- First case challenging censorship zones to be brought before European Court
- Application to be filed in the coming months
LONDON/STRASBOURG (5 May 2020) – Alina Dulgheriu, the young mother who challenged a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around an abortion facility in the London Borough of Ealing, has announced she will submit her case to the European Court of Human Rights. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom refused permission to appeal in March, leaving the European Court as her last legal option in challenging the PSPO. Introduced in April 2018, the Order criminalises activities including silent prayer and charitable offers of help. The young mother had herself received help from pro-life volunteers and argues that the Order violates the fundamental rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and religion.
“The disproportionate and wide-ranging measure taken by Ealing Council poses a serious threat to freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. It sets a worrying precedent and outlaws even the most compassionate offer of assistance as well as silent prayer. In a free society, the authorities do not simply criminalise speech with which they disagree. Evidence shows that hundreds of women – like Alina – have accepted the help offered by peaceful pro-life groups outside abortion facilities,” said Ryan Christopher, Senior Policy Officer for ADF International based in London.
Threat to freedom of speech and assembly
Ms Dulgheriu, a local mother, challenged Ealing Council’s PSPO at the High Court shortly after it came into force in 2018. She had felt able to give birth to her daughter after receiving support outside of an abortion facility. The High Court found that the censorship zone violated fundamental rights but ruled that the PSPO was justified and ordered Ms Dulgheriu to pay Ealing Council’s legal costs. The Court of Appeal dismissed Ms Dulgheriu’s appeal in August 2018. Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was then rejected in March 2020.
Explaining her decision to appeal, Alina Dulgheriu said, “My little girl is here today because of the practical and emotional support that I was offered outside a Marie Stopes centre, and I brought the appeal to ensure that other women did not have this vital support option removed. It is unthinkable that any council would criminalise an offer to help a woman keep her child.”
Censorship zones brought to top human rights court
With no further appeal possible in the United Kingdom, she will now file her case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The European Court is responsible for ensuring all 47 countries that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights uphold its terms. 820 million people are subject to its rulings.
“In the name of protecting ‘choice’, this censorship zone has actually removed 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 justification,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International.