The government has confirmed that a portion of the money raised from the so-called tampon tax will go towards anti-abortion charity Life. Despite outcry from MPs and a number of petitions, the charity will receive a quarter of a million pounds of a £12m total shared with other women’s charities.
As well as campaigning against abortion, Life has been accused of providing misinformation to women in counselling sessions as a means of persuading them to not go through with a termination. The charity also opposes plans to provide sex education to children in primary school.
Philip Hammond announced that the money raised by the five per cent VAT on sanitary products would fund domestic-violence charities in the spring budget earlier this year. The news, which broke on International Women’s Day, was met with criticism – it not only ignored campaigners’ calls for the abolition of the tax, but created a scenario where women paid for the charities created to keep them safe. Now, it seems we will be indirectly funding anti-abortion campaigns.
As well as campaigning against abortion, Life has been accused of providing misinformation to women in counselling sessions as a means of persuading them to not go through with a termination
According to a Freedom of Information request sent to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Life will not be allowed to spend the £250,000 on any of its anti-abortion campaigns or counselling and education programmes. However, when Life appeared on a long list of charities that would benefit from the tampon tax, it was said the funds would provide “housing, practical help, counselling, emotional support and life-skills training for young pregnant women who are homeless”.
In response to the outcry, Life told The Observer: “There is no need for ‘prohibition’ on how the grant is used. We have been very clear with the government in actually specifying that the grant will not be used for counselling or education.” No plans have yet been revealed as to how the direction of funds will be monitored once donated to the charity.
Plans to give the money to Life emerged earlier this year, though it has taken seven months for ministers to confirm the direction of the funds. At the time, The Pool writer Stephanie Merritt described her experience of the charity’s damaging legacy, citing “emotional blackmail” and “guilt” as tools to deter women from abortion.
Many MPs have condemned the government’s decision to use the tampon tax to fund an anti-abortion charity, including Labour MP Diana Johnson. “This decision is not in keeping with the spirit of the tampon tax fund, which was intended to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls,” she said. “This money would be much better spent on women’s organisations that truly reflect the values of this fund to empower and support women to make decisions about their lives, rather than an organisation that actively promotes restricting women’s choices.”