A landmark decision by Ealing council in London could see pro-life protests banned nationwide.
The local authority voted overwhelmingly in favour of banning protest groups from harassing women outside Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing. Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) have been suggested as a means of preventing intimidating anti-abortion activity.
Councillor Binda Rai put forward the motion following a petition by local resident campaign group Sister Support which received over 3,000 signatures. The petition was in response to 'the daily disruption and intimidation' caused by protesters to women visiting the clinic.
The Good Counsel Network, a Catholic pro-life group, maintains that its primary objective is to raise aware of the alternatives to abortion. The group takes part in three daily prayer vigils outside abortion clinics around London.
The organisation's founder, Clare McCullough, rejects claims of harassment and maintains that their approach involves 'simple befriending of women'. However, there have been multiple reports of their use of graphic, disturbing images of dismembered foetuses.
Richard Bentley, managing director of Marie Stopes UK, hopes that this 'ground-breaking' decision will set a national precedent for other councils to follow suit. Similarly, a spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory deemed pro-life protests 'a national problem in need of a national solution,' urging the government to introduce legislation on the matter.
Some countries already have 'buffer zones' in place - areas ranging from 15 to 500 feet outside abortion clinics in which anti-abortion activities are strictly prohibited. Buffer zones currently exist in Canada and some parts of the US and Australia.