A leading sexual health organisation has slammed the decision to award an anti-abortion charity with a quarter of a million pounds raised from a tax on women’s periods as “absolutely shocking”.
The controversial tax on women’s sanitary products has come under fresh attack after it was revealed £250,000 from tax receipts is due to be given to Life, a charity that has a network of unregulated pregnancy counselling centres and claims that ending a pregnancy can cause breast cancer and infertility.
The money was part of a £12m Tampon Tax Fund, which is being redistributed to 70 women’s charities and organisations across the country.
But there was outrage by women’s rights campaigners after Life appeared on the list of recipients with one of the largest grants despite the charity being at the heart of a number of controversies over its counselling services.
Speaking to The Independent, Claire Murphy, the director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a not-for-profit organisation that provides abortion care and support for women, said she was “totally shocked”.
She said: “This is a huge grant and one of the largest that was given out from the tampon tax fund.
“It is very surprising. Life is well known for campaigning against women’s access to abortion.
“This is a tax on women’s periods being used to fund an organisation that is opposing women’s autonomy over their own bodies and pregnancies.
“They are not interested in women, they are interested in unborn babies, and giving priority to unborn babies over women’s needs is absolutely shocking."
Other recipients of the fund include Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which is receiving £200,000 to help increase the organisation’s casework for women who are being stalked.
Stepping Stones, in Luton, which supports women facing domestic and sexual abuse, is also getting £262,614; Black Country Women’s Aid will receive £240,401, and Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre in Cornwall will benefit from £179,157.
On its website, Life says its mission is to “not give up until those facing difficult pregnancies can choose life and abortion is a thing of the past”.
Sexual health charity Brook has written two reports into the activities of the charity.
Brook sent mystery shoppers to Life’s counselling services and found that the charity was providing “misinformation and bias and poor quality practices”.
Life was found to distribute leaflets intended for educational purposes, which Brook says falsely claimed that abortion was linked to breast cancer.
In another report about Life’s leaflet and information booklets, Brook concluded: “Life has falsely linked abortion to mental health problems, increased risk of suicide, breast cancer, placenta praevia and ectopic pregnancy (all of which are discounted by the RCOG’s professional guidelines on abortion).”
Aside from its counselling centres, Life also sends speakers into schools, where it distribute some of its leaflets.
According to Life’s latest financial statement, in 2015, the charity spent more than £3.4m on education and visits.
In 2012, it claimed to have reached 30,000 young people and the same year, it received £292,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, in part towards its counselling work, according to Brook.
Earlier this month, it also launched a petition to revoke Marie Stopes’ licence to perform abortions in the UK.
Ms Murphy said she did not understand the government’s motivation for granting the charity such a large grant.
“It is raising questions about the motivations and priorities of this government if they think this is an acceptable way to proceed.
“I really hope that the minister responsible will step up to explain what has driven this decision.
“There are loads of little women’s charities being closed down and this amount of money is being awarded to one.”
A spokeswoman from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “Life has been awarded £250,000 to fund a specific project in West London that will help homeless and other at risk women who are pregnant by providing housing, counselling and life skills training.”
In a statement, Life said it was grateful to the government to have provided them with the grant.
Director of Operations Margaret Coward said “Life has provided support to women in crisis for over four decades.Our commitment to supporting women in times of crisis, with care and compassion is beyond question and we are proud to stand tall amongst the groups which help women every day.
“We are there to empower those women with the support they need to continue with their pregnancy and to equip them with the skills to help them overcome their personal challenges.”
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