High Court backs council free speech ban despite human rights breach

A London council can continue to restrict people from offering alternatives to abortion outside a Marie Stopes centre, the High Court has ruled.

Pro-life campaigners say the decision damages free speech, and they are considering an appeal.

In his ruling Mr Justice Turner did acknowledge the ban breached human rights and said other councils should not take his judgment as a go-ahead for more bans.

‘Loving help’

Ealing Council made the decision in April but it was challenged by a woman who was herself supported by people outside an abortion centre.

Alina Dulgheriu said she was deeply sorry for those women who already had not been able to access the “loving help that I did”.

“I am discussing every option available to me to be able to challenge this decision, which for the sake of vulnerable women and the future of our fundamental freedoms, should not be able to stand”, she added.

‘True test’

Ealing resident and fellow campaigner Elizabeth Howard said the decision was bad for free speech.

But she promised, “while there are women who feel they have no choice but an abortion they don’t want, we will do our best to reach them”.

The legal firm behind the High Court challenge also expressed disappointment: “The true test for your belief in freedom of expression, is whether you are prepared to fight for the rights of those whose views you do not share”.

No green light

Mr Justice Turner said the bar on pro-life supporters went against their human rights – but Ealing Council had justification to make such an interference.

Other councils are considering banning pro-lifers, with Glasgow moving toward such an outcome last week.

However, the judge said his ruling does not give the “green light” to local authorities and each case must be considered individually.

Abortion giants BPAS and Marie Stopes welcomed the ruling on Twitter, with BPAS declaring: “Now for the rest of the country”.


Last month campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised the introduction of the Ealing zone for going against “what a free and democratic society is supposed to be all about”.

He added: “All the evidence I’ve heard is that the Ealing anti-abortion protesters have mostly been silent, peaceful, dignified, and not at all harassing of the women going to the clinic.”

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