On Sunday October 30, bells will ring and pro-lifers will stand in silence for the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act. In anticipation of that terrible landmark, the former prisons minister Ann Widdecombe has said of that last half-century: “Gradually, the nation’s conscience has been deadened.”

Whatever the state of the national conscience, there is certainly a strange extremism about the pro-choice movement of 2017. Not content with some of Europe’s most liberal abortion laws, politicians, campaigners and professional abortionists are uniting behind the “We Trust Women” campaign, aiming to decriminalise abortion. Two years ago, MPs voted against making sex-selective abortions criminal; in March, peers in the Lords shut down a bill to save disabled babies from being aborted up to birth.

In this atmosphere, it’s not surprising that pro-life vigils – the groups who silently pray outside abortion clinics, or offer help to the women on their way in – are being targeted. And this week, in west London, pro-choicers gained a significant victory.

The pavement outside the Marie Stopes clinic on Mattock Lane in Ealing has for some time hosted two groups: one from the Good Counsel Network (GCN), a pro-life charity which will be familiar to many readers, the other a pro-choice group called Sister Supporter.

A Labour councillor, Binda Rai, proposed a motion to ban GCN. The motion was passed, though pro-lifers who were present say they hardly had a chance to speak.

It appears, however, that this move – regardless of whether it was actually co-ordinated – is seen as having larger implications. The council vote was “groundbreaking”, said the managing director of Marie Stopes; Rai said there could be “national implications”.

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