Ealing Council looks set to take an unprecendented step today, in implementing a censorship zone outside the Marie Stopes abortion facility. For more than 20 years people have prayed quietly here, while women entering the centre are offered a leaflet which outlines the help available to anyone who may be feeling forced into abortion. This help includes accommodation, financial assistance, legal advice, babysitting and donations of baby goods.
Over the years, hundreds of women have accepted this help, and have gone on to have their babies. Many of them have spoken out against the proposal to ban help, launching a campaign at behereforme.org, but it seems that the council prefers to ignore their voice and instead listen only to a well-orchestrated ideological campaign, backed by the abortion industry.
Nine women and their children attended a council meeting on a dark and rainy evening last November. All of them had accepted help from the pro-life vigil outside Marie Stopes. All of them had gone on to have their babies, and were profoundly grateful for the support they had received. All of them were adamant that they had received only kindness from the vigil, and had never felt threatened, intimidated or harassed.
Yet the council chose to ignore them. Not one councillor had a question for them. One councillor even asked: 'Why have you brought these young girls here?' The council seems to have swallowed the pro-choice narrative without question and refuses to listen to the other side of the story.
It is the most vulnerable women who will suffer from this draconian measure. Women who have nowhere else to turn, who feel that abortion is their only choice but do not want to have to take that choice, women under pressure from partners, family or personal circumstances. There is practical help available for these women which is not on offer elsewhere, and the council wishes to take this away.
Many of them are willing to speak about their experiences, but the mainstream media is strangely reluctant to allow them to put their side of the story. Very often, they accept the accounts of abortion providers without question.
There have been lurid allegations of harassment and intimidation from those who are opposed to any pro-life witness, but there has never been a shred of evidence to substantiate the allegations.
And so Ealing Council looks set to impose a blanket ban on freedom of speech around the abortion centre. They explicitly include prayer in this ban. Their proposed measure will criminalise ordinary citizens who just want to offer help to women in difficulties.
The ban will deny women like Alina, a spokesperson for Be Here For Me, the joy of their children. She says: 'What kind of society refuses help for a vulnerable woman? My little girl is here today because of the real practical and emotional support that I was given by a group outside the Marie Stopes clinic. We have launched the Be Here For Me campaign so that our voices can be heard. We are inviting the UK public to come, hear our stories and then stand with us against any attempts to ban support for women like me outside abortion centres.'
Elizabeth Howard is spokesperson for Be Here For Me campaign which is a group of mothers who say they were helped by protestors outside abortion clinics when they were about to terminate their pregnancy.