It has emerged that £250,000 worth of funding from the controversial ‘Tampon Tax’ has been allocated to leading anti-abortion organisation, Life.
The fund, announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement after over 320,000 people (to date) signed a petition for the abolition of the controversial ‘Tampon Tax’, allocates the 5% tax, around £12 million, to charities that seek to improve the lives of women and girls across the UK.
Guidance states that funding proposals must demonstrate how beneficiaries will adhere to the government’s Violence Against Women and Girls strategy, and how they will fit within existing government and local authority services structures.
The government’s move to allocate a significant portion of the fund to a charity who aims “to create a just society which has the utmost respect for all human life from fertilisation” has been widely criticised by MPs and campaigners. However, Life claims that the money from the fund will be used to aid a London-based project for pregnant homeless women.
A statement on their website asserts “Life has been awarded a grant of £250,000, which will be used to develop our services for women which includes housing, practical help, non-directive counselling and life-skills training for pregnant and homeless women.”
However, concerns grow amongst pro-choice campaign groups and MPs about such a significant grant being given to a recipient that has been previously proven to have provided information that is misleading or incorrect.
A recent report by Brook into Life’s leaflets and informative material has found the charity has “falsely linked abortion to mental health problems, increased risk of suicide, breast cancer, placenta praevia and ectopic pregnancy (all of which are discounted by the RCOG’s professional guidelines on abortion)”.
In an interview with the Observer, a spokesperson for the End Violence Against Women Coalition said, “The Government set out clearly that this money would be spent in ways that would address women’s specific needs and inequalities.
“It is hard to understand how a service offering counselling based on the fundamental premise that abortion is wrong, to vulnerable women, can do that.”
This is not the first time the charity, which self-defines as “one of the country’s largest and oldest prolife organisations”, has been allocated a position of responsibility. In 2011, Life was appointed as one of fifteen members of the Government’s Sexual Health Forum, which provides advice to the Department of Health on matters concerning HIV and sexual health.
No mention of Life appeared in the government’s announcement of fund allocation, however the charity appears on a longer list of beneficiaries. Among announced allocations were Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre Cornwall (£179,157); Black Country Women’s Aid (£240,401), which will fund a pilot project developing the first specialist support service for victims of stalking; and Stepping Stones, Luton (£262,614), which provides specialist support to 300 vulnerable women facing domestic and sexual abuse.
We spoke to students at the University of East Anglia to find out what they thought of the Tampon Tax fund and their opinions on whether or not Life should have received funding from it.
Should organisations with potential conflicts of interest be given this sort of funding?
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