Abortion is like the death penalty, charity tells rape victims

The government reneged on its promise to cut so-called tampon tax (Rex)
The government reneged on its promise to cut the so-called tampon tax (Rex)

The government is facing a backlash from women’s groups after it emerged that a grant from money raised by the controversial ‘tampon tax’ is being given to an anti-abortion group.

Last year, then-chancellor George Osborne pledged £12m a year in money raised from taxes on sanitary products to women’s charities, following a U-turn on a pledge to scrap the charge.

However, on Saturday it emerged that Life, an organisation that campaigns against abortion, receives £250,000 from the government.

The charity has caused controversy over the inaccurate and misleading information it supplies about abortion.

In an article on its website, it states that women who become pregnant from rape should not be given the option of having an abortion. A now-deleted line described the medical process as the “death penalty”.

Anne Scanlon, Life’s education secretary, whose byline is on the controversial article, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the charity helps “the most vulnerable women in society” and offers “non-directive counselling”.

But Ann Marie Furedi, the chief executive of BPAS, the UK’s largest independent abortion provider, challenged Scanlon on the charity’s use of terminology, including “death penalty”

“Life is an organisation that describes itself as pro-life” and provides “advice on alternatives to abortion,” she said.

Scanlon said the charity “would never use that type of type language”.

Life has also, incorrectly, linked abortion to breast cancer in the past.

The Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) published the full list of 70 beneficiaries — including Life — on its website on Saturday.

The grant to Life has provoked anger from politicians and women's groups, particularly given its controversial stance on rape survivors
The grant to Life has provoked anger from politicians and women’s groups. On its website, it details its controversial stance on rape survivors’ right to abortions. It has since deleted the “death penalty” line

A spokesperson for the End Violence Against Women Coalition said: “We are surprised to see that Life is the recipient of a very significant tampon tax grant.

“The government set out clearly that this money would be spent in ways that would address women’s specific needs and inequalities. It is hard to understand how a service offering counselling based on the fundamental premise that abortion is wrong, to vulnerable women, can do that.”

Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, said: “This fund was supposed to help women, not encourage those organisations who want to control them – completely unacceptable and must be stopped.”

She also tweeted to government minister Rob Wilson, who made the announcement: “Hey @RobWilson_RDG can you please cut funding to pro-life orgs and help ensure no young woman goes without tampons in school instead pls?”

Labour MP Paula Sherriff, whose successful amendment to last year’s budget led to the government’s pledge to abolish the tax, has called for an urgent review of the tax fund allocation.

“It will seem bitterly ironic to many women if we are taxed for our biology, only for the government to hand over that money to organisations that don’t even believe we should have control over our own bodies, especially when so many are left without basic sanitary protection,” she said.

“Just this Thursday, I led a Commons debate on period poverty and discussed terrible cases like the homeless women who can’t afford tampons and whose health is at risk, the girls in Leeds who play truant during their periods and a charity that provides free sanitary products to Africa now getting requests from schools in Britain because so many female pupils cannot afford them.

“Tackling these issues would surely be a better use of the tampon tax fund. The minister agreed on Thursday to look at funding for sanitary protection in schools and homeless shelters, and I will be asking the government to review their allocation of the tampon tax fund urgently,” she said.

The latest grants also included £200,000 for the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to support women who are stalked and £262,614 for Stepping Stones (Luton) for women facing domestic and sexual abuse.