Thousands back calls for buffer zone around abortion clinics to stop protesters harassing women

Thousands of people have backed calls to ban pro-life protesters from “intimidating and harassing” women outside abortion clinics across the capital.

Campaigners have been pictured kneeling in prayer position outside a Marie Stopes clinic in Brixton Hill.

Women also reported being offered graphic leaflets showing dismembered foetuses outside a British Pregnancy Advisory centre in Richmond.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service launched the Back Off campaign in a bid to have so-called buffer zones implemented around clinics to allow women to “access a lawful healthcare service in confidence”.

A spokeswoman for the service said: “We believe the government needs to introduce specific legislation to create zones free from anti-abortion activists in the area directly around registered clinics and pregnancy advice bureaux.

“Women report feeling distressed and intimidated by this anti-abortion activity as they try to access a lawful healthcare service in confidence.”

Women, who could not be named for confidentiality reasons, said they felt “intimidated” and “judged” by the campaigners. 

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One woman, who visited the clinic in Richmond, told the Standard: “It is not a nice situation to be in and you don’t expect to see that outside. It really shocks you and makes you feel as if you’re doing something wrong.”

Another, who suffers from anxiety and depression, said: “(There were) a lot of protestors, (I) felt extremely intimidated. These people do not help.”

A third woman said: “Having leaflets shoved in my face disregarding a much-thought about decision and being told I’d be ‘prayed for’ is an invasion of privacy in my view tantamount to harassment.”

More than 100,000 people have backed the national campaign which has been supported by organisations including Women’s Aid and the Royal College of Midwives.

Celebrities including comedian Jenny Éclair have supported the initiative. 

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She said: “It’s vital that women keep control of their bodies.”

A spokeswoman for Bpas said: “We are a society which values freedom of speech, but also one where the vast majority of us support a woman’s access to abortion services. 

“For those who wish to campaign to restrict women’s reproductive choices, there are plenty of opportunities and locations in which to do so. The space immediately outside a clinic need not and should not not be one of them.

“Establishing access zones free from anti-abortion activists around clinics would provide the reassurance and security women need. We urge all political parties to act to protect women as they make their own personal decision about their pregnancy. Women deserve nothing less.”

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