‘Extreme’ US anti-abortion group ramps up lobbying in Westminster

The UK branch of the Alliance Defending Freedom has increased its spending and is forging ties with key MPs.

A right-wing Christian lobby group that wants abortion to be banned has forged ties with an adviser to the prime minister and is drawing up ­policy briefings for politicians. The UK branch of the US-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has more than doubled its spending since 2020 and been appointed a stakeholder in a parliamentary group on religious freedoms in a role that grants it direct access to MPs. The ADF’s efforts to boost its UK influence are revealed as part of an Observer analysis that shows a surge in activity within the wider anti-­abortion movement.

Ahead of a historic vote on abortion later this spring, in which MPs will vote on a law that would abolish the criminal offence associated with a woman ending her own pregnancy in England and Wales, several anti-abortion campaign groups have expanded their teams, ramped up advertising and coordinated mass letter-writing campaigns targeting MPs. The findings have led to calls for greater transparency and accountability over the groups’ funding and lobbying activities. The ADF in particular is an influential player on the US Christian right and part of a global network of hardline evangelical groups that were a driving force behind the repeal of Roe v Wade – the supreme court ruling that gave women the constitutional right to abortion and was overturned in 2022.

The group – which also supports outlawing sexual acts between consenting LGBTQ+ adults and funds US fringe groups attacking gay, trans and abortion rights – has faced claims its funding is not transparent due to its use of donor advised funds: a loophole in US charity law that allows people to give millions anonymously. The latest financial accounts for its UK entity ADF International UK, published last week, show it spent almost £1m in the year to June 2023, up from £392,556 in 2020, and that its income almost doubled between 2022 and 2023, from £553,823 to £1,068,552.

Jonathan Lord, co-chair of the British Society of Abortion Care Providers and a consultant gynaecologist, said: “We’ve known for some time that these extreme groups from America are infiltrating the UK, having been emboldened following the US Supreme Court’s actions removing women’s right to abortion there. However, the scale of their spending and influence in the UK is disturbing, especially as we know they are actively lobbying MPs and want to restrict women’s reproductive rights, whether that is fertility treatment, contraception or access to abortion.”

A government spokesperson said abortion was an “extremely sensitive issue” with “strongly held views on all sides of the discussion”, and that MPs would have a free vote on the proposed law change. “By longstanding convention, any change to the law in this area would be a matter of conscience for individual MPs rather than the government,” a spokesperson said.


Article URL : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/apr/06/extreme-us-anti-abortion-group-ramps-up-lobbying-in-westminster