The wording from the Home Office has changed
The Home Office appears to have changed tack on its review into pro-life activity outside abortion clinics, with a senior minister now saying that those running the vigils will be consulted. SPUC has welcomed the change, which appears to have been brought about by Society members lobbying their MPs on the issue.
In November, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced a review into “harassment and intimidation near abortion clinics.”
The announcement said that the “review will gather evidence from police forces, healthcare providers and local authorities to understand the scale and nature of these protests, before considering what further action the government can take to protect those using or working in abortion clinics.”
No mention was made of consulting with groups such as the Good Counsel Network, who have run peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics for decades. In answer to a specific parliamentary question by Mary Glindon, MP, on whether evidence from such groups would be included, again the only parties mentioned were “police, healthcare providers and local authorities.”
However, Nick Hurd, the Minister of State for Policing, has now said that “protesters” will be included in the review. In response to a letter from Andrew Mitchell MP, on behalf of a constituent, Mr .Hurd said “the review will gather evidence from police forces, healthcare providers, local authorities, from representative groups of the clients, and also those engaging in protests and demonstrations.” [our emphasis]
The letter was written on Home Office paper in Mr. Hurd’s capacity as Minister of State for Policing. The change of wording also appeared in the answer to a parliamentary question by Fiona Bruce, MP, on the same day the letter was sent.
Keeping up the pressure
Katherine Hampton, SPUC’s Political Officer, welcomed the “sharp change in direction” from the Home Office, hailing it as a major victory for pro-life campaigners.
“SPUC has been lobbying Members of Parliament asking them to call on the Government to allow the pro-life groups which organise acts of witness outside abortion clinics to participate in the review,” she said. “This result shows just how important it is to keep pressure on our elected members of Parliament. It now remains for us to hold the Home Office to this commitment, and make sure that groups who do lifesaving work outside abortion clinics are properly consulted in this review.”
SPUC and the Good Counsel Network recently reiterated to the Home Affairs Select Committee that no “harassment and intimidation” takes place outside clinics.