Appeal Court Upholds Protest-Free Zone Outside Abortion Clinic

21 August 2019, 11:52

The Court of Appeal has upheld the buffer zone for a second time
The Court of Appeal has upheld the buffer zone for a second time. Picture: PA

Judges have upheld the 100 metre protest free "buffer-zone" around the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing, London.

Three judges have dismissed an appeal brought by pro-life campaigners to remove a 100 metre protest free "buffer-zone" around an abortion clinic.

Alina Dulgheriu and Andrea Orthova, who regularly attend a vigil run by the Good Counsel Network outside the clinic, mounted a legal challenge at the Court of Appeal in a bid to overturn the ban on protests directly outside the clinic.

The women brought the challenge after a case to ban the zone was dismissed last year in the High Court.

The restrictions have created a public spaces protection order (PSPO) that prevents anti-abortion protests within 100 metres of the clinic.

The PSPO was imposed following reports of "intimidation, harassment and distress" of women entering the facility.

The clinic manager, Sally O'Brien, said that before the zone was introduced women were "harassed" and "blocked from accessing care".

She continued, "I've had salt thrown at me as I've walked up the street, I've seen the women be blocked at the gate, they've had rosaries pushed into their hands."

"As they leave they then call them mum and murderer, they then rebuke them as they are leaving the clinic and they chase them up the street."

Ms O'Brien added, "if the campaigners wish to help someone, they can make themselves available to them outside the clinic and elsewhere, and if that woman wishes to have that counselling and needs someone to help her make a decision then absolutely they should be there."

"Where they should not be is outside a healthcare clinic where a woman is accessing legal healthcare and preventing her from doing that, that's what's wrong."

Elizabeth Howard, from the pro-life Be Here For Me campaign, spoke out against the ruling.
Elizabeth Howard, from the pro-life Be Here For Me campaign, spoke out against the ruling. Picture: PA

The appeal argued that the ban is against the European Convention on Human Rights, as it impacts upon protestor's rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of assembly and association.

It was also argued that the use of a PSPO is wrong as this is usually put in place to prevent anti-social behaviour, and the protestors argued that they were "one-ff or occasional" visitors.

The lawyer representing the women who brought the appeal said that the allegations against the protestors were "strongly disputed" by the women, GCN and other anti-abortion groups.

Ealing Council stated that women who had used the clinic are still "significantly affected by their encounters with the activists" and that a petition in support of the buffer zone had reached 3, 500 signatures.

Elizabeth Howard, from the pro-life Be Here For Me campaign, spoke outside the court after the decision. She said that women were being denied a choice about whether to have an abortion.

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