A government grant from the Tampon Tax Fund awarded to an anti-abortion charity has come under fire over concerns that the funding is “bitterly ironic”.
The charity Life, which says it won’t give up until abortion “is a thing of the past”, received £250,000 of the £12m of tampon tax money announced last week.
The latest tranche of funding had been announced by the minister for civil society Rob Wilson where he said: “The Tampon Tax Fund continues to benefit organisations in every corner of the UK working to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls, including those who’ve been affected by violence.”
The charity was not listed on the official press release, but on the full list which it linked to. No mention of the charity’s anti-abortion stance was included on this list, which included details of the projects the money has been awarded for – not the charity itself.
It said that the £250,000 was for “housing, practical help, counselling, emotional support and life skills training for young pregnant women who are homeless”.
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, said on Twitter that the awarding of money was “completely unacceptable”. She 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 called on Wilson to cut funding to such “pro-life” charities, and instead “help ensure no young woman goes without tampons in school instead”.
Creasy also pointed out that the charity “refuses to countenance abortion even in rape cases”, despite the tampon tax fund being assigned to help support vulnerable women and girls. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service is also encouraging people to write to the minister to ask him to review the decision to award the funding to Life.
Speaking in the Observer, Paula Sherriff, Labour MP for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton, and shadow minister for women and equalities, said: “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”.
Language ‘totally innapropriate’
On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning Anne Scanlan, an education director at Life, said that “ideologically yes” the charity is against abortion, but “ideology has got nothing to do with what we need to do”.
Scanlan was questioned on the terminology on their website by Ann Furedi, chief executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Furedi said that Life’s website claims that abortion is “always wrong”, “that there is never a good reason” for it and that abortions for rape victims is a “death penalty on an unborn child”.
Scanlan said that she “cannot believe that we use that terminology at all” and that she would “absolutely” remove it if it exists because “we would absolutely never use that kind of language and it would be totally inappropriate if we are dealing with women face-to-face”.
Civil Society News could not see these specific definitions on the charity’s website.
When asked to respond to the criticism surrounding the grant, a spokesman from Life referred to a statement on its website published yesterday.
In it Margaret Coward, director of operations at Life, said: “Life has provided support to women in crisis for over four decades. Only last year we housed 187 women at our Life Houses across the country. We provided non-directive counselling and skilled listening to over 2500 women.
"Since this charity started we have reached out and supported thousands of women at a difficult time in their life. 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.”
She continued: “We are grateful to the government for the money awarded to Life. It is a positive gesture which will go a long way towards helping the thousands of women who are in crisis and need our support.”
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson, which the Office for Civil Society sits under, said: "The most recent round of the Tampon Tax Fund will benefit 70 charities across the UK to help improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls, including those who have been affected by violence. 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."