Yvette Cooper has called to ban pro-life protests outside of abortion centres.
The Labour leadership hopeful announced the policy, proposing “protest-free buffer zones” to put an end to the intimidation and harassment some women face by anti-abortion campaigners directly outside of clinics.
Cooper said in a statement: “Women should never be intimidated or threatened on their way to a healthcare appointment or on their way to work. No matter how strongly protesters feel about abortion themselves, they don’t have the right to harass, intimidate or film women who need to make their own very personal decision with their doctors. Everyone has the right to access legal healthcare, medical advice and support and to have some privacy and space to do so – and that includes abortion services."
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Last month it was reported that plans to open an abortion clinic were stopped allegedly “as a direct result of protest activity” although the location of the planned clinic was never given.
As a result, Dianne Abbott, Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn were amongst 29 MPs to sign an early day motion sharing their “deep concern that anti-abortion clinic protests are escalating and having a significant impact on women’s ability to access safe, legal reproductive healthcare services and advice”.
Cooper said: “It is not right for women to find themselves being filmed entering or leaving a clinic, being bombarded with distressing images or having their entrance blocked altogether. Neither is it right for staff at these medical centres to face abuse or be targeted by protesters on their way to and from work.”
Cooper added: “We don’t want US-style abortion wars here”.
Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service welcomed Cooper’s proposal saying, “Over recent years, we have seen protest activity increase, with women and staff now routinely filmed, confronted with large, graphic banners, and even followed as they leave clinics. This campaign of intimidation has gone on long enough. We are a pro-choice country in which the vast majority of us support women's access to abortion services. However for the small number who oppose women's right to choose, there are plenty of spaces to demonstrate and ways to campaign against the law - the space immediately outside a clinic should not be one of them."
Buffer zones are currently in place in countries including as Canada, France , South Africa and the US.