Ealing council has voted in favour of creating a ‘safe zone’ around an abortion clinic to protect women from anti‑abortion protesters.
The consultation, which received the biggest single response of any consultation in Ealing, supported the radical move to implement a buffer zone between protesters and those attending a health clinic.
‘This is a landmark decision for women. We are incredibly grateful to Ealing council for recognising the emotional distress that these groups create, and for taking proportionate action to protect the privacy and dignity of women accessing our clinic in the borough,’ said Richard Bentley, managing director at Marie Stopes UK, a non-governmental organisation that provides contraception and safe abortion services and whose clinic will be protected by the buffer zone.
‘Ultimately, we believe every woman in the UK should be able to access abortion services without harassment and we hope this decision marks the beginning of the end of the harassment these groups undertake nationwide.’
The catholic anti-abortion organisation, the Good Counsel Network, held regular protests outside the clinic, handing women toys and calling them ‘mum’.
However, the group denied harassing women going to the clinic for treatment and instead claimed that they have helped more than 500 women who turned around
Julian Bell, Ealing’s council leader, said that the actions are ‘absolutely the right thing’ and that while he is a christian himself, the debate was not for or against abortion, but for the protection of the community.
The council’s consultation findings showed that 81% of participants reported seeing concerning behaviour and 83% had seen explicit imagery. A staggering 85-90% supported the public spaces protection order (PSPO).
PSPOs address a particular nuisance that has detrimental effects on the quality of life of the local community.
‘This was never about protest. It was about small groups of strangers choosing to gather by our entrance gates where they could harass and intimidate women and try to prevent them from accessing healthcare to which they are legally entitled,’ said Mr Bentley.
‘Ealing council has sent a clear message that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated, and that these groups have no justification for trying to involve themselves in one of the most personal decisions a woman can make for herself.’