Anti-Abortion Protestors Are Gathering Outside Abortion Clinics Following The Government’s Refusal To Create Buffer Zones

Georgia Aspinall asks the Home Office what they're planning to do about it.

Protestors outside Finsbury Park abortion clinic

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

Last weekend, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) reported that anti-abortion groups has started harassing women outside of one of their clinics in Finsbury Park, London. With no previous problems with protestors, Bpas has claimed it is a ‘direct result of the UK Home Office’s refusal to take action’ after a review in October last year meant protest-free areas outside abortion service providers would not be created.

Posting a picture of the protestors on Twitter, Bpas stated that the people were harassing women and following them as they left the clinic. The Finsbury Park clinic is one of 44 abortion service providers that has been affected by protests in the last 18 months.

‘Our clients tell us that this type of activity is deeply distressing,’ Rachael Clarke, public affairs and advocacy manager at Bpas told Grazia. ‘Today we know that women were followed down the street as they left, that protesters were shouting to women that they “loved them” as they accessed care, and protestors were walking into the road to push leaflets through the windows of cars stopped at the traffic lights.

‘This type of activity is unacceptable,’ Clarke continued. ‘Women and Bpas staff desperately need the government to step up and bring in buffer zones to move protesters away from the clinic gate.’

In October last year, a review by the Home Office found that creating protest-free areas outside abortion service providers ‘would not be a proportionate response’ – with the former home secretary and current chancellor Sajid Javid stating that this behaviour was not ‘the norm’.

However, Bpas claimed the consultation was ‘flawed’ with evidence about the strain on worker’s and clinic users ‘suppressed'. When Grazia approached the Home Office for comment on this weekend’s incident, they had the following to say:

‘Decisions on how to manage demonstrations are an operational matter for the police who must, in each case, carefully consider people's right to protest and balance this with the rights of others to go about their lawful business without fear of intimidation or harassment,’ a spokesperson for the Home Office told Grazia. ‘The police and local authorities have powers to restrict harmful protests – these powers have been successfully used outside abortion clinics in Ealing and Richmond.’

In August 2018, Ealing Council implemented a 100-metre exclusion zone at the Marie Stopes Centre after women complained of being intimidated. Richmond Council followed suit outside a Twickenham abortion clinic in March 2019. Issuing a public spaces protection order (PSPO) to prevent protests outside the clinics, MP Rupa Huq said the ‘imaginative use of local by-laws’ was temporary and would be up for renewal ‘before long’. ‘Proof that this nationwide problem needs a lasting nationwide solution,’ she added.

In response to the Home Office's comment, Clarke had the following to add:

'The fact that only two councils have managed to make use of these powers should demonstrate their insufficiency to address the problems raised. Aside from anything else, Ealing Council has been dragged through the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and soon, we expect, the Supreme Court for standing up for women in their area. [You can find out more about this case here]

'They are well-aware of the shortcomings of the other laws that they mention, as Bpas and medical bodies such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives have repeatedly told them,' she continued. 'The Home Office could put a stop to this by defending women, but have repeatedly chosen not to.'

Bpas confirm to Grazia that they have sent the Home Office extensive information on the 'shortcomings of these laws' during the consultation last year and the government office has them on file but are 'choosing to ignore' them.

If you want to know more information about abortion, visit the Bpas website here__.

Read More:

Women In The UK Are Still Being Harassed Outside Of Abortion Clinics - Why Won't The Law Protect Them?

Pro-Choice Groups Look For British 'Buffer Zone' Outside Abortion Clinics

Anti-Abortion Protests Have Been Banned For The First Time By This London Council

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