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Majority of MPs support action on buffer zones outside abortion clinics

Majority of MPs support action on buffer zones outside abortion clinics

  • More than half (57%) of MPs polled by YouGov said they support a London Borough’s decision to explore the possibility of buffer zones around clinics providing abortion care. Less than a quarter (24%) opposed.
  • After Ealing Council vote last month, a number of councils are now also considering measures to prevent anti-abortion clinic harassment. 
  • Today, Tuesday 7th November, Rupa Huq MP will lead parliamentary debate calling for Home Secretary to introduce buffer zones around clinics and pregnancy advisory bureaux nationally.

Polling conducted by YouGov has found that the majority (57%) of the 101 MPs asked support Ealing Council’s recent decision to explore the possibility of introducing a “buffer zone” which prevents anti-abortion groups from protesting in the immediate vicinity of a clinic which carries out abortions. Less than a quarter (24%) opposed.

Based on the 27 female MPs who participated, the data suggests female MPs are also less likely to oppose this action than male MPs (9% compared to 32%). None of the Labour MPs polled stated they opposed the London Borough’s move.

Today, Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, will lead a parliamentary debate on the need for government action on anti-abortion clinic protests nationally. Last month, Ealing council voted to explore using anti-social behaviour tools including Public Spaces Protection Orders in response to growing harassment and intimidation outside one clinic in the borough. A number of other local councils are now considering taking similar measures.

However, campaigners and parliamentarians have warned that while council-led measures may work to tackle individual clinic protests, they are not the solution to the growing problem of anti-abortion clinic protests across the country.

In October, a cross-party group of over 100 MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, wrote to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, whose own Hastings constituency has seen activists livestream their protest near an abortion clinic on Facebook, calling for the government to bring forward legislation to introduce buffer zones outside clinics in order to move protesters away from the space directly outside medical facilities providing abortion care.  In response, the Home Office stated that they would “explore whether any further action is needed to ensure clinic staff and patients can go about their lawful business free from harassment, offence or alarm”, but to date the government have insisted that no further legislation is needed.

Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at bpas, said:

“A clear majority of MPs support action on anti-abortion clinic protests. For years, a tiny handful of individuals have been permitted to cause women seeking legal healthcare services significant distress. As a direct result of the government’s refusal to engage with this issue, these groups have become emboldened and protests have intensified. This cannot be allowed this to continue.

“We are a pro-choice country with a pro-choice parliament - but this isn’t about the rights and wrongs of abortion. Indeed, we know that MPs who have not traditionally supported a woman’s right to choose are in favour of buffer zones – because they understand that the harassment and intimidation of any woman on the streets of the UK is unacceptable.  

“A number of councils are working hard to tackle this issue on a local level, but this is not the answer to a growing national problem. We hope the Home Secretary, who has always defended women’s access to abortion care, will be as heartened by this poll as we are, and bring forward the buffer zones legislation that women need and parliament would support.”


For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 061 3377, 07788 725185 or press@bpas.org

Notes to Editors:

About bpas

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.

About the survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 101 MPs. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17/10/17 and 30/10/17.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the House of Commons.