A public relations company co-founded by the Conservative leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt did paid lobbying work for an evangelical doctors’ group that wants to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, while she was still listed as a director and shareholder.
Mordaunt’s campaign denied that she was “still working” for Media Intelligence Partners (MIP) when it agreed a public relations contract with the Christian Medical Fellowship. It has been unable to deny that she remained one of three company directors and a shareholder, however, and it is unclear whether Mordaunt, now Trade Minister, benefited financially from MIP’s lobbying for the Fellowship.
One of the reports on the Fellowship’s website suggests abortion is wrong, even when a woman has been the victim of a sexual assault, because keeping the child is “a display of courage, strength and honour”. Abortion in cases of rape “simply sacrifices a second innocent party to the crime”, it says: “Many women who have been raped believe that abortion is immoral, and that the child is simply a second victim, and that if they can get through the pregnancy they will have conquered the rape.”
MIP, which carried out public relations work for the Fellowship, was founded by Mordaunt and Nick Wood, a former press secretary to the Tory leaders William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, in 2004. Mordaunt was listed as a shareholder and director by Companies House up until 2010, when she was elected MP for Portsmouth North.
The Christian Medical Fellowship confirmed to the New Statesman that it held a contract with MIP, which boasted about its client in 2009, at which point Mordaunt was listed as a communications specialist by MIP. The Fellowship said it had “never met or had any contact” with Mordaunt.
A Mordaunt campaign source said: “Penny was no longer working for MIP at the time the firm carried out work on behalf of the Christian Medical Fellowship. Penny has always, and continues to, champion women’s rights.” As an MP Mordaunt has voted to liberalise access to abortion, including in 2019 to make it legal in Northern Ireland.
The Fellowship has been sharply criticised in the past. In 2007 MPs on a committee reviewing abortion laws accused it of confusing the evidence given to them. Six doctors who gave evidence to the 2007 inquiry, which was considering recent scientific research related to abortion, failed to disclose that they were members or activists with the group, which had already given its own evidence. When this was discovered the MPs asked that all witnesses disclose relevant affiliations.
John Wyatt, one of the doctors and a member of the Fellowship’s public policy committee at the time, told the Guardian that he was giving his submission as a “private individual” and that the suggestion people were trying to hide their affiliations was “surely ludicrous in the age of Google”.
The Fellowship, which advocates allowing doctors to convert patients to Christianity, has also been criticised for a claim in an article on its website that Hinduism is a “false religion”.
A Labour source told the New Statesman: “This is just the latest twist in a Tory leadership contest that has shown how unfit they are to run the country. None of them have any answers on the future of the country, but Penny Mordaunt certainly faces questions about her past.”
MIP did not respond to a request for comment.