Abortion clinic nurse welcomes town hall's resolve to protect staff and patients

Local authority to look at how to stop protesters from making patients and staff feel intimidated.

Local authority to look at how to stop protesters from making patients and staff feel intimidated

Nurses working at an abortion clinic have thanked a local authority for saying it will consider a ban on protesters outside their workplace – the move would be the first of its kind.

Ealing Council voted this week to ‘explore all options’ – including a potential public space protection order – to protect staff and patients at a Marie Stopes UK clinic in west London.

Staff say they – along with women arriving for abortions – are subjected to daily harassment. They say protesters verbally intimidate them and have attempted to form barrier to stop people entering the building.

Daily protest

A group called the Good Counsel Network – which denies harassment and has not yet commented further – has held daily vigils outside the centre for 23 years. However, a petition instigated by counter-protest organisation Sister Supporter, and signed by 3,500 people, called on Ealing Council to force an end to the protest.

The clinic's clinical operations manager, nurse John Hansen-Brevetti, who attended the council meeting, said he and colleagues felt undermined in their attempts to provide care and support for women. 

'An affront to nursing'

Mr Hansen-Brevetti said: ‘In many cases, they deliberately spread misinformation, including that abortion raises breast cancer risk, which leads to feelings of inadequacy. Such actions are an affront to nursing. They go against everything we trained for as nurses, to ensure people are protected and supported to give informed consent.’

Mr Hansen-Brevetti said staff had recently received a card from an anti-abortion group addressed to ‘the murderers of babies’.

He said: ‘It said all staff would be under the shadow of the black cross of damnation – which naturally made everyone feel upset and intimidated,' he said.

‘Our staff arriving for work are often mistaken for pregnant women attending an appointment, so are subjected to the same harassment as them.’

Hope for a resolution

The nurse, who has worked at the clinic for two years, thanked Sister Support and the public for lobbying Ealing Council to take action.

He added: ‘The presence of the pro-choice group alongside the protesters for the past three years has amplified the number of people outside. Hopefully things will quieten down now.'

'Deeply disturbing'

Ealing Council leader Julian Bell said: 'There is overwhelming support to tackle this issue and that is what we will do. 

'The next steps are for council officers to continue to gather evidence to allow for all options to be considered.

“As I stated at the meeting, I find the continuing protests deeply disturbing and we are resolved to find a permanent resolution.'

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