Establish buffer zones around abortion clinics to protect women from protesters, say MPs

The MPs say more needs to be done to stop harassment

Buffer zones should be established around abortion clinics to prevent the harassment of women attending them for treatment, a group of MPs have said.

Nine MPs have already signed an early day motion introduced yesterday calling for the Government to legislate to prevent religious groups from picketing the healthcare centres.

“The right to peaceful protest should not interfere with the fundamental right for women to make individual reproductive choices,” the motion reads.

“Campaigns against women exercising their sexual health rights can continue without occupying the space immediately outside clinics.”

Anti-abortion activism by religious groups has hit the headlines in the UK in recent years. In December last year a video of a pregnant woman confronting protesters in South London went viral and provoked calls for stronger protections.

The British Pregenancy Advisory Service has long called for safe zones to be established. Similar legislation already exists abroad.

The motion was proposed by Green MP Caroline Lucas and backed by MPs from the Labour party and Scottish National Party.

“This isn’t about shutting down debate. It’s about the balance of rights. The right to peaceful protest and free speech can be upheld without infringing upon a woman’s fundamental right to make her own sexual health choices,” the Brighton Paviliion MP said

“The Government has a duty to ensure these legal healthcare services can continue to operate and be accessed safely - and I strongly urge it to legislate to that effect. These must be intimidation-free zones.”

 

Home Office Minister Mike Penning said the police had adequate powers to prevent the harassment of women already.

“The Home Office is aware of a number of recent protests outside some abortion clinics which we take extremely seriously.

“This country has a proud history of allowing free  but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. The law currently provides protection against such acts,” he said.

“The policing of protests and the use of powers are an operational matter for the police.”

Anti-abortion protesters tend to believe that the medical procedure should not be allowed for religious reasons.

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