Call to ban protests at all UK abortion clinics after Ealing Council...

Call to ban protests at all UK abortion clinics after Ealing Council implements ‘safe zone’

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Laws banning protesters from demonstrating outside abortion clinics should be implemented across the country, according to the leader of Ealing Council.

The authority passed a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) on Tuesday evening, forbidding pro-life activists from campaigning outside the Marie Stopes surgery in west London.

But council leader Julian Bell says more needs to be done.

“I absolutely want to see national legislation, a PSPO isn’t an ideal solution and we risk creating a postcode lottery for the women who need the treatment.

“It’s not about abortion, it’s about harassment.”

PSPOs create safe zones where certain activities – protests, in this case – are banned. They expire after three years, after which the local authority needs to prove negative behaviour is affecting the area in order to get a new one.

This effectively means Ealing would have to wait for the problem to return before they could renew the order.

Councils across the country have been waiting to see what happens in Ealing before taking similar action.

Authorities in Birmingham, Manchester, Portsmouth, Southwark, Lambeth and Richmond have all initiated similar consultations.

Jim Dickson, cabinet member for health and communities at Lambeth Council, said: “Our administration wants to see this happen and we’ve been encouraged by the decision by Ealing Council.”

The Government is already investigating whether legislation should be created to legally enforce buffer zones around abortion clinics nationwide.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said: “While everyone has a right to peaceful protest, it is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated simply for exercising their legal right to healthcare advice and treatment.”

Alithea Williams, from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, branded Ealing’s decision “authoritarian” and “extraordinary”.

Ealing Council had to ensure the PSPO did not infringe on people’s right to freedom of expression and break the European Convention of Human Rights.

“The solution we came up with balanced all of these rights while also stopping people from being harassed and intimidated when they are vulnerable,” said Mr Bell.

Sky News was given access to the clinic’s incident log which catalogued intimidatory behaviour by pro-life campaigners over the course of a year.

On one occasion, in January 2017, staff noted that protesters told a client she would “be haunted by her baby” and that “God will punish you” if she had an abortion.

Another entry, from April that same year, noted: “Client very tearful after being called a murderer as she walked into the clinic.”

As part of the policy Ealing has designated an area 100 metres away from the clinic where pro-life campaigners can pray and offer counselling for women on the way to the clinic. However, they are banned from harassing women who do not seek their help.

(c) Sky News 2018: Call to ban protests at all UK abortion clinics after Ealing Council implements ‘safe zone’