‘Bonfire of abuse’: Labour’s Stella Creasy accuses anti-abortion activists of ‘persistent’ personal harassment

Exclusive: ‘Some of the commentary is all about me being held to account by a god, and having my day in hell,’ MP says

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Sunday 11 February 2024 09:03 GMT
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Related video: Stella Creasy contributes to the urgent question on abortion regulation in Northern Ireland with her baby daughter in her arms

US-funded anti-abortion activists have begun a crusade of harassment against high-profile Labour campaigner Stella Creasy, targeting her in a “persistent and sustained” pattern, accusing her of “killing babies”.

Speaking to The Independent in an exclusive interview, Stella Creasy said she is facing “a bonfire of abuse” from anti-abortion ideologues on social media in punishment for campaigning on abortion rights.

The Labour MP for Walthamstow said protesters have harassed nearby residents and leafletted her constituency with graphic imagery.

Stella Creasy says she is being targetted as punishment for her views on abortion rights

It comes after anti-abortion activists staged a protest against pregnancy terminations in the town square in Walthamstow in east London at the end of January where they brandished graphic images of foetuses.

Ms Creasy said: “Some of the commentary is all about me being held to account by a god, and having my day in hell.

The protesters “are connected to American protest groups. And we have seen what American protest groups do and the violence and intimidation they use there.”

Ms Creasy said the anti-abortion activists targeting her area appear to have a lot of money as she warned they are ignoring electoral law.

“Who do I hold to account for the fact that they have gone around Walthamstow telling local residents that I want to kill babies at birth?” Ms Creasy asked.

We have a government that is cracking down on protest in all sorts of other areas, but feels it is fine for women to be subjected to persistent and sustained harassment as part of a political debate. It’s not consistent

MP Stella Creasy

It comes after an advertising company was forced to remove a “disgusting” anti-abortion billboard campaign levelled at Ms Creasy back in 2019 when she was pregnant.

Ms Creasy previously said the billboards, which were emblazoned with the words “Stop Stella” and featured an image of a foetus, had left her “physically sick” and constituted a form of “harassment”.

The UK arm of an American-based anti-abortion organisation called the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform was behind the advertising campaign, which saw six posters spring up around Walthamstow directly targeting her.

Ms Creasy said the current protests are being organised by a coalition of different anti-abortion groups which include the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, Abortion Resistance, and Christian Concern.

Discussing the current wave of protests, she said: “I feel like they've got more money than they had in 2019. And that’s the thing that makes me wonder what else they might be capable of doing.

“The stuff they did at the last election and the stuff they are doing now should not be part of a thriving democracy, because it is not a way of having a debate. If they want to participate in the democratic process, they need to be accountable, so they need to tell us who is funding them.”

She said protesters are currently falsely linking her to killing babies as she revealed that residents reported that the activists sought to give an anti-abortion leaflet to a four-year-old.

Ms Creasy added: “The irony to me is where we have a government that is cracking down on protest in all sorts of other areas but feels it is fine for women to be subjected to persistent and sustained harassment as part of a political debate. It's not consistent.”

Ms Creasy said the anti-abortion protests will not “deter” her from tabling amendments and proposing legislation about access to abortion. “Fundamentally I think it is a human right to choose,” she added.

Current UK laws only allow abortions in restricted circumstances – with pregnancy terminations still deemed a criminal act in England, Scotland and Wales under the 1967 Abortion Act.

Legislation passed in 1861 means any woman who ends a pregnancy without getting legal permission from two doctors, who must agree that continuing with it would be risky for the woman’s physical or mental health, can face up to life imprisonment. Any medical professional who delivers an abortion out of the terms of the act can face criminal punishment.

Abortion providers, charities, medical bodies and MPs have spent years demanding abortion be decriminalised in the UK.

Penelope Wiles, a local Walthamstow resident, told The Independent she thinks she overheard a protester spreading lies and disinformation about Ms Creasy during the recent protests.

“I stopped to listen to what this woman was saying; she said ‘she thinks it is alright to just rip it out like it’s nothing, like it’s a piece of rubbish and chuck it in the bin’,” Ms Wiles added. “She was saying this to a group of two or three women. I cannot say ‘I heard her say Stella Creasy said that’ but I can assume that.”

A Walthamstow council spokesperson said: “The council was made aware by the police of a planned protest in Walthamstow town square on the morning of Wednesday 24 January, the same day that the event took place. The MP’s office also made contact to alert us that morning and we shared the information we had with them before the protest started at 1pm.

“We can only act within the law. The police, who are responsible for managing and monitoring protests, attended the event to ensure public safety. In a free society people have the right to lawfully express opinions that we may not agree with.”

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