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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Manchester City Council votes to ban anti-abortion protests outside clinics

Written by Pat Hurst

Manchester has become the second local authority in England to vote to ban anti-abortion protests outside clinics.

Councillors in the city agreed on Wednesday to "take all necessary actions within its powers" to stop what it said was the harassment by protesters against women using the clinics.

The motion, proposed by councillor Sarah Judge, was passed by a meeting at Manchester Town Hall.

It follows a similar move in Ealing, which voted for buffer zones around an abortion clinic in west London to stop protesters gathering outside.

Both authorities will undertake a public consultation on whether introducing a public space protection order (PSPO) is appropriate.

Ms Judge's motion stated the proposal was not for or against abortion but sought to protect individuals who were seeking an abortion.

It stated pro-life protesters use disturbing and graphic images and hand out leaflets carrying "misleading" information as well as follow, record and question women leaving abortion clinics.

The motion stated significant numbers of women have reported feeling intimidated and distressed.

The decision sets out an agreement that the council will now look at options within its power to prevent anti-abortion protesters from intimidating and harassing women at clinics.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn (SPUC) condemned the move.

SPUC director of campaigns Antonia Tully said: "Manchester City Council is repeating the false and evidence-free claims made by Ealing Council that 'harassment and intimidation' are taking place at peaceful pro-life vigils. There is absolutely no harassment or intimidation."

John Marechal, of the SPUC Manchester region, said: "It is quite wrong to label these peaceful vigils as 'protests'.

"Local people simply pray quietly and offer help to any woman approaching the abortion clinic who wants support and advice. Many children are alive today because of the help their mothers received through an encounter with a pro-life vigil.

"The motion before Manchester City Council is trying to stop law-abiding citizens from offering help to vulnerable women."

A national review of how protests are held outside clinics is under way after an announcement by Home Secretary Amber Rudd last year.

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