‘She Told Me I Was A Murderer’: American Anti-Abortion Groups Are Holding Daily Protest Vigils Outside UK Clinics For The Next 40 Days

Last year, more than 100,000 women attended clinics that were targeted by anti-abortion protests.

Anti-abortion demonstrators outside a US clinic

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

US-based anti-abortion campaign group, 40 Days for Life have today begun 40 days of protests outside 12 abortion clinics in the UK, putting the health and wellbeing of thousands of women at risk.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service say the tactics, including gathering in groups in front of clinic entrances, are also putting women and staff at an increased risk of coronavirus.

Last year, more than 100,000 women attended clinics that were targeted by anti-abortion protests.

Clinics in London, Birmingham and Swindon have already been forced to call police to report groups breaking social distancing rules and the law.

Following the introduction of lockdown, the government agreed to the introduction of telemedicine for early abortions, but half of women still need to attend a clinic at some stage - and BPAS say those who do go for in-person appointments are likely to be particularly vulnerable, including younger women and those with safeguarding concerns, as well as women ending a wanted pregnancy due to a diagnosis of a fetal anomaly.

They were waiting outside the entrance to the centre, holding signs of foetuses and horrible language about being a killer.

The protests are coming at a crucial time - MPs voted in June in favour of establishing buffer zones outside clinics to avoid protests like these. The bill is due to have a second reading this Friday (September 25).

Tactics employed by 40 Days for Life protesters include approaching and following women as they enter and leave clinics, handing out medically inaccurate leaflets including the false claim that abortion causes breast cancer, pushing leaflets through car windows as they wait to enter or exit the clinic, and filming women and staff.

Women who have previously been harassed by protest groups include this 17-year-old, who was approached outside a Brighton clinic in 2019: 'She told me I was a murderer and killing my baby. She then showed me pictures of what it'll look like in a leaflet then said the drugs weren't safe and brought religion into it. It made me feel uncomfortable as I'm only 17.'

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

One woman approached in Leeds last year, told BPAS: 'They were waiting outside the entrance to the centre, holding signs of foetuses and horrible language about being a killer. It made me really angry and upset. I drove myself to my appointment and had to turn in to the car park with them watching me. I wanted to get out of my car and shout at them! It made me feel violated and unsafe.'

In September 2018, the-then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, declined to introduce new legislation to address issues raised by women and healthcare providers. Since then, 42 hospitals and clinics, which together treat more than 100,000 women a year, have experienced anti-abortion protest activity. Only two of these 42 clinics, Ealing and Richmond, now have a buffer zone in place following action by local councils. 11 of these 42 are new protests outside clinics that have not previously experienced issues.

In June 2020, Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central, tabled a cross-party bill to establish buffer zones across the country.

More than half of all women who had an abortion in 2019 had to go to a clinic targeted by these groups.

Ms Huq said: 'Even in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 41,000, so-called “pro-life” protesters remain hellbent on breaking the rule of six in order to intimidate vulnerable women. Their actions are disgraceful and expose their hypocrisy.

'It’s unacceptable that women cannot freely present themselves for healthcare, over 50 years after abortion was made legal. Service users are still barraged with medically inaccurate foetus dolls, handed misleading literature, called “mum” and threatened with eternities in hell. It’s the same old tactics, designed to bully women who are simply accessing the services they are legally entitled to.

'We need buffer zones across the UK to protect service users from such tactics. This would not curtail the rights of anyone to demonstrate against abortion – just not at the gates of a medical facility.'

Rachael Clarke, Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager at BPAS said: ' Anti-abortion groups stand outside clinics not to change the law but to pressure and harass individual women who are trying to access the healthcare they’re guaranteed under the law. These women deserve to access this care without being followed, lied to, and frightened by groups of people who place their own beliefs above compassion and care for women in the most difficult of circumstances.

'Despite what the government has said before, these protests are not small scale or local problems. More than half of all women who had an abortion in 2019 had to go to a clinic targeted by these groups. It is essential that new legislation is passed to protect women’s privacy and their ability to access healthcare without harassment.'

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us