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Court ruling upholds protest-free zone around abortion clinic

Anti-abortion protesters will continue to be banned from getting close to Marie Stopes clinic

Anti-abortion protesters will continue to be banned from getting close to Marie Stopes clinic


Anti-abortion demonstrators display banners from the Be Here for Me group. Picture: Alamy

A ban on anti-abortion protesters going within 100 metres of a Marie Stopes clinic in west London has been upheld.

The protest-free zone established outside the abortion clinic by the local authority will remain after it was unsuccessfully challenged at the Court of Appeal.

Women had reported feeling intimidated by protesters

Ealing Council imposed a public spaces protection order in April 2018 outside the Marie Stopes Clinic in Ealing because women had reported feeling intimidated going to and from the building.

Marie Stopes UK’s managing director Richard Bentley said following the ruling: ‘We believe in the right to assembly, expression and to practise your religion, but this should never be at the expense of a woman’s right to legal healthcare,’ he said.

I’d like similar ban where I work – it’s like walking across a battlefield

Nurse Jessica Jones, who practises at a Marie Stopes clinic in Manchester, would like to see a similar zone established outside her building.

Ms Jones said protesters are a regular presence at the entrance. 

‘It’s like you are walking across a battlefield,’ she said. ‘You feel alienated, judged and attacked.’ 

She said a buffer zone would allay her anxiety on her daily walk into work and help other women too.  

‘Everybody has a right to safety in the workplace,’ she said.

 

‘Banned from offering silent prayer and charitable assistance at the point of need’

The anti-abortion group Be Here for Me has campaigned against the introduction of protest-free zones. The group is credited by Alina Dulgheriu, the woman who brought the appeal, for helping her avoid having an abortion.

Be Here for Me volunteer Clare Mulvany said the group backed clinic staff’s right not to face abuse, but added the ban encompasses groups that do not indulge in abusive behaviour.

‘The terrible iniquity here is that offers of help and silent prayer are prohibited,’ she said.

‘We have literally been banned from offering charitable assistance, housing, babysitting, legal help etc, at the very point of need.’

Ms Dulgheriu said she now plans to take the case to the Supreme Court.


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