A single mother is seeking justice at the European Court of Human Rights in response to Ealing Council’s criminalisation of prayer and counselling outside of an abortion facility. The court’s decision has the potential to impact 820 million Europeans from 47 countries, including the UK.
“What kind of society withholds help from vulnerable women? I’m challenging Ealing Council’s ban at the European Court of Human Rights because my experience is typical for many hundreds of others,” said Alina Dulgheriu, who has filed an application at the European Court of Human Rights.
“I didn’t want an abortion but I was abandoned by my partner, my friends and society. My financial situation at the time would have made raising a child very challenging. Thanks to the help I was offered by a group outside of a clinic before my appointment, my daughter is here today. Stopping people from offering much-needed services and resources for women in my situation is wrong. Let them help.”
Ms Dulgheriu faced a crisis pregnancy in 2012 and felt abortion was her “only option” until she received “much-needed” financial, emotional and material help from volunteers outside of an abortion facility. The local Council’s enforcement of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) has since forbidden such charitable help from being offered near the facility. Over 500 other vulnerable women received help from the volunteers in the five years prior to the ban. Ms Dulgheriu hopes that the Court will overturn the Council’s decision and allow the volunteers to continue to offer support.
The wide-ranging order forbids even silent prayer near the abortion facility, thus raising concerns about the protection of freedom of assembly and expression, as well as freedom of religion or belief. PSPOs may only be brought into force if they are ‘reasonable’ in order to prevent a detriment to the quality of life in the area. Supporters of Ms Dulgheriu’s campaign question the proportionality of the order against the charity’s support for women in crisis. The UK High Court affirmed that the censorship zone violated fundamental rights, but found that the PSPO was justified nevertheless. Ms Dulgheriu hopes the ban on prayer and counselling will finally be overturned at the ECHR in a decision which will set a precedent for volunteers outside abortion facilities across the continent.
Ryan Christopher, Director of ADF International (UK), said: “In the name of protecting ‘choice’, this censorship zone has actually removed real choice. It limits the options available to vulnerable women who feel as though they have no choice but to go through with an abortion. By criminalising even the most basic offer of help, Ealing has gone far beyond what is reasonable or proportionate. The European Court of Human Rights has reiterated the importance of guaranteeing freedom of expression, especially where there is disagreement on an issue, and it is clear that Ealing’s censorship zone undermines this freedom without sufficient justification.”.
Clare Mulvaney, a local supporter of Ms Dulgheriu’s campaign, said: “I would invite anyone who opposes Alina’s case to speak first-hand to the women that have received life-changing help. Their stories are heart-breaking. The help offered is transformative. This is not about being “pro-life” or “pro-choice” – this is about offering emotional, financial and material support to women in need. And that support has been taken away without good reason. We will continue to support Alina and amplify her voice until justice is served.”
Elizabeth Howard, also a local supporter of the campaign, said: “Alina’s story is typical of many. Over 500 women have accepted help from the vigil in Ealing over the past five years. Alina’s resolve in speaking out for other vulnerable women who only need some help – like she did – is inspirational. We support her taking her case all the way to the ECHR. Ealing Council’s censorship zone is an affront to human rights and a setback for women’s empowerment. It’s right that the European Court of Human Rights has an opportunity to rectify this injustice.”
Picture: Alina Dulgheriu and her daughter Sarah. (Be Here For Me).