Recent moves to create buffer zones around abortion centres are an egregious assault on our freedom of speech, argues Paul Huxley


Source: Alamy

Last week, MPs voted to keep the ‘buffer zone’ amendment in the government’s Public Order Bill, criminalising any form of ‘influence’ outside of abortion facilities in England and Wales.

The amendment is a disgrace. Lord Jackson said it well in the House of Lords: “The clause will result in stigmatisation, hostility towards and, eventually, the criminalisation of one group of people: Christians. The clause is pernicious and a fundamental assault on freedom of speech and thought…It is stigmatising a small group of people who are not fashionable, and it will come back to haunt, in due course, all of us who care very deeply about freedom of speech.”

Since the abortion act was introduced in 1967, it is estimated that over 10 million babies have been killed

Some MPs courageously tried to limit the damage by stopping the law criminalising silent prayer. Andrew Lewer MP tabled amendment ten, seeking to stop consensual conversations and silent prayer being considered an offence, but was defeated by a two to one margin.

Although this was admirable, even this amendment was putting lipstick on a pig. For politicians to legislate against the freedom to seek to influence other people through peaceful means is a wholesale abandonment of the basic principles of free speech.

Misleading figures

The Conservative Party love to claim they’re the champions of free speech in parliament, even while pushing through a bill that forbids people seeking to influence others in peaceful, non-disruptive ways.

But the clampdown on silent prayer was led by Labour’s Rupa Huq MP. In the debate, she made the fantastical claim that “every week nationwide, 2,000 women seeking lawful medical treatment find themselves impeded on their way to the clinic door by unwanted individuals.”

2,000 people every week? That would be 100,000 people every year, or around half of all women who seek abortions. Many abortions now take place entirely at home through pills by post. Most abortion centres do not have pro-life presences. Those that do are not year-round. It is a ridiculous claim.

Huq later claimed 10,000 women a year are affected. So was her earlier point a mathematical failure, or did she misspeak? Either way, it was a misleading statement, and no one picked her up on this detail.

Even 10,000 women is not credible. But it’s not just the numbers. It’s the description. These pro-life groups and individuals do not impede anyone. They stand to the side. They are the ones who typically face harassment from people making absurd claims about what they are doing.

They are also not universally “unwanted”. Some women find an offer of support extremely valuable, choose not to abort their baby and are deeply grateful for the presence of pro-lifers.

Counting the cost

It’s hard to design a more transparently disingenuous and misleading claim than Huq’s. But MPs still queue up in the hundreds to protect the abortion racket. Why?

I think it boils down to a rather simple prejudice: abortion = good, Christians = bad.

Abortion protects our culture’s big idol of sex without consequences. It protects the story of women’s ‘liberation’ from motherhood. It protects employers (and the government) from the cost of maternity leave and keeps the economy’s GDP (another idol) up. And it keeps people with Down’s Syndrome and other ‘imperfections’ away from a society which might otherwise have to care for - or perhaps learn something from - them.

MPs don’t care about the consequences for Christians who might, in some small way, present a challenge, through silent prayer and gentle witness, to our culture’s favourite vices of lust and greed.

A sacrificial lamb

Meanwhile, since the abortion act was introduced in 1967, it is estimated that over 10 million babies have been killed. Every year, the number of abortions carried out in England and Wales continues to rise. The cost of living crisis may see even more records broken in 2023. As the birth rate falls, we may see as many as one in three pregnancies leading to abortion.

Lord, have mercy.

In the BBC’s reporting of the tragic attack on a Jehovah’s Witness hall in Hamburg last week, they tellingly described an “unborn baby” as being among the victims. We desperately need to see the humanity of the unborn baby.

Abortion protects our culture’s big idol of sex without consequences

In the most extensive UK polling on abortion in a decade, SavantaComRes found that 70 per cent of women believe that the current 24-week gestational limit for abortion should be reduced. 84 per cent of women agree those who want to continue with their pregnancies, but are under financial pressure to have an abortion, should be given more support. Only 1 per cent support pro-choice campaigners’ goals to introduce abortion up-to-birth. Generally, the public support more restrictions on abortion, not less.

So why don’t MPs get behind public opinion? Because free sex, feminism and unhinged capitalism need to be propped up. And while these idols stand tall in our culture’s imagination, we will keep sacrificing our children to Baal and Mammon.