During October a small group (usually 1-2 at a time) kept vigil peacefully praying and offering support near the BPAS abortion clinic at St Mary’s Hospital in Milton as part of the 40 Days for Life initiative. Over this period they faced a campaign of sustained abuse from a group called Hampshire Pro-Choice who want to see them banned from praying near the hospital. This pressure group have persuaded a councillor to bring forward a motion at the Portsmouth council meeting on Tuesday 14 November at 1pm seeking to have the group banned from peacefully praying outside the hospital. We need as many people as possible to contact their local councillors asking them to vote against this motion from councillor Will Purvis and uphold this group’s right to peacefully pray and offer support there. A sample email and list of councillor contact details is available here. https://goo.gl/phcdNR
Bishop Philip Egan has attended the vigil on a number of occasions, the council are portraying it incorrectly as a protest, and this is an important freedom of speech/religious freedom issue. As well as acting as an important witness, these vigils manage to save the lives of a number of babies, by offering vital help which is not otherwise on offer to their mothers.
Fantastic response to vicious criticisms of Life, by MP Fiona Bruce MP Fiona Bruce, responded to the Adjournment debate on the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967 which took place on 6th November. We are grateful for her strong defence of Life’s services following Paula Sherriff’s vicious and unjustified criticisms. She writes: Criticism was made of a grant from the money raised by the tampon tax to the charity, Life. Since it was founded in 1970, Life has helped to house more than 12,000 vulnerable mothers and babies and provided help and non-directive counselling to tens of thousands more. Life was described in the debate as an anti-choice organisation. Far from being anti-choice, Life seeks to give women a genuine choice about whether to keep their baby and to offer them much-needed support if they choose to do so.
The grant of £250,000 awarded to Life over three years was described in yesterday’s debate as:
“the largest sum from the tampon tax fund”.—[Official Report, 6 November2017; Vol. 630, c. 1307.] That, too, is incorrect. It was, in fact, only about the 10th largest.
But that sum, so stridently objected to by some in the Chamber yesterday, is dwarfed by the amount paid to abortion providers.
The sums are staggering. Over the past decade, hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have been paid to private sector abortionists. The Times reported that the head of Marie Stopes International, to which we pay millions of pounds to carry out abortions in the UK and overseas, received a phenomenal £420,000 in one recent year alone—four times the Prime Minister’s salary. Twenty-two of its employees were paid more than £100,000 each. What kind of charity is it that pays its staff these sums out of public money? Surely the Charity Commission should be investigating this.
On the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967, may I express my concern at reports resulting from Care Quality Commission’s investigations into the abortion practices of Marie Stopes International, which is described by some as an industry? Last year, the CQC’s inspection report identified a wide range of concerns about the way in which abortions are carried out by MSI, including criticism after finding dead, unborn babies in open bins. Again, what steps are Ministers taking to address these concerns? This is not just about me as one individual expressing concern, but the Government’s own regulator doing so.
We should also be concerned about another abortion provider and charity, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which describes itself as a not-for-profit charity but appears to be involved in lobbying to change abortion law, despite statements made by the previous Government that “taxpayers won’t be made to foot the bill for political campaigning and political lobbying.”My right hon. Friend Matt Hancock, who was then Minister for the CabinetOffice, said in February 2016: “Taxpayers’ money”— must not be—“wasted on the farce of government lobbying government.” Yet I recently received a letter from BPAS, which included the following:“I am writing today to ask that you consider defending and extending reproductive rights in the UK during the course of this Parliament…all Parliamentarians—regardless of their personal view on abortion—should support decriminalisation of abortion in the UK.”The letter, dated 10 July 2017, asks me—I presume it was sent to all MPs—to support a campaign. I am placing a copy of it in the Library. I understand that Ann Furedi, chief executive officer of abortion provider BPAS, is on record as saying, at the London launch of the “We Trust Women” campaign, the stated aim of which is decriminalisation of abortion: “I want to be very, very clear and blunt…there should be no legal upper limit”.The campaign’s website states that it campaigns to see the 24-week abortion time limit “removed from criminal law.” What steps are being taken, both by the Government and the Charity Commission, to address lobbying of this nature by a government-funded organisation?
In yesterday’s debate, mention was made of Professor Lesley Regan from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who I understand supports decriminalisation and persuaded its council—but not the membership—to back decriminalisation in a ballot. I understand Professor Regan has argued that the practice of abortion should be no more restricted by the law than the practice of having a bunion removed. If so, I find this incomprehensible. In her response to the debate last night, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price, reflected this when she said: “I am sure that everyone in this House agrees that no woman undertakes a termination lightly. For many, it is extremely traumatic”. [Official Report, 6 November 2017;]
I agree. That is why there are protections within the current law, such as the requirement for two doctors to certify approval, and that, apart from in exceptional circumstances, late-stage abortions after 24 weeks should not take place. And the public appreciates this. I know that polling figures can be questioned, but it is interesting to note that very recent polling from ComResshows that a massive 72% of people believe that, far from lifting the practice of abortion outside the current legal parameters in place today, such as the requirement of legal consent from two doctors, these parameters should remain in place.
That this message is not a fluke is underlined by an unlikely source: recent, extensive BBC-commissioned polling by ICM that clearly showed respondents supporting two doctors continuing to approve an abortion. It showed a clear rejection on the grounds of abortion due to disability and far lower support for abortion under other circumstances than may have been expected, and certainly would be expected if one listened only to the campaigning of those who are pushing for decriminalisation. As these polls indicate, that is not what the British public want. A ComRes poll from May shows that 70% of people want the 24-week time limit lowered—not surprisingly bearing in mind medical advancements in foetal viability over the last 50 years—and that 91 % want a specific ban on the practice of abortion on the grounds of a child’s sex.
It is important that we remember here that those who campaign for decriminalisation and the sweeping away of the safeguards that that would entail never mention that a modern and humane abortion law should consider and uphold the dignity and rights not only of the woman but of the unborn child.