More than 100,000 call for buffer zones outside abortion clinics
· Petition calling for buffer zones outside abortion clinics signed by nearly 120,000 people
· Petition will be delivered on Wednesday 4th March at 2pm to 10 Downing Street by supporters including Caroline Lucas MP and Dr Clare Gerada.
· bpas’ Back Off campaign, calling for legislation to protect women, is supported by dozens of women’s organisations – including the RCM, RCOG, and Mumsnet
A petition signed by nearly 120,000 people is being delivered to 10 Downing Street today calling on the government to introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics.
The change.org petition asks all political parties to commit to introducing exclusion zones to stop protests taking place directly outside clinics. Buffer zones have already been introduced in France, USA, and Canada.
In November 2014, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP called on the government to consult on a range of measures to prevent patients and health care staff being harassed at abortion clinics. However, the Home Office has yet to reply to requests for action on this issue.
Protests are taking place daily outside abortion clinics across the country. Some protesters are paid by anti-abortion groups to stand outside clinics, and some routinely film women entering and leaving clinics and hold large graphic banners bearing images of dismembered foetuses. A woman attending a bpas clinic in Stratford recently left the following comment:
“The moment I saw the protests I felt panicked and shy. They are intruding on my personal decision. I am going to have to cover my face when I’m next here [because] I don’t feel safe or secure.”
The petition was started by Erika Garratt, after seeing video footage of a pregnant woman confronting protesters outside a clinic in Southwark.
The petition will be delivered by Erika alongside supporters of the Back Off campaign including Dr Clare Gerada, GP and past Chair of Royal College of GPs, and representatives from the British Humanists Association, Brook, Birthrights, and Reclaim Rossyln Road, a residents association that was established in response to anti-abortion protests outside a clinic in Richmond.
Erika Garratt said:
“After seeing the video of a pregnant woman confronting protestors outside an abortion clinic, I was outraged to learn that people can protest, film and harass women as they attend appointments at abortion clinics. Buffer zones have been introduced in France, Canada and the US – why not here?
“Having an abortion can be an extremely emotional time for a woman. I respect the protesters' right to disagree with abortion, but they must respect women’s right to privacy too. In my eyes these protests are a subtle form of violence against women and an attempt to stop women being able to make choices about their own bodies and their own lives.”
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, who tabled the Early Day Motion calling for buffer zones in December, said:
“I’m deeply concerned about the escalation in intimidating activity at abortion clinics and pregnancy advisory services, including outside the Wistons Clinic, in my Brighton constituency.”
“Woman have a fundamental right to make their own sexual health choices and the Government has a duty to ensure these legal healthcare services can continue to operate and be accessed safely. Today’s petition demonstrates the huge support for legislation to create buffer zones to ensure this happens. Ministers should act without further delay.”
Dr Clare Gerada said:
“Politicians must take immediate action to stop the harassment of women who are seeking services from abortion clinics. Women have a right to safe health care. The bullying and intimidation displayed by anti-abortion protestors outside clinics when women are trying to obtain safe care is inhumane. The government must act now to introduce legislation to allow women safe passage when they are trying to access these services.”
Ann Furedi, chief executive of bpas, said:
“The government cannot continue to ignore the growing anti-abortion activity outside clinics. Women are being filmed, followed and intimidated on a daily basis, yet by refusing to act the message from the government is that women accessing abortion services – and the medical staff who provide this care - should just put up with harassment. This is simply unacceptable.”
“Our repeated requests for assistance form the Home Office have been ignored. The people who have signed this petition are showing their support for women. It's about time the Government did too."
A representative from the Reclaim Rosslyn Road residents group from Richmond, London, said:
“As a non-aligned resident group, we strongly support the idea of buffer zones. The protesters patrol the gate of the clinic in our neighbourhood, harass passers-by, and treat complaints from both residents and the neighbouring doctors’ surgery with contempt. At least one of them is paid to be there. They are entitled to express their views, but we are fed up with daily life in a quiet residential street being disrupted month after month by their antics. A buffer zone could reduce the disruption without attacking the principle of free speech.”
For more information please contact bpas at firstname.lastname@example.org and 0207 612 0206 or 07788 725 185
About the Back Off campaign
The Back Off campaign was launched in November 2014 and calls for the establishment of zones free from anti-abortion activists in the area directly around registered clinics and pregnancy advice bureaux. It is supported by a range of organisations including the Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Mumsnet, Women’s Aid, and Unison.
bpas is a charity which provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception from more than 40 centres across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. More information can be found at www.bpas.org