Pro-Life Charity Censored by Council

I really should have blogged about this earlier but I have been watching information develop so it is probably just as well I've left it to now.

I am honoured to be the President of my Catenian Circle this year and as President, you choose a charity that you raise money for throughout the year. I have chosen Life.
Life was founded in 1970 Professor Jack Scarisbrick and his wife Nuala in response to the Abortion Act 1967 on the principle that it is not enough simply to oppose abortion but that the positive alternatives should also be provided. Life is a UK-based pro-life educational and caring charity which has in the region of 12,000 members in the UK. Its patrons include well-known pro-life parliamentarians, such as David Alton, Baron Alton of Liverpool. Life was the first pro-life organisation in the UK to pioneer this two-pronged approach of opposing abortion yet also providing viable long-term alternatives.

On Sunday 22nd July Life had a stall at the Lambeth Country Show.

Caroline Farrow tells the story of what happened next in the Catholic Universe:

Life Charity, which does not participate in any vigils or protests outside abortion centres, booked a pitch at the Lambeth Country Fair. Following a lively day on the Saturday, where they had a lot of positive engagement from the general public who appreciated their displays celebrating the beauty and wonder of unborn human life, they turned up for the second day of the fair, only to discover that their tent and all their belongings had mysteriously disappeared.

Upon enquiries they discovered that everything had been dismantled and dumped unceremoniously in a supposedly secure area on the site, only accessible to site staff. Lambeth Council had decided after receiving complaints that their stall was not in accordance with Council values and inappropriate at a family show. The organisers did not even bother to contact Life before removing their property or afterwards, to tell them where they could collect it.

Life’s message is neither confrontational nor explicitly anti-abortion. Their display consisted of some anatomically and correctly-sized plastic models of unborn babies. Apparently, at the end of the first day, they had received some antagonism (perhaps organised) but the organisers said that security had confirmed that Life’s staff and volunteers had behaved impeccably, with courtesy, dignity and good humour, taking the criticism in good faith.

When challenged on Twitter, one of the councillors responsible for the decision, Ed Davie, attempted to claim that Life had hoodwinked their way into the fair and were not on the official list of exhibitors. Life Charity produced evidence to the contrary, proving they had been transparent about their organisation upon their application for the pitch. Not only had they included their website address, the first line of their statement said they were a pro-life organisation and they also included photographs of their other exhibitions at similar events to the Lambeth one.

Ed Davie has yet to respond as to why he got his facts wrong but he did note that Lambeth Council is about to pass similar measures to those of Ealing Council in terms of banning vigils outside abortion centres. He clearly conflated the work of Life with those of the Good Counsel Network, but it wouldn’t matter even if they were the same organisation. Those outside the clinics are always being told that they ought to take their ‘protests’ elsewhere and are free to do so, but as this incident demonstrates, it doesn’t matter where you express a pro-life point of view. If it is in public, attempts will be made to shut it down.

One deleted tweet pointed to a photograph of the model foetuses and asked how on earth such ‘outrageous material’ could be seen at a family show. The Brook Family Planning Centre, based three pitches away, happily dishing out free condoms and graphic leaflets about anal sex and advice on how to transition to a different gender, obviously escaped his discerning eye.

Life charity has said that it is seeking legal advice on a number of counts; breach of contract and defamation spring to mind, but their offending material is exactly the same sort of thing that you would see at an NHS roadshow or on display in the Natural History Museum, where nobody would suggest that they are too traumatic to be seen by children.

At the March for Life in London this year there was great optimism about the pro-life movement. We are strong, more united than ever before and the science is on our side. However it seems we underestimated the mood of the nation and the hostile reaction many have to the idea that every human life has value.

Ed Davie was not the only Lambeth MP publicly stating that Life do not have the right to publicly advocate for the value of human life.

Lambeth's damage control amounted to just flat out lying. But all those tweets have now been deleted of course!
Life's response to what happened can be found here. They explain:

Life applied to the show in January with full disclosure as to who we are as a charity. Following what we can only assume was their due diligence our application was approved in April. We provided the show organisers with information about the stall, pictures of similar exhibits we ran in different locations in London last year and a link to our charity website. Our objectives at the show were to educate people about the awe and wonder of life before birth and to promote our counselling, housing and practical support services to vulnerable women in crisis.

On Saturday we had a successful day with many positive responses. However as the evening progressed, a few people became aggressively vocal about our stall and challenged us on our prolife position. Life absolutely respects everyone’s right to their own opinion and we ensure staff and volunteers are kind, compassionate and considerate at all times. We were reassured by the Show that our staff and volunteers were noted by security as being friendly, open and calm.

On arrival Sunday morning, we found our marquee and all of our possessions taken down and completely removed from Life’s pitch. A member of staff said we had to leave the site as soon as possible. Despite having our contact details we were not consulted prior to the organisers taking this action. The organisers told us the decision had not been made by them but by Lambeth Council. They would not give us an exact reason for the action but did say that Life was against the values of Lambeth Council and was not in line with the causes the council has been funding and supporting. However they were then unable to tell us what those values were.

Since then Lambeth Councillor, Ed Davie has posted on Twitter that Life “wasn’t officially allowed. They were not on the approved list of exhibitors, we tried to get them removed and will make sure not there today.” This is a complete fabrication as we are able to provide confirmation of our official booking, payment and presence on the exhibitor list.

Life’s Director of Education Anne Scanlan said “Nothing on our stall was offensive. There were life-like fetal models and pictures of the unborn baby at different gestational stages which can be seen on any pregnancy website including the NHS. At a time when there is a clamour for free speech and allowing dissenting voices to be heard, we have a local council aggressively shutting down the voice of prolifers trying to reach out to vulnerable women in crisis and educating people about life in the womb. It is now routine and apparently acceptable, for anyone who dares to express any view that is not pro-abortion, to risk coming under vociferous and sustained attack for doing so. Our message at Life is delivered in a compassionate and caring way. Councils which try to shut down and silence prolife organisations like Life must recognise that they are doing a disservice to women in crisis who may need our help. Lambeth Council reportedly said we are against their values. We are curious to know what these values are and look forward to hearing a fuller and more detailed explanation, and hopefully an apology from the council for the distress caused to our Life staff and volunteers.”

One of Life's employees who was at Lambeth has written this excellent reflection on her experiences.

If you want to email Ed Davie at Lambeth Council about their censorship, his email address is:

And please join me in supporting Life!


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