Local Member of Parliament Rupa Huq said the prayer vigils were "weaponizing rosary beads."
Huq, who has previously suggested a future British government could apologize for the creation of the state of Israel, has spoken strongly against the efforts of 40 Days for Life and the Good Counsel Network. Both organizations have been active outside the Ealing clinic.
Before they were effectively criminalized by Ealing Council, 40 Days for Life and the Good Counsel Network organized prayer vigils outside the clinic, where groups of people would quietly say the rosary while volunteers offered words of support and encouragement to women entering or leaving the facility.
Some forms of "harassment" identified by Ealing Council and Huq included displaying so-called "graphic images" of children in the womb and referring to women entering the clinic as "mothers."
Pro-life campaigners are concerned that as more regions impose buffer zones around abortion clinics, pro-life speech is effectively becoming classed as hate speech, and that this could spread to treat public opposition to abortion generally as "harassment" of women.
"It sets a very dangerous precedent where a council is able to prevent genuine offers of assistance to pregnant women on the basis that the people who offer it are pro-life. Ealing Council consistently said that their decision to ban the vigil had nothing to do with abortion, but that just does not appear to be the case," Day told CNA
Earlier this year, a medical inquest found that "repeated failures" by the Ealing clinic resulted in the death of a 32 year old woman, who bled to death following an abortion performed at the site in 2012. That finding came as a bitter irony for campaigners trying to draw attention to the often unacknowledged harm, emotional and physical, which abortion does to the women who undergo it.
Dulgheriu told CNA that clinics like the ones in Ealing do not offer women any alternatives to abortion. She said out that her efforts to see the buffer zones overturned are as much for the protection of mothers as for children.
"If the vigils are removed – who will look out for the mothers who desperately do not want to go ahead with an abortion? These mothers can be in very vulnerable circumstances, sometimes in abusive relationships, and vigils can offer them housing and refuge that abortion clinics could never provide," she said.
Dulgheriu and her co-appellant, who has filed for anonymity in the court process, have launched a crowd-funding campaign to meet their mounting legal costs, with a goal of £50,000.
"This case came about because a small activist group objected to the world-view of a group of committed, compassionate individuals in Ealing, but it has extraordinary consequences for what freedom of expression looks like across Europe," Day told CNA.
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"If prayer and offers of support can be criminalized in the vicinity of abortion clinics, there are real concerns about the extent to which pro-life speech is acceptable in the wider public square."
The appeal is expected to be heard sometime later this year.