by Ann Farmer, TCW;
THE Court of Appeal, in dismissing an appeal against the ‘buffer zone’ set up by Ealing Council outside a Marie Stopes abortion clinic, has confirmed that even silent prayer is a criminal offence within the zone.
The court rejected the argument by Alina Dulgheriu and Andrea Orthova that forcing protesters to stand 100m from the clinic interfered with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of assembly and association.
Understandably, abortion clinics do not want to attract public attention, but those usually so keen on free speech have fallen silent on the issue, while hailing a ruling that suppresses it. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: ‘A woman’s right to choose, free from intimidation or harassment, must be protected.’ Apparently they will not be allowed to choose to accept the help offered by the vigils. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that ‘the right to peaceful protest must be respected’ – perhaps connected with the ‘baby Trump’ blimp he allowed to fly over London for the US President’s visit – but insisted that ‘behaviour that seeks to deliberately target women for harassment and intimidation should not be tolerated’.
The ruling will prevent individuals from silently praying and handing out leaflets offering help to vulnerable pregnant women, without any shred of evidence that would stand up in a normal court of law of the harassment they are supposed to prevent.
It will encourage other councils to follow suit, and since it reinforces the view that women might be upset by even silent intimations of disapproval for abortion, it could be that pro-life prayer vigils will be outlawed everywhere.