Home secretary Sajid Javid has rejected calls to create buffer zones around abortion clinics across the UK as it ‘would not be an appropriate response.’
A Home Office review declared that cases of harassment and damaging behaviour were ‘not the norm’ and creating protest-free areas ‘would not be a proportionate response’ said Mr Javid.
‘Having considered the evidence of the review, I have therefore reached the conclusion that introducing national buffer zones would not be a proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature,’ continued Mr Javid.
He added that legislation such as the Public Order Act 1986 already restricts protest activism that causes harm to others.
‘The whole point of having this review was because existing powers are not working or are proving cumbersome and difficult for councils or the police to use,’ said Yvette Cooper, Labour MP.
‘Women shouldn't ever face intimidation and harassment for going to a healthcare appointment that is their right.’
There were 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales that carries out abortion procedures in 2017, and 36 of which had anti-abortion demonstrations.
The review claims that most anti-abortion protests were passive and included praying, banners and distributing leaflets, however some cases protestors handed out model foetuses, presented graphic images, followed women seeking services, blocked their path to the clinic and even assaulted them.
‘Finally it has been recognised that these activities can have a profoundly negative impact on women seeking healthcare, and a tenth of abortion clinics and hospitals in England have been affected in this way,’ said Claire Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. ‘However, we are very clear that if the remedies suggested by the Home Secretary, including council-led Public Space Protection Orders and guidance from police, do not prove effective, we will look again at pursuing the national legislation that we still believe would be the best way to deal with this issue.’