Abortion clinics may be given 'buffer zones' under calls from shadow Home Secretary

Pro-choice campaigners have condemned 'aggressive' actions of anti-abortion groups in the UK

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The Independent Online

The UK’s abortion clinics may be given “buffer zones” outside to protect women as pro-choice campaigners claim patients are being driven to “consider illegal abortions” by the “aggressive” tactics of anti-abortion demonstrations.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said it was crucial that women could attend healthcare appointments without “facing intimidation and harassment”, urging the government to establish “buffer zones” around these centres in an interview with ITV news.

Ms Cooper’s remarks were welcomed by abortion rights spokesperson Kate Smurthwaite. “In a perfect world I would never restrict peoples’ rights to protest but what is going on here is against human decency.”

“It is a shame that it has come to this,” she told The Independent. “What these people are doing does constitute harassment under existing laws, but the police are not dealing with them and these people are still haranguing women.”

“I’m really glad that MPs are taking this seriously: it is a big deal,” she added, noting that similar legislation already exists in some parts of Canada, the USA and Australia.

Earlier this week one young woman, who has sought not to be identified, stood up to anti-abortion campaigners Abort67, known for displaying graphic images of dismembered foetuses, outside a clinic in Southwark, London.

Ms Smurthwaite, who works closely with national pro-choice campaign Abortion Rights, alleged that they had seen a rise in the number of similarly aggressive and targeted protests outside clinics in recent months.

“It is standard that they wear cameras, distribute misleading leaflets and heavily photo-shopped images, according to our evidence,” she claimed.

“Their leaflets are often misleading – they seem to show all these risks for women choosing abortion but what they are actually doing is including in their statistics information on illegal abortions, which of course are far more dangerous.

abortion-2.jpg“It is really misleading,” Ms Smurthwaite said. “They are driving some women to consider illegal abortions.”

Ms Cooper’s remarks come a month after BPAS, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, also called for “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics, claiming increasing numbers of women were being “intimidated and distressed” by anti-abortion activists.

A spokesperson for Abort67 said: "There are already statutory prohibitions against harassment and abuse. The only reason to introduce new laws is that the old ones don't sufficiently protect the abortion industry from accountability."

They continued: "It is a testament to the well funded spin machine of the pro-abortion industry that they have been able to portray us as the bad guys. We are merely showing the world what they do in their clinics - which is kill children in their mother's wombs."

The spokesperson also stated that the group neither "film women" or "harass" them, claiming these allegations were "fabrications".