A council is considering creating a ‘safe zone’ around a women's health clinic in order to prevent intimidation, harassment and distress from anti-abortion protestors.
Ealing Council will discuss introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around a Marie Stopes clinic in response to a petition from pro-choice group Sister Supporter which called on the council to protect service users when visiting the clinic.
In a vote last October the council overwhelmingly supported a motion to stop the pro-life protests from taking place outside the clinic.
The motion said it wanted to ‘protect the rights of individuals from harassment and intimidation when accessing legally existing health services at the Marie Stopes Clinic and of local residents not to be exposed to related disruption and distress on a daily basis’.
Of the 61 councillors present at the full council meeting, 58 voted in favour, two abstained and, in line with convention, the mayor did not vote.
A consultation process looking at whether or not the situation meets the necessary statutory requirements for a PSPO to be introduced will now go ahead.
Council leader Julian Bell and local ward councillor Binda Rai participated in a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing in December which looked at ways of tackling this problem at the national level.
‘We are committed to ending the intimidation and harassment faced by those seeking legally available medical support, but we are hamstrung by the powers we have available,’ said Cllr Bell.
‘We will do what we can locally but our powers are limited. We are pleased that the government has responded to the pressure from Ealing and other local authorities and is looking at a national solution.’