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Protests at abortion clinic face ban by London council

A London council is considering banning protesters from gathering outside an abortion clinic to prevent the harassment and intimidation of women visiting the clinic

A London council is considering banning protesters from gathering outside an abortion clinic to prevent the harassment and intimidation of women visiting the clinic.

The deputy leader of Ealing borough council in west London, Ranjit Dheer, described tensions outside the Marie Stopes clinic as intolerable, saying humiliation and distress were being piled on fragile women, who were being ‘accosted’ and called ‘murderers’.

He told a council meeting that women who want to use the clinic should not have to face ‘harassment, intimidation and distress’.

First such ban

The meeting heard arguments from campaigners for and against a creating a buffer zone outside the clinic and voted to begin a public consultation to do so by issuing a public space protection order (PSPO).

It would be the UK's first such buffer zone to stop anti-abortion protesters from gathering outside an


Picture: Alamy

A London council is considering banning protesters from gathering outside an abortion clinic to prevent the harassment and intimidation of women visiting the clinic.

The deputy leader of Ealing borough council in west London, Ranjit Dheer, described tensions outside the Marie Stopes clinic as intolerable, saying humiliation and distress were being piled on fragile women, who were being ‘accosted’ and called ‘murderers’.

He told a council meeting that women who want to use the clinic should not have to face ‘harassment, intimidation and distress’.

First such ban

The meeting heard arguments from campaigners for and against a creating a buffer zone outside the clinic and voted to begin a public consultation to do so by issuing a public space protection order (PSPO).

It would be the UK's first such buffer zone to stop anti-abortion protesters from gathering outside an abortion clinic.

The clinic is located in the ward of councillor Binda Rai, said vulnerable women seeking legal treatment but the protests were forcing them to face 'emotional hijacking at the point of access'.

Other councils watching

Ms Rai said: 'The PSPO outside a Marie Stopes clinic is unprecedented nationally. We know that other councils are watching what we do.'

The earliest that the eight-week public consultation could begin is 29 January.

A council spokesperson said a decision on whether or not to implement a PSPO will only be made once the consultation process has been completed and it is known whether or not the statutory criteria are met.

This would include whether a PSPO will be a necessary and proportionate response to the issues that have been identified.

Confused, scared, upset

A woman identified only as ‘A’ said in a statement read out at the meeting that she received help from someone outside a clinic when she was 'confused, scared, mad, very upset and did not want an abortion'.

The leader of the Labour-run council, Julian Bell, said he believed a PSPO was potentially a proportionate response and the best way forward.

He urged the government to find a national solution to the issue, as a PSPO is time-limited.

Marie Stopes UK managing director Richard Bentley said a number of local authorities are keeping a close eye on what is happening in Ealing. He added that other councils including Birmingham and Portsmouth were actively exploring how to increase protection for women in their areas.

Right decision for them

Describing the situation outside clinics as 'harassment', Mr Bentley said: 'The majority of women who arrive at our clinics have already had a consultation with a trained healthcare professional in which they have talked through their options and have come to a decision that's right for them.

'Strangers harassing them as they enter and leave the clinic does nothing to change that. All it does is upset women on what can already be a difficult day.'

British Pregnancy Advisory Service head of media and policy research Katherine O'Brien said trying to negotiate or compromise with anti-abortion protesters had not worked and the order was the best way to proceed.

'However, while Ealing Council's action is clearly significant, anti-abortion clinic harassment is a national problem in need of a national solution,' she said.


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