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Council votes 33-1 to ban pro-life vigil attended by bishop

Bishop Philip Egan (Mazur/

Portsmouth city council has become the second local authority in Britain to vote in favour of banning pro-life vigils outside an abortion clinic.

The motion, for the council to “do all within its powers” to prevent pro-life vigils outside a BPAS abortion clinic, was supported by 31 votes to one.

It follows a similar decision by the London borough of Ealing.

A daily pro-life vigil was held at St Mary’s Hospital Health Campus, Milton, for a week last month. It was attended by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, who tweeted: “Just back from 40 Days for Life vigil outside Portsmouth abortion clinic. Please pray for the brave participants and for an end to abortion.”

Lisa Butler, who organises the 40 Days for Life vigils, told Portsmouth News: “You don’t have to agree with us on abortion to stand up for our right to peacefully pray outside the hospital.”

According to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, (SPUC), the council heard testimony from Caroline Farrow, a Catholic writer, who described her experience at the clinic 20 years ago. “I was not informed about the basic facts of my procedure,” she said.

“I was angry at how I’d been misled and the reality of abortion glossed over by the clinic,” she continued.

In a statement, SPUC said: “We know from the witness of the many mothers who have been helped by pro-life volunteers that women often end up at abortion clinics because they feel they have no other choice. Why should volunteers be vilified for offering help to women in need?”

The council is now considering creating a “buffer zone” around the clinic; a public spaces protection order (PSPO) is one option. A PSPO is currently being sought by Ealing council for a Marie Stopes clinic in the borough.

More than 100 MPs – including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – have urged the Government to ban pro-life vigils outside abortion clinics across the country.