Your Need To Know On Why An Anti-Abortion Group Has Been Given £250,000 From The Tampon Tax
The Debrief: A substantial amount of money raised from the Tampon Tax is being given to an organisation that works to oppose abortion. The Debrief explains why
Over the weekend, while politicians were busy propositioning war with Spain for the first time since 1807, it emerged that funds raised from the so-called Tampon Tax and earmarked for women's welfare are being donated to an anti-abortion group.
Out of the £12million pot raised from taxation on sanitary ware, £200,000 is going to the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, £179,157 to Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre Cornwall – so far, so predictable – but the funding decision that’s caused controversy is the £250,000 that’s being given to Life Charity. Yes, that’s right, quarter of a million of your English pounds is going to an organisation which describes aborting foetuses with severe disabilities as 'the death sentence' and believes that women who have been raped should not terminate the resulting pregnancy.
It's one of the biggest chunks of money and complaints and debate have rung out across social media and Radio 4's Today Programme.
Who are Life Charity?
Life Charity is a non-religious organisation which was set up in 1970 to oppose abortion and offer women alternatives to termination. It offers talks to school children about the ethics of abortion and also offers women free pregnancy tests and advice.
The controversy of the recent funding decision could be easily missed. In the Word document supplied by the Department of Culture Media and Sport, which is breaks funding distribution down by region, it says under the section for London projects: 'Life Charity - £250,000.00 - Housing, practical help, counselling, emotional support and life skills training for young pregnant women who are homeless.' See for yourself.
This isn’t the first time Life Charity has been caught up in a high-level controversy. In 2011 the Government at the time made the decision to appoint it to a sexual health forum intended to advise Government policy, while leaving the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) off it.
What action’s being taken?
As you might imagine, it’s not gone down very well with everyone. BPAS called the news 'appalling' and has launched a petition asking MP Rob Wilson of DCMS to reverse the funding decision.
Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy has teamed up with the Feminist Action network and launched the Anger Into Action campaign in response to the £250,000. The campaign is about protesting the decision as well as trying to help other women in difficult circumstances, such as those who will be affected by the deep cuts to the Widowed Parents Allowance.
When we asked whether the Government was reconsidering funding Life Charity, a Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson told The Debrief: '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.'
What are the arguments against Life Charity?
Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, told The Debrief that there was 'no way that money raised unfairly and wrongly from tampon taxes should be used to promote these regressive ideological views' and urged the Government to reconsider the funding distribution.
Phillips, who used to work for Women’s Aid, added: 'A quick look at Life's website shows me that they are essentially anti-women. Abortion appears to be described as an evil and is full of myths and scare tactics about profiteering of an abortion industry who target the vulnerable. This is dangerous and untrue. Women's organisations should be there to offer impartial support for women in crisis. Women's Aid would never demand a woman leave her partner in order to get support, for example. The Government must think again and set standard for the future that only fund organisations who empower women to make their own choices about their lives.'
What’s the Tampon Tax Fund?
It’s the money raised from the VAT that’s levied against sanitary products. Campaigners put pressure on MPs to change the classification of tampons as 'luxury items.' They said they could not change their status under EU law, so instead then-Chancellor George Osborne said that the money raised would go to women’s causes.
The tax is contentious in its own right anyway. Critics wonder why menstruating women should be forced to pay for vital services that the Government should be providing anyway? Is domestic abuse just the problem of women?
The timing is also pretty dire. Stories in recent weeks have shown that women and girls often struggle to afford sanitary products. It’s been revealed that girls from low-income homes are missing school because they can’t afford them, and food banks have issued pleas for donations of sanitary towels and tampons. With women unable to access basic provisions, giving cash to a partisan anti-abortion charity is a particularly bad look for the Government right now.
Labour MP and Shadow Equalities Minister Paula Sherriff 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.'
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