The effort to shut down the pro-life voice by any means – even by our authorities – has sadly been a reality for many years.
Now, Birmingham City Council is attempting to create a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) – essentially a ‘buffer zone’ – around another abortion clinic, the Robert Clinic, arguing that it is ‘in the public interest’ to protect residents from ‘violent protestors’.
This might be a reasonable reaction if the accusations were true. But they aren’t.
Sadly the accusations have become so strong that Birmingham City Council is now consulting on the proposed PSPO.
Council accuses pro-life group of being ‘violent protestors’
Pro-life group 40 Days for Life is facing accusations from the council that it sends ‘violent protestors’ outside the Robert Clinic, who harass and interrogate the public. Ironically, nobody seems to recognise that any harassment or interrogation that has been taking place is actually aimed towards the pro-lifers.
Even a local MP has now written to residents, accusing the pro-life group of putting on “constant protests” and of “harassment taking place outside of the clinic which included … verbally abusing visitors, staff and passers-by through megaphones, as well as handing out misleading, scientifically inaccurate and harmful literature.”
The opposite is actually true.
On many occasions, these peaceful prayer volunteers have been interrupted, assaulted, harassed and threatened by members of the public and people saying that they are nearby residents – none of whom are actually there to enter the clinic.
One member of 40 Days for Life recounts: “We have faced: Swearing, shouting, spitting, having property stolen, having cars drive down the street towards us at high speed swerving away at the last second, women being told they will be followed home and things will happen to their families, glue (or a similar sticky substance) being poured over the pavement where we stand for over a period of weeks, threats, religious verbal abuse and physical assault.”
You can even watch a video of some of the typical abuse that these volunteers face. The particular incident in this video took place in October 2020.
To date, despite the many assaults on the volunteers, not one person has been prosecuted by the police or CPS.
40 Days for Life
So if the accusations aren’t true, what actually takes place?
The Birmingham 40 Days for Life vigil happens twice a year outside the Robert Clinic, Birmingham. Although the 40 Days for Life campaign started in the USA, it consists of grassroots groups which meet to pray all across the world. In Birmingham there is a team of around 150 volunteers from around the area.
Since 2020, twice a year over 40 days, volunteers go in pairs or threes to stand some distance from the entrance of the Robert Clinic, King’s Norton, to peacefully pray and offer support to anyone who wants it. Sometimes they are joined by a priest, minister or Christian leader.
If someone visits the clinic, one of the pair might offer a leaflet with some advice and support on it. If the leaflet is refused, that’s the end of the conversation.
Volunteers pray in hourly slots, and then pass over to the next prayer couple.
Before the vigils begin, the police are always contacted by the organisation, the police have been happy for the vigil to ahead and have never had any concerns.
So far, over 100 women have been helped because of the support that they offer.
Danny and Carla were a couple who were helped by 40 Days for Life, who say they are extremely grateful for the information, support and advice they received, and don’t support the use of buffer zones. Carla comments: “I don’t see any problem with peaceful prayer – it wasn’t intimidating to us at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite; it was comforting. Had Danny not had that one person there, that one day, I don’t think he would have had the strength to text me to tell me to come out, that we can do this. And we did do it.”
Council wants to ban prayer
A read through of the consultation document shows just how biased the council is against the pro-life group. Despite the volunteers’ peaceful presence, the council continually labels them ‘protestors’, falsely accuses them of displaying “disturbing and graphic images,” and even says it is these volunteers that have engaged in “verbal and on occasion physical confrontations.”
The council says it has allegedly recorded 16 cases of antisocial behaviour, and “8 crimes against residents and against protestors.” Similarly, the council says that between February 2020 and December 2021, “there were 65 calls and 17 crimes recorded again against residents and protestors … Predominately criminal offences have been recorded by protestors.” Yet no evidence of this has been produced, after 40 Days for Life asked for it – and in fact, on numerous occasions, when volunteers from 40 Days for Life called the police because they were suffering abuse, their calls led to no response or action from the police.
Now, instead of taking action to protect the pro-lifers outside the clinic, the council are moving forward on plans to introduce a PSPO around the entire neighbourhood, which would also restrict prayer and counselling for abortion in the area. This is despite there being a Roman Catholic church further down the road from the clinic, included in the PSPO area.
Sadly this is no new tactic. Despite the Home Office’s 2018 rejection of efforts to create so called ‘buffer zones’ around abortion facilities, an increasing number of local councils have gone out of their way to enact Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), which essentially have the same legal effect as creating a ‘buffer zone’.
Most famously, in October 2019, Christian Hacking became the first person to be arrested for publicly praying when he prayed in front of an abortion clinic, in violation of a PSPO in Ealing, West London.
If you live in or around King’s Norton (or know someone who does), could you respond to the consultation? You can use our simple guide to responding online, and share with anyone who lives around the area. The consultation closes on Monday 23 May.