Abortion clinic buffer zone bill blocked in Parliament

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A bill that would ban prayer vigils from being held outside abortion clinics has been blocked in the House of Commons. 

Labour MP Rupa Huq's bill sought to criminalise prayer and offers of support for women within 150 metres of abortion clinics, with the threat of up to two years in prison. 

The bill was due to have its second reading in the Commons on Friday but an objection from government whip Rebecca Harris prevented it from proceeding any further. 

Alithea Williams, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), welcomed the outcome but said the threat of buffer zones had not gone away. 

"While this particular bill will not become law, there is still a very real danger that buffer zones will be introduced," she said.

A SPUC petition calling for the protection of abortion clinic prayer vigils has been signed by over 3,000 people.  Ms Williams urged more people to add their names. 

"The abortion lobby are relentless, and we need to be too," she said.

"We need to counter their narrative by getting as many names as possible on our petition to present to the Home Secretary and the Scottish Justice secretary."

Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said it was "good news" that the bill had failed to pass.

"By attempting to restrict women facing unplanned pregnancies from receiving compassionate emotional and practical support, the 'pro-choice' lobby reveal their opposition to real choice for women and revealing they're really just pro-abortion," she said. 

"Many babies are alive today because their mothers were able to receive the help they needed outside of an abortion clinic.

"We would, therefore, encourage the Government not to give this Bill any more time. In doing so, they would send a clear signal that women should not be denied the choice of life-saving support for them and their baby."

In 2018, former Home Secretar Sajid Javid rejected calls for the introduction of censorship zones around abortion clinics, saying that they "would not be a proportionate response, considering the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics, and considering that the majority of activities are more passive in nature".

"In making my decision, I am also aware that legislation already exists to restrict protest activities that cause harm to others," he said at the time.