In Depth

Why abortion clinic buffer zones have been rejected

Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision has prompted anger from politicians and campaign groups

Sajid Javid has rejected calls for buffer zones to be put in place outside abortion clinics in England and Wales.

The home secretary acknowledged that some women seeking terminations have faced verbal and physical abuse from anti-abortion activists, but argued that the problem did not warrant a national ban.

Imposing exclusion zones would not be a “proportionate response” because protests only took place outside a “small number” of abortion facilities and mostly involved people praying and handing out leaflets, the home secretary said yesterday.

The decision, which follows a government review of the issue, has prompted a wave of anger from politicians and campaign groups, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott branded Javid “a disgrace,” tweeting: “How can he support vulnerable women seeking abortion advice being harassed and intimidated by anti-abortion campaigners?”

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, also condemned the decision and urged the government to reconsider.

“We all have a right to protest - but no-one has a right to harass, intimidate and obstruct women trying to access healthcare,” she said on Twitter.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) also expressed regret at Javid’s decision and vowed to continue fighting for buffer zones.

“We will keep working until every woman in the country is guaranteed safe and confidential access to pregnancy advice and abortion care, without the threat of being accosted on the street outside,” Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS, writes for the Huffington Post.

Defending the decision, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the government would continue with the current scheme of enabling councils to apply for Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), the BBC reports.

Earlier this year, Ealing become the first local authority to impose a PSPO outside a Marie Stopes centre, covering an area of 100 metres surrounding the clinic.

But Richard Bentley, the managing director of Marie Stopes UK, said he did not agree with the current scheme and called for a national solution. 

PSPOs “are not permanent measures and risk creating a postcode lottery in which some women are protected from harassment while others aren’t,” he said.

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