Monday 9 April 2018


Tomorrow, Ealing Council will be deciding (whether) to impose a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in Mattock Lane, so as to prevent Good Counsel Network and other pro-Life organisations from maintaining their vigil outside an abortion clinic, and offering help to any women who want it.

If imposed, this will be a grave injustice, for a number of reasons.

One is that it removes a last line of defence from women who are being bullied or otherwise coerced into an abortion they do not want. The number of women who have accepted help from Good Counsel Network over the years is significant. Even Ann Furedi, CEO of BPAS, freely admits that women entering an abortion clinic have not necessarily made up their mind.  So the offer of an alternative - and genuine support in pursuing that alternative - is crucial

A second reason that it is unjust is that it is a wrong use of law.  That is a serious issue.  PSPOs were designed to enable local authorities to clamp down on anti-social behaviour (such as unruly consumption of alcohol in public places) that was distressing local residents. Here the order is being used (at best) to prevent women arriving at a clinic from the distressing knowledge that some people disagree that abortion is a legitimate solution to a crisis pregnancy, and (at worst) to outlaw the peaceful expression of a lawful view.  It is very wrong to use the law in ways so at variance with its intention: bringing the law into disrepute is a serious dereliction of duty for a public authority.

A third injustice springs from the way in which the Council have gone about their decision-making. They have accepted unsubstantiated allegations made against those who hold the vigils there; and have assumed their guilt, claiming that women have been harassed, even when the clinic's own cameras, trained permanently on the entrance to the clinic, have collected no such evidence - and nor have the police ever had to speak to, still less caution or arrest, the vigil-holders. Yet Ealing Council passed a motion to take all “necessary actions within its powers, utilising all necessary resources, to prevent anti-abortion protestors from intimidating and harassing women

A fourth injustice is the way in which the group calling itself Sister Supporter has, for years, been allowed (and even encouraged by Ealing's MP, Rupa Huq) to run a noisy protest, designed to provoke and intimidate those holding the vigil, and to create such a nuisance that the Council would have an excuse to take action.

And of course, there is the fundamental assault on the most basic of our democratic liberties: the rights of association and of freedom of speech. Of course these are not absolute; but they are weighty considerations - and the hypocrisy of Ealing Council and Rupa Huq MP may be readily manifested if one asks oneself a very simple question: would they use PSPOs to prevent picketing in the case of an industrial dispute. And I think the answer is clear: of course they would not. A PSPO is only considered because they are hostile to the pro-lifers.  And that is a very grave injustice indeed - a 'liberal' worldview so sick that it has become illiberal.