Censorship Zones Amendment Dropt
An amendment aiming to criminalize Pro-Life organisations for offering prayer, assistance and counselling to women outside of abortion clinics across England and Wales has been dropped by a Labour MP. The amendment brought in by Dr Rupa Huq sought to introduce censorship zones around abortion clinics nationwide and to penalize pro-Lifers with a prison sentence of up to two years if they continued their service. Huq's Bill failed at the committee stage since the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill have withdrawn from the amendment. UK's Right to Life Group fears the amendment will be tabled again.
Right to Life UK fears that once the bill reaches the Commons it will be debated again and eventually tabled anew. Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins stated during the committee meeting that the "Government has to have a proportionate response" since only 35 of the 142 abortion clinics and five hospitals in the UK have reported protests.
She continued: "This is why we are concerned that a blanket ban across all of the service providers may not be proportionate given that the majority of clinics and the overwhelming majority of hospitals that provide these services do not appear thus far to be affected by protest". But added that implementing Public Space Protection Orders are "the way forward" since they have already been used to shut down prayer vigils outside some abortion clinics.
Right To Life UK's spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, called it "great news" that Huq's amendment has been withdrawn. She added: "It is worded in such a way that it risks criminalising all forms of peaceful demonstration and offering of transparent advice on abortion by medical professionals themselves inside and within 150 metres of all abortion clinics (...) Existing laws already provide protections to prevent harassment if it is occurring. All this Bill would do is infringe upon the public's right to assembly and speech."
Additionally, a new poll commissioned by Right To Life UK shows that only 21 per cent of adults living in the UK would support nationwide 'censorship zones'. Wherein only 15 per cent of adults aged 18 to 34 would support 'censorship zones' around abortion clinics.
Rupa Huq's Bill would have additionally criminalized anyone talking about abortion to women seeking an abortion, within 150 meters of a clinic providing that service. As well as protesters or demos outside of clinics. The Bill also aims to legally punish anyone who offers practical, emotional or financial support to a woman to keep her baby if she is unsure about an abortion.
Robinson stated that “this poll clearly shows there is very little support from the public for introducing nationwide censorship zones. Many babies are alive today because their mothers were able to receive the help they needed outside of an abortion clinic. By attempting to prevent women considering abortion from receiving compassionate emotional and practical support, the ‘pro-choice’ lobby have revealed their opposition to real choice for women”.
The poll additionally reveals that 24 per cent are in favour of restricting only individuals who are found to be harassing women instead of a broad general public peacefully demonstrating. Huq has introduced a similar Bill in 2020, but it failed to pass the Commons in its Second Reading in September.