Ban protestors from intimidating women entering abortion clinics

Julia Bradley, from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, says women are being distressed by the tactics of anti-abortion campaigners

We are appalled by the presence of protesters outside some clinics, who congregate precisely to impose their own personal views on pregnant women as they enter a centre. We believe that creating a safe space – or buffer zone – outside clinics, as urged by Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper, would go a long way to ensuring women can access this much needed service in privacy and dignity.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in protest activity outside clinics. These people position themselves right outside clinics, sometimes with cameras strapped around their necks or bearing banners showing pictures of aborted foetuses. They allege their presence is needed, because clinic staff won’t tell the truth about abortion. This could not be further from the truth.  The consultation process covers all the risks (abortion is in fact a very safe procedure), complications, side effects of medications, how their chosen method of treatment will affect them physically and the rapid return (two weeks) to fertility. 

No pressure is exerted on women to go through with the abortion: I have sent some women away as I could see quite clearly, at that moment in time, they were not ready to decide.

We are a highly skilled part of the multi-disciplinary team, often in ‘nurse led’ clinics, who work hard to ensure women have access to free, safe, legal health care that includes abortion. Our biggest skill however, is putting a woman at ease and consoling her after she has had to make her way through a huddle of protesters directly outside the clinic. Women tell us it makes them feel intimidated, ashamed, and guilty on what is already a difficult day. 

Protecting the space outside clinics would at least mean women are not the targets of a campaign to restrict their reproductive choices as they enter a clinic for impartial advice, support and care.

About the author

Julia BradleyJulia Bradley is lead nurse and education manager at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service

You can read the full version of this article in next week’s Nursing Standard, published 19 August.

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