The Court of Appeal, in rejecting 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, despite appellants Alina Dulgheriu and Andrea Orthova arguing that it ‘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’ (‘Court backs anti-protest buffer zone at abortion clinic’, August 22, 2019).
Understandably the 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”’.
If any ‘harassment and intimidation’ had really occurred it would be trumpeted from every tree top; in reality the ruling will prevent individuals from silently praying and handing out leaflets offering help to vulnerable pregnant women – all 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.
The appellants in this case, along with many other marginalised women, have children thanks to the prayer vigils; now we can expect to see the abortion figures, already at an all-time high, go even higher – but how long will saying so remain legal? Free speech must die so that babies can keep on dying.