A leading abortion provider has been accused of “disgraceful intimidation” for attempting to halt a prayer vigil outside a London clinic with a new round of legal threats.
Lawyers acting for Marie Stopes Interational (MSI) threatened to report pro-life activists to the Advertising Standards Authority over their claims of a link between abortion and breast cancer.
Kirkland & Ellis International, a City law firm, has also warned the Good Counsel Network that it would also seek legal action through the courts to suppress a leaflet offered to pregnant women entering the Whitfield Street clinic which claims a causal link between abortion and breast cancer.
Lawyers say MSI also strongly objects to the claims contained in the leaflet, called “Pregnant … Worried?”, that abortions can cause infertility and lead to possible mental health problems.
“If you do not stop distributing the leaflet within 10 working days of the date of this letter MSI is considering making a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority and the courts on the basis that the information published in the leaflet regarding the physical and psychological implications of abortion is misleading or false,” said a letter to the pro-life group.
In July MSI had also threatened to take out an injunction to stop Good Counsel from using “baby pink” rosary beads to allegedly harass pregnant women.
Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas Law Legal Centre, the charity representing the pregnancy counselling group, described the latest threat as “legally fatuous” and accused MSI of intimidation.
“While Good Counsel is prepared if necessary to defend before the ASA or a court everything said in their leaflets the fundamental point is that the ASA does not have jurisdiction over leaflets distributed as part of a protest, which is MSI’s description of the vigil Good Counsel hold outside the MSI clinic,” said Mr Addison, a barrister.
“To give a comparison, if the Trades Union Congress was to organise a protest against Government cuts and distributed leaflets about their effect, is anybody seriously suggesting that the Government could report the TUC to the ASA because the Government disagreed with the TUC’s analysis as to the consequences of the cuts?
“The idea is, of course, preposterous but so is MSI’s suggestion that Good Counsel could be reported to the ASA with regard to its leaflets.
“In addition, the medical evidence regarding the effects of abortion is complex and there are a large number of medical and scientific reports reaching different conclusions on the issue.
“Frankly, the ASA has neither the jurisdiction nor the professional competence to decide whether Good Counsel or MSI are right concerning the effects of abortion.”
Mr Addison added: “Good Counsel and its members have a right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”