Tampon tax funding for anti-abortion charity sparks calls for a review

The government has awarded £250,000 to the charity Life, but says it will be used only to provide housing, counselling and life-skills training for homeless pregnant women

Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Department for Culture, Media and Sport

A women's charity has called for an urgent review of the government's decision to award £250,000 to the anti-abortion charity Life.

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, announced the grant on Thursday as part of the £12m Tampon Tax Fund, which distributes the proceeds of a 5 per cent tax on female sanitary products.

The funding Life receives will go towards providing housing, practical help, counselling, emotional support and life-skills training for young pregnant women who are homeless.

Katherine O'Brien, head of media and policy research at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said it was appalled that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had awarded such a large sum to an organisation whose website describes abortion as a "death penalty".

She said Life's strong ideological opposition to abortion meant it was unable to provide unbiased advice to women and called for an urgent review of the grant.

"This isn't something we are going to drop or can ignore," said O'Brien. "People are absolutely outraged, and rightly so. Women cannot avoid paying this tax and it's unacceptable that proceeds are going to this organisation."

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party, said the tampon tax should be scrapped and replaced by ring-fenced funding for groups that help disadvantaged women and girls.

Walker added: "We are very disappointed to see the allocation of such significant funds to this one charity while many others struggle, particularly those supporting BAME women and disabled women, who experience some of the highest rates of violence and yet are consistently at the bottom of the list for funding."

Labour's shadow MP for women and equalities, Paula Sheriff, and the Labour MP Stella Creasy both spoke out against the grant over the weekend.

Mark Bhagwandin, senior education and media officer at Life, said the funding would provide practical help and non-directive counselling accredited by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy for vulnerable women who had decided to continue with their pregnancies. Bhagwandin said it was not the counsellors' role to advise on abortions but to support women who had chosen not to have terminations.

A DCMS spokeswoman said in a statement: "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."

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