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Ealing Council zones out life

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In a unanimous vote Ealing Council has taken the unprecedented move to ban pro-life groups from offering prayer and counsel outside abortion clinics, notably Marie Stopes on Mattock Lane. Ealing Council has imposed a Public Service Protection Order (PSPO) outside the Mattock Lane clinic, banning all protests and vigils as they could cause alarm or offense to women seeking abortions. This ban has been referred to in a variety of ways and it is by referring to these, that I wish to comment on what is a disastrously dangerous decision made by Ealing Council.


The Buffer zone

After 20 years of faithful, regular witness and prayer outside Ealing’s Mattock Lane abortion clinic, The Good Counsel Network came under attack with calls for a ‘buffer zone’ due to alleged ongoing intimidation, harassment, and abuse of pregnant women. No evidence or testimony has been presented or confirmed as credible, however. A valid question is, why, if there has been ongoing intimidation, harassment, and abuse has it taken Ealing Council so long to implement a buffer zone against such anti-social activity?  

Video footage and photos of pro-life groups outside the Mattock Lane clinic show a small (generally 3 or 4) handful of unassuming, normal looking people engaged in prayer with one person calmly and compassionately offering a leaflet to women about to enter the clinic gates. This is contrasted with the actions of a pro-abortion activist group, Sister Supporter, who has actively pressured for the banning of pro-life witness outside abortion clinics. Sister Supporter volunteers stand near the clinic in garish pink hi-vis jackets that say ‘Pro-Choice’ and utilise megaphones to berate pro-lifers and to shout at women entering the clinic to not receive the leaflets Good Counsel offer. I personally witnessed and photographed as they violently disrupted last year’s March for Life in Birmingham with smoke bombs, swearing, and slogan-heavy placards, having to be dragged away by police.

Sister Supporter Disrupt March For Life 2017

While Sister Supporter, Ealing Council, and others speak of the need for national buffer zones outside abortion clinics, existing powers against harassment and intimidating behaviour are in place and can be used if necessary. Though police have visited Mattock Lane on numerous occasions, no arrest has ever been made or charges brought – no crimes have been committed. In terminology ‘buffer-zone’ implies protection of women and explains its action as barring unwanted intrusion. The reality is that it bars escape.  It promises safety and security, but actually shields from help and hope.


The Exclusion zone

Another term applied to Ealing’s action of applying a PSPO against pro-life activity has been ‘Exclusion Zone’. Such a term is apt, given that it essentially redefines ‘harassment’, ‘abuse’, and ‘intimidation’ by applying these words to kind, compassionate, and caring people – some of whom know first-hand the danger and heartache abortion causes.

The PSPO excludes pro-life groups from expressing their beliefs within 100 metres of the Mattock Lane clinic. Even those engaged in silent prayer have been banned, lest anyone working at or entering the clinic take offense. Such censorship of freedom of speech, expression, and religion could have implications for other spheres of life, creating the illusion that it is in a person’s rights not to be offended.


The Anti-choice zone

‘Anti-choice zone’ is a fitting term for Ealing’s PSPO. Really only one choice is acceptable to those who have campaigned for the banning of pro-life presence outside abortion clinics – the choice to abort. Marie Stopes which claims to provide pregnancy advice for women certainly fails any impartiality test, being one of Britain’s leading abortion providersas well as offering staff bonuses for procuring women’s decisions to abort their pre-born child.

As for Sister Supporter, despite media appearances in which their spokeswomen say they are not ‘pro-abortion or anti-abortion’, their actions and the hi-vis jackets they wear screaming ‘pro-choice’ are a clear give-away that any discussion, statement, or action that is against abortion is undesirable. Ironically, those who scream that they are pro-choice are generally the most anti-choice, or else they would be happy and willing for people to offer alternatives to abortion.

On Tuesday as people gathered in Ealing to await the Council’s verdict, women from theBe Here For Me campaign, an effort resisting calls for buffer zones, gave testimony of how they had been helped to keep their children due to pro-life witness outside abortion clinics. As they spoke, girls from Sister Supporter attempted to drown their voices out by screaming “Not your body! Not your choice!” ignoring that these women were only there because once they were given the choice that Sister Supporter wants to exclude others from.

Unless Ealing’s PSPO is struck down in the courts, many women will no longer be able to receive a final chance of compassionate help and counsel, giving them a genuine choice as well as aid to keep their pre-born child.


The No-life zone

3,000 mothers are known to have been directly helped to keep their babies by the Good Counsel Network alone. More than 13,000 are believed to have been helped by the similar pro-life vigil group, 40 Days For Life internationally. In 2016 there were 608 fewer abortions in England and Wales than in 2015. When we narrow the scope to Marie Stopes on Mattock Lane in Ealing – outside of which The Good Counsel Network holds many of its vigils –  and take both NHS and private abortions into consideration there were some 7,459 abortions performed in the clinic in 2015 and 6,484 performed in 2016. That’s a drop of 975.

It is understandable, with these statistics and damning Care Quality Commission reports against Marie Stopes, that Marie Stopes Mattock Lane desires pro-life groups be as far removed from them as possible. Good Counsel Network and others pose a clear and present danger to the abortion industry through their love of life and zeal in saving mothers and their children from abortion and its consequences. The PSPO in Ealing and its removal of falsely accused people based solely on those people’s belief that every life, including the pre-born child’s, matters, is essentially saying “this is a no-life zone – pro-lifers should not enter”.

The Good Counsel Network has inarguably saved the lives of many children and bettered the lives of their mothers. The mothers, though by and large completely ignored by Ealing Council, have written, appeared in videos, and in other ways told of the support they received on the very brink of entering an abortion clinic. It is a tragedy that due to one uninformed act of totalitarian, illiberal, authoritarianism other mothers and their children have been put at risk and other women will be unable to tell similar stories.