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MP calls for ban on silent prayer outside abortion clinics

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Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, has argued that silent prayer should be prevented outside abortion clinics.

The Labour MP said:

"...a radial zone to exclude protests within 150 metres and no less must be drawn…This would include silent praying, singing hymns, displaying foetus images and leaflet distribution."

This presents a rather bizarre scenario where ‘silent praying’ and ‘singing hymns’ could be incongruently defined as ‘harassment’.

Responding to Rupa Huq’s ongoing campaign, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, has ordered a Home Office review that will assess whether women entering abortion clinics are being harassed. The review will look at whether existing legal powers against harassment are sufficient and will consider whether new legislation is needed or relevant. Rudd has said:

“This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. However while I should make it clear from the outset that the policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police, I am pleased to say that the law does currently provide protection against such acts.”

Responding to allegations of harassment and intimidation Good Counsel Network, 40 Days for Life, and Abort67 - all regularly involved in vigils and counselling outside abortion clinics - have repeatedly maintained their innocence.

Clare McCullough of Good Counsel Network commented to Christian Concern:

“We have been able to assist and encourage many hundreds of women outside abortion centres to keep their babies. If we were harassing women that would not have happened. We invite Amber Rudd to meet the women we have assisted and their children. We will peacefully oppose any moves to limit our presence at abortion centres.”

Robert Colquhoun speaking on behalf of 40 Days for Life said,

“40 Days For Life organise peaceful, prayerful, and legal prayer vigils outside abortion centres. We have a statement of peace that ensures our volunteers conduct themselves in a Christ-like manner. In 7 years of ministry we have never had a substantiated charge of harassment made against us.”

Despite no credible evidence of harassment being presented in any case, a string of local councils have been supporting Rupa Huq’s free speech killing idea of buffer zones.

On Thursday it was announced that Southwark councillors unanimously backed a motion calling for a buffer zone around the Blackfriars Medical Practice in Colombo Street where Abort67 regularly offers advice and counsel.

Ruth Rawlins of Abort67 has responded in depth to Southwark Council’s claim:

“We have been outside Blackfriars Medical Practice in Southwark for 3 years now - since the abortion clinic first opened at the clinic. Our peaceful Public Education Displays uses banners and leaflets with information on abortion that the public has a right to know.

"When we hold up an image of an aborted baby - abortion protests itself. We have seen many minds change on abortion from our presence in Southwark, as well as have the opportunity to direct support for post-abortive women.

"Buffer zones are not about protecting women, but about protecting businesses. The current laws already protect women and all people against harassment. The police are watching us, as are the clinic's security cameras, and there has never been any evidence of harassment or preventing access to clinics because it simply doesn't happen.

"Councillors and MPs are being manipulated by the abortion lobby, they are then misleading their colleagues and the general public when they re-broadcast lies without checking facts. This is a tyrannical abuse of power in a democratic society by our leaders. The facts matter.

"As far as we are aware, we are the only pro-life group who has a presence outside Blackfriars Medical Practice, yet these allegations are general and vague and they do not accuse us by name - a sure sign of lack of evidence. This is why we film all of our displays to defend ourselves against false allegations such as these. The burden of proof is on the accuser, and so far there is nothing but hearsay and opinions.”

Of fundamental concern is the threat not only to free speech Rupa Huq’s campaign poses, but also to freedom of religion. Her Orwellian call to exclude anyone involved in ‘silent prayer’ from near abortion clinics must not go unchallenged and could set a precedent for similar legislation in the future.

Please consider contacting the Home Secretary Amber Rudd who is overseeing the Home Office Review. Some items to highlight are:

  • There is a lack of evidence given against pro-life groups involved in counselling outside abortion clinics.
  • Many women have been helped by groups such as Good Counsel Network, 40 Days for Life, and Abort67.
  • Existing powers against harassment and intimidating behaviour are in place and can be used if necessary, but these groups are not involved in such behaviour.
  • Rupa Huq’s calls to exclude even those involved in silent prayer are an infringement against freedom of expression and religion.

Please consider signing and sharing this CitizenGo petition calling on Amber Rudd to ensure a fair and open review.

Above all continue to pray that Christians will continue to have the right to provide counsel and advice outside abortion clinics to women in crisis. Pray that through ongoing faithful witness to these women, the demand for abortion will drop and eventually abortion in the UK will be abolished.
 

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