London council extends abortion clinic buffer zone

Pro-lifers are banned from assembling and offering prayer or information within 100m of the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Ealing.(Photo: Google)

A buffer zone preventing prayer and offers of help outside a London abortion clinic has been extended for another three years by the local council.

The public space protection order (PSPO) was imposed by Ealing Council outside a clinic run by Marie Stopes, now called MSI Reproductive Choices.

The PSPO makes it a criminal offence to hold prayer vigils, hand out leaflets, or offer assistance to women considering an abortion in the immediate vicinity of the clinic. 

The buffer zone was due to end in April but has now been renewed for another three years, MyLondon reports. 

The decision by the council follows a public consultation in which 97 per cent of the 4,600 respondents backed the PSPO. 

Ealing Labour Councillor Binda Rai said it was "clear" that "harmful" behaviours would return to the clinic if the PSPO was not extended, the newspaper reports. 

While pro-lifers have often been accused of harassment outside abortion clinics, pro-life groups say that the PSPO infringes on free speech.

The Be Here for Me campaign group, which runs vigils outside clinics and has strongly criticised the buffer zone, insists that its actions are peaceful and respectful of the women visiting the clinic. 

It has argued that the PSPO deprives vulnerable women of help and information that they might not otherwise receive. 

"It is the most vulnerable women who will suffer from this draconian measure. Women who have nowhere else to turn, who feel that abortion is their only choice but do not want to have to take that choice, women under pressure from partners, family or personal circumstances," it said