Councillors in Richmond voted to introduce a public spaces protection order around the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) clinic in Twickenham, which will ban vigils and protests “with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means”.
Attempts to provide counselling to women visiting the centre will also be barred, along with “any form” of interaction with residents, road users or BPAS staff if it relates to terminations, according to a draft document.
A buffer zone encompassing six roads will be created around the clinic, where Richmond Council documents said protests “using Christian imagery and language” had surged in the last five years.
It follows a consultation that gained some 3,000 responses, with about four-fifths in favour of the ban, the authority said.
Service users interviewed about their experiences of the protests described feeling “isolated and looked down on”.
One, who had had to travel from Oxford, was quoted in council documents as saying: “Their presence is not a supportive presence. It’s there to judge, I felt judged. It is really apparent that it is religious and Christian.”
When she left the clinic she said she encountered several protesters “with placards of bloody foetuses”.
She added: "One man followed me down the road – how ironic, he was reading aloud from the Bible. He stood there while I got in the car and followed after the car whilst doing the prayer.”
A second woman said: “I was completely terrified, my privacy was invaded and I felt personally targeted.”
Accounts from women with positive views of approaches by protesters were also included in the documents, provided by the Good Counsel Network campaign group. They said it had given them support after they were handed leaflets outside the BPAS clinic and decided not to terminate their pregnancies.
Liz Jaeger, Richmond Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said in a statement: “For a number of years the users of the BPAS clinic, staff in the area and the residents in the vicinity of Rosslyn Road have expressed concern about the protests/vigils being held outside the clinic.
“Following a thorough consultation, there was overwhelming feedback that the vigils were having a detrimental effect on them.”
She added: “In making this decision the council has determined the [order] strikes the right balance, protecting the human rights of the patients and staff of the BPAS clinic to use the services and go to work without fear and in privacy.”
The council told The Independent that a date for the order's implementation had yet to be decided.
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