labour – Streatham)
  • Nicola Richards (Conservative – West Bromwich East)
  • Angela Richardson (Conservative – Guildford)
  • Matt Rodda (Labour – Reading East)
  • Dean Russell (Conservative – Watford)
  • Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru – Dwyfor Meirionnydd)
  • Selaine Saxby (Conservative – North Devon)
  • Naz Shah (Labour – Bradford West)
  • Virendra Sharma (Labour – Ealing, Southall)
  • Barry Sheerman (Labour – Huddersfield)
  • David Simmonds (Conservative – Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner)
  • Andy Slaughter (Labour – Hammersmith)
  • Cat Smith (Labour – Lancaster and Fleetwood)
  • Nick Smith (Labour – Blaenau Gwent)
  • Karin Smyth (Labour – Bristol South)
  • Alex Sobel (Labour – Leeds North West)
  • John Spellar (Labour – Warley)
  • Ben Spencer (Conservative – Runnymede and Weybridge)
  • Keir Starmer (Labour – Holborn and St Pancras)
  • Jo Stevens (Labour – Cardiff Central)
  • Wes Streeting (Labour – Ilford North)
  • Graham Stringer (Labour – Blackley and Broughton)
  • Julian Sturdy (Conservative – York Outer)
  • Zarah Sultana (Labour – Coventry South)
  • James Sunderland (Conservative – Bracknell)
  • Sam Tarry (Labour – Ilford South)
  • Nick Thomas-Symonds (Labour – Torfaen)
  • Jon Trickett (Labour – Hemsworth)
  • Karl Turner (Labour – Kingston upon Hull East)
  • Liz Twist (Labour – Blaydon)
  • Valerie Vaz (Labour – Walsall South)
  • Christian Wakeford (Conservative – Bury South)
  • Giles Watling (Conservative – Clacton)
  • Catherine West (Labour – Hornsey and Wood Green)
  • Matt Western (Labour – Warwick and Leamington)
  • Alan Whitehead (Labour – Southampton, Test)
  • Mick Whitley (Labour – Birkenhead)
  • Nadia Whittome (Labour – Nottingham East)
  • Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru – Arfon)
  • William Wragg (Conservative – Hazel Grove)
  • Mohammad Yasin (Labour – Bedford)
  • Daniel Zeichner (Labour – Cambridge)

MPs who voted against the motion 🙂

  • David Amess (Conservative – Southend West)
  • Lee Anderson (Conservative – Ashfield)
  • Stuart Anderson (Conservative – Wolverhampton South West)
  • Gareth Bacon (Conservative – Orpington)
  • Scott Benton (Conservative – Blackpool South)
  • Bob Blackman (Conservative – Harrow East)
  • Fiona Bruce (Conservative – Congleton)
  • Lisa Cameron (Scottish National Party – East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow)
  • Andy Carter (Conservative – Warrington South)
  • Miriam Cates (Conservative – Penistone and Stocksbridge)
  • Brendan Clarke-Smith (Conservative – Bassetlaw)
  • Rosie Cooper (Labour – West Lancashire)
  • James Daly (Conservative – Bury North)
  • Gareth Davies (Conservative – Grantham and Stamford)
  • Jeffrey M Donaldson (Democratic Unionist Party – Lagan Valley)
  • Iain Duncan Smith (Conservative – Chingford and Woodford Green)
  • Katherine Fletcher (Conservative – South Ribble)
  • Nick Fletcher (Conservative – Don Valley)
  • Liam Fox (Conservative – North Somerset)
  • Richard Fuller (Conservative – North East Bedfordshire)
  • Robert Goodwill (Conservative – Scarborough and Whitby)
  • Kate Griffiths (Conservative – Burton)
  • Sally-Ann Hart (Conservative – Hastings and Rye)
  • Gordon Henderson (Conservative – Sittingbourne and Sheppey)
  • Philip Hollobone (Conservative – Kettering)
  • Tom Hunt (Conservative – Ipswich)
  • Daniel Kawczynski (Conservative – Shrewsbury and Atcham)
  • Danny Kruger (Conservative – Devizes)
  • Chris Loder (Conservative – West Dorset)
  • Marco Longhi (Conservative – Dudley North)
  • Karl McCartney (Conservative – Lincoln)
  • Mark Menzies (Conservative – Fylde)
  • Robin Millar (Conservative – Aberconwy)
  • Lia Nici (Conservative – Great Grimsby)
  • Ian Paisley (Democratic Unionist Party – North Antrim)
  • Mark Pawsey (Conservative – Rugby)
  • John Redwood (Conservative – Wokingham)
  • Mary Robinson (Conservative – Cheadle)
  • Gary Sambrook (Conservative – Birmingham, Northfield)
  • Andrew Selous (Conservative – South West Bedfordshire)
  • Greg Smith (Conservative – Buckingham)
  • Alexander Stafford (Conservative – Rother Valley)
  • Jane Stevenson (Conservative – Wolverhampton North East)
  • Desmond Swayne (Conservative – New Forest West)
  • Martin Vickers (Conservative – Cleethorpes)
  • Craig Whittaker (Conservative – Calder Valley)
  • Jeremy Wright (Conservative – Kenilworth and Southam)