Last night, Birmingham City Council voted to explore the potential for buffer zones to be introduced outside abortion clinics, in response to persistent anti-abortion activity outside clinics. The council voted to “fully explore all options to prevent protestors from intimidating and harassing women outside women’s health clinics in the city” and “take steps to protect the privacy of staff, patients and nearby residents.”
Birmingham City Council is the fourth local authority to vote in favour of taking action on this issue – following in the footsteps of Ealing, Portsmouth, and Southwark, all of which have voted to investigate the potential for Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) outside clinics. Birmingham City Council’s decision comes just one week after the Home Office announced it will undertake an in-depth, national review into demonstrations outside abortion clinics, pledging to consider further action in order to protect the women accessing these health services. Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP said:
“While everyone has a right to peaceful protest, it is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated simply for exercising their legal right to healthcare advice and treatment. The decision to have an abortion is already an incredibly personal one, without women being further pressured by aggressive protesters.”
The Marie Stopes clinic in Edgbaston has been subject to regular protests outside its doors, including from Texas-founded group “40 Days For Life”. Protesters stand directly outside the clinic entrance.
Birmingham City Council noted that:
“The right to protest must be balanced with the right of pregnant women to choose and to obtain advice and treatment in confidence and free from intimidation. [...] Those who wish to campaign to restrict women’s reproductive choices have plenty of opportunities and locations in which to do so. The area outside a clinic need not and should not be one of them.”
A spokesperson from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service agreed, saying:
"We are very pleased that Birmingham City Council has taken this important decision to protect women as they exercise their legal right to healthcare. This is not about shutting down the debate on abortion, but about ensuring that the women who use these services – some of whom may be vulnerable - are able to receive advice and treatment without interference, and in confidence.
“Women accessing abortion care do so for a variety of reasons, at what can be a very difficult point in their lives. It is absolutely wrong that they should be harangued by protesters who hold extreme views on abortion while accessing legal healthcare services.”
The full motion can be found on the Birmingham City Council website site here.
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Notes to Editors:
bpas is a charity which sees more than 70,000 women a year and provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at bpas.org.