Abortion clinic buffer zones?

Home Secretary Sajid Javid rejects protest-free areas


No abortion clinic buffers, says Javid

Calls for buffer zones to be introduced outside abortion clinics to stop patients being harassed have been rejected by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

He said such protest-free areas around clinics in England and Wales "would not be a proportionate response".

A Home Office review found cases of harassment and damaging behaviour but they were "not the norm", he added.

Labour called it a "disgusting failure to uphold women's rights" and called for Mr Javid to urgently reconsider.

In a written statement, Mr Javid said the review had gathered evidence that showed protesters' behaviour had left patients distressed and caused some to rebook their appointments and not to follow medical advice.

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Back Off

Back Off - The Campaign

What is the problem?

Over recent years there has been an escalation in anti-abortion activity outside clinics in the UK. Women attending pregnancy advice and abortion centres are now regularly exposed to groups of anti-abortion activists standing directly outside. Many of these activists bear large banners of dismembered foetuses, distribute leaflets containing misleading information about abortion, and follow and question women as they enter or leave the centres. Often, these people carry cameras strapped to their chests or positioned on a tripod. Women report feeling intimidated and distressed by this activity as they try to access a lawful healthcare service in confidence. Staff at clinics have on occasion needed escorting from the building by the police. Recently, NHS staff on premises where a clinic is located have felt so intimidated by the presence outside they have asked for the abortion service to be withdrawn. The closure of a service as a result of anti-abortion activity would be unprecedented.

Because this activity is quite unusual there is no legislation in place that covers the scope of what is occurring outside clinics and allows the police to take effective action to prevent it. Appeals to the church leaders who support many of these people to reflect on the impact on women have failed. That is why we believe the time has come to act.

What do women want?

Women want to be able to enter centres without being confronted by these people. This comment from a woman entering a clinic in Milton Keynes is typical of the way in which many women feel:

“When arriving people were outside with signs – it made me scared to come in and was physically shaking. They shouldn’t be allowed to stand outside and people to be made to feel like this.”

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The Conversation

Why buffer zones around abortion clinics do not threaten the right to protest

Ealing council in West London could soon set up a buffer zone to limit the harassment faced by patients of a local abortion clinic. The clinic is run by the reproductive health charity Marie Stopes, one of many abortion providers across the UK regularly targeted by anti-abortion protestors. In mid-January, councillors voted to launch a public consultation about the creation of a Public Space Protection Order, or buffer zone, around the clinic.

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