Pro-life voice protected outside abortion clinics

22 June 2022

On the same day that abortion figures for 2021 were released, an attempt to stop pro-life witness near abortion clinics was withdrawn.

Dr Rupa Huq MP sought to amend the government’s Public Order Bill to make it illegal to pray, protest or even offer support outside abortion clinics across the country. Anyone found doing so could face up to two years in prison. This would have stopped any kind of pro-life witness close to abortion centres or clinics within other buildings like hospitals.

However, after it was clear that Conservatives on the committee would oppose the new amendment, Dr Huq withdrew it. This was the second time Dr Huq attempted to impose these no-pray zones across the whole country.

No pray zones already exist

Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) are already in place around certain clinics demonstrating that there is, in any case, no need for a nationwide policy. The National Police Chief’s Council  gave evidence explaining why this amendment would not help:

Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) exist and have been used to positive effect to prevent certain behaviour within specific areas, including in a few instances around abortion clinics. These additionally have the benefit of allowing those with concerns to raise them with a relevant body (i.e., the Council) without becoming involved in any potential criminal proceeding were it to be reported to the police or courts.

However, existing PSPOs are also greatly unjust.

In October 2019, Christian Hacking became the first person to be arrested for publicly praying in front of an abortion clinic, in violation of the UK’s first ‘buffer zone’ outside a Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing, West London. Christian, who is wheelchair bound, was arrested by police and manhandled into the back of a police van.

Since then, two more ‘buffer zones’ have been created in different locations in the UK.

Attempt to introduce a PSPO in Birmingham

More recently, Birmingham City Council has been trying to create a PSPO around another abortion clinic, arguing it is ‘in the public interest’ to protect residents from so-called ‘violent protestors’. Pro-life group 40 Days for Life, which regularly sets up peaceful prayer vigils outside abortion clinics (far enough away from the entrance so as not to cause disturbance), was accused by the council of sending ‘violent protestors’ to the Robert Clinic, Birmingham, who allegedly harass and interrogate the public. Yet the council failed to recognise that in reality, it is the pro-life volunteers who regularly face harassment from the public.

The council has been consulting the local public on whether to create this new ‘buffer zone’.

Thank you for acting

Thanks to everyone who has contacted their MP about this – let’s thank God that this will not go forward and commit ourselves to protecting life.

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