As if it wasn't ludicrous enough that people in the UK pay five percent tax on sanitary products because a bunch of politicians who've clearly never bled out of their vaginas every month deemed them non-essential luxury goods, there's a fresh insult to add to injury. Now a government fund—originally set up to channel money raised by the tax towards women's charities—has just awarded a £250,000 (about $312,200) grant to an anti-abortion group.
The Tampon Tax Fund was established in 2015 to redistribute the tax collected on sanitary products to organizations that help women and girls. According to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which oversees the £15m fund, applicants needed to show that they worked with disadvantaged women and girls or addressed violence against women.
Last week the government published details of 70 charities that would benefit from the latest round of funding. While a press release trumpeted grants to charities including a specialist support service for female victims of stalking and a peer mentoring service for vulnerable young girls, there was no mention of one of the biggest beneficiaries of the fund: Life, an anti-abortion charity that also runs a network of crisis pregnancy centers.
Buried in the full list of beneficiaries is a £250,000 grant for Life to provide "housing, practical help, counseling, emotional support and life skills training for young pregnant women who are homeless." Despite its curious omission from the government's PR blast about the fund, Life's award is also among the largest of all the grants.
Feminist groups and pro-choice organizations reacted with outrage as news of the grant broke over the weekend.
"It is quite extraordinary that the government would use a fund for women to fund an organization committed to restricting women's choices," Clare Murphy of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) tells Broadly. "With so many women's organizations struggling to provide their services in the current climate, it is appalling that this organization should be the beneficiary of such a large sum."
Life is one of the most high profile anti-abortion groups in the UK and has been embroiled in controversy since its inception. According to its mission statement, the organization seeks to "create a just society which has the utmost respect for all human life from fertilization."
In reality, Life spreads noxious anti-abortion propaganda. On its website, Life posts links to studies that falsely link abortion to breast cancer, a classic trope of anti-abortion rhetoric that remains scientifically unproven. In another article, Life also says that women who become pregnant from rape should not be allowed the right to terminate their pregnancy (in a now deleted line, the group describes it as "the death penalty"). Just last month, it launched a petition to revoke the license of leading reproductive health charity and abortion provider Marie Stopes.
Brook, a leading British sexual health organization, has issued repeated warnings about Life. In 2013, it warned that the group had "falsely linked abortion to mental health problems, increased risk of suicide, breast cancer… and ectopic pregnancy (all ofwhich are discounted by the RCOG's [Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists] professional guidelines on abortion)." A 2014 Brook report also found that Life's crisis pregnancy centers spread "misleading, inaccurate and emotionally manipulative information" to young and vulnerable women.
All successful applicants to the fund needed to demonstrate that they furthered the British government's strategy to end violence against women and girls, or were able to help disadvantaged women and girls within the structure of existing government and local authority services. Broadly reached out to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to find out how an anti-abortion charity could meet this criteria, but it did not return our request for comment.
In a statement posted on their website, Life confirmed the award of the grant and described it as "a positive gesture which will go a long way towards helping the thousands of women who are in crisis and need our support."
But if you find the idea of the British government funding an anti-abortion charity with money collected from taxing women's bloody sanitary products abhorrent, you can sign a petition in protesthere.