Calls for buffer zones to be introduced outside abortion clinics across England and Wales were rejected by Home Secretary Sajid Javid today.
In defiance of pro-choice campaigners, Mr Javid said creating protest-free areas outside clinics to prevent harassment of patients ‘would not be a proportionate response’.
While a Home Office review found examples of harassment and damaging behaviour, such as the handing out of model foetuses, displaying graphic images and blocking patients’ paths, these activities were not the norm, he added.
Calls for buffer zones to be introduced outside abortion clinics (file image of the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing) across England and Wales were rejected by Home Secretary Sajid Javid today
In defiance of pro-choice campaigners, Mr Javid (pictured in Downing Street today) said creating protest-free areas outside clinics to prevent harassment of patients ‘would not be a proportionate response’
He said: ‘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.’
The Home Secretary acknowledged all anti-abortion activities, passive or otherwise, can have an adverse effect and he expressed his sympathies to women impacted.
The review received more than 2,500 responses from abortion service providers, abortion service clients, anti-abortion demonstrators, police forces and local authorities.
Some 36 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales reported demonstrations outside their facilities. Of these, a small number reported aggressive activity, the Home Office said.
The main activities reported as having taken place during protests included praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets.
About one in 10 abortion clinics have reported harassment of women, Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins told the Commons, as she defended a decision to reject a national buffer zones scheme.
Demonstrations were reported outside 36 clinics of the 363 in the UK, Mrs Atkins said, justifying continued granting of buffer zones on a case-by-case basis.
Labour MP and abortion buffer zone campaigner Rupa Huq (file image) said she was ‘disappointed’ in the Government’s rejection of a national buffer zone plan
She said: ‘In those circumstances, at the moment, the conclusion of the evidence is we continue with the current scheme of allowing councils to apply for public space protection orders, which are targeted orders.
‘But of course we keep this matter very much under review because we want to ensure that people who need to access these services can do so in a safe way.’
Labour MP and abortion buffer zone campaigner Rupa Huq was ‘disappointed’ by the Government’s rejection of a national buffer zone plan.
The Ealing Central and Acton MP told the Commons: ‘The conclusions are a bit disappointing… It seems to be saying there has to be a disproportionate number of women affected before any action takes place.’
But Antonia Tully, director of campaigns at the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the world’s oldest abortion opposition group, said they were ‘delighted’ by the decision.
She said: ‘This is a massive victory for common sense, democracy and above all for the hundreds of vulnerable women who are saved from the horror of abortion at the very gates of the abortion clinic.’