Council considers anti-abortion protest ban

Campaigners outside a Marie Stopes centre in Northern Ireland earlier this year. More

Campaigners outside a Marie Stopes centre in Northern Ireland earlier this year. More

A council in London has become the first in the United Kingdom to agree to take action to stop demonstrations by pro-life campaigners outside an abortion clinic.

Anna Veglio-White, a spokesperson for women's rights group Sisters Supporter, which presented the council with a petition with more than 3,000 signatures calling for the buffer zone, told The Independent she had seen women being called "murderers" and reduced to tears after being confronted by the pro-life demonstrators.

Bindi Rai, who brought the motion, said it would allow women to access "legal healthcare without intimidation". Out of the 69 councillors present all voted in favour of the motion bar two who abstained.

One possibility is a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), which would forbid people from entering a certain area around the clinic.

The Good Counsel Network, a Catholic pro-life group, maintains that its primary objective is to raise aware of the alternatives to abortion.

"I'm absolutely thrilled that there was such huge support in the chamber for the motion, and right across the parties", she said.

'It was really good.

"This has to stop", he said.

A spokesman said: 'While today's vote is undoubtedly a significant step forward for women and residents in Ealing, anti-abortion protests are a national problem in need of a national solution.

Developments in Ealing will be watched closely by other councils amid an increase in the volume and ferocity of anti-abortion protests around Britain, campaigners said. "And this is really a stand for women, and for women's rights to access healthcare that is legally available to them".

"This vote has significance for the whole of the United Kingdom and on behalf of the Marie Stopes community I look forward to a time when all our clinics can provide legal healthcare free of this harassment".

Hopefully this will set a national precedent and other local authorities will follow their lead.

"The situation in Ealing is sadly not unique, and women and clinic staff across the country report being followed, filmed, and harassed when trying to access or provide legal healthcare services".

The organisation's founder, Clare McCullough, rejects claims of harassment and maintains that their approach involves "simple befriending of women".

Among these is the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing.

The group had held its vigil for 23 years "without any criminal charges", she added.

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