- Censorship zone around abortion facility upheld, application to European Court of Human Rights being considered
- Experts concerned about implications for fundamental right to freedom of expression
LONDON (12 March 2020) – The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has announced that it will not hear the case of Alina Dulgheriu. She had challenged a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around an abortion facility in the London Borough of Ealing. Introduced in April 2018, the Order criminalises activities including silent prayer and offers of help. The young mother had herself received help from a now-banned group and argued that the Order violates the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Ms. Dulgheriu is now considering her options for challenging this decision.
“The disproportionate and wide-ranging measure taken by Ealing Council poses a serious threat to freedom of speech and assembly. It sets a negative precedent and outlaws even the most compassionate offer of assistance. In refusing permission to appeal, the Supreme Court has denied Alina the opportunity to argue her case before the highest court in the country and failed to recognise the human rights violations caused by the Order. Free societies must be free to discuss even ideas some consider controversial rather than simply criminalising them. Evidence shows that hundreds of women – like Alina – have accepted the help offered by peaceful pro-life groups outside abortion facilities,” said Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International 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. Although the High Court found that the censorship zone impacted fundamental rights, it ultimately decided the PSPO was justified and ordered Ms Dulgheriu to pay Ealing Council’s legal costs. The Court of Appeal then agreed to review the High Court’s decision. In August 2019, it dismissed that appeal and Ms Dulgheriu appealed to the Supreme Court. This appeal has now been rejected.
Responding to the decision, 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 could be brought to top human rights court
Now, Ms Dulgheriu is considering her next steps including the possibility of bringing her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The European Court is responsible for ensuring all 47 countries that have signed the European Convention on Human Rights uphold its terms. 820 million people are subject to its rulings.