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Silent prayer might still be permitted outside abortion clinics

Freedom of Speech
12 April 2024
Praying hands girl prayer pray

Justice Minister Laura Farris has indicated that "silent prayer" near abortion clinics might still be permitted, despite recent votes in the Commons opposing such activities.

This decision comes as the Government aims to strike a balance between the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and individual privacy under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Government is expected to announce within weeks whether the new Public Order Act will allow silent prayer within 150m exclusion zones around clinics, after a consultation took place in January of this year. The consultation showed that under human rights laws, prayer cannot be considered as an illegal activity.

Labour MP Rupa Huq criticised the government's stance as a potential reversal of parliamentary will, suggesting it might lead to legal challenges.

In response, Farris reassures of the safety and privacy of individuals accessing abortion services. She said: “It is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated when exercising their legal right to abortion services.

“I hope she will be reassured to hear that it is anticipated that section 9 of the Public Order Act 2023 will be commenced no later than this spring.

“The consultation on the guidance published by the Home Office closed on 22 January and the final response will be published in due course. I must just say one thing, however: it is right that a balance will need to be struck where competing rights are engaged, including under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

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