Life

London council to ban anti-abortion protesters from a clinic

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Emily Reynolds
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A London council is moving to ban anti-abortion protestors from a Marie Stopes centre in Ealing.

The West London clinic has been subject to protests for nearly 25 years, largely spearheaded by anti-choice network The Good Counsel Network.

The ban, which was first backed in October, is now due to proceed to the next stage after nearly 4,000 local residents signed a petition backing it, and would mean that protestors would be banned from “approaching or monitoring women accessing the clinic, congregating in large groups, displaying distressing images and using amplification equipment”. 

Speaking in 2017, when the ban was first proposed, MP Rupa Huq said she hoped that “very soon we will see no one outside the gates of the clinic, so these women can have the anonymity they need”.

“For three decades I have been fuming that these so-called pro-life protesters have been able to upset women seeking medical treatment with their wildly medically inaccurate foetus representations designed to cause alarm, shock and distress,” she said. 

“Ealing Council is committed to ending the intimidation and harassment faced by those seeking legally available medical support,” said council leader Julian Bell. “Since Ealing first raised this issue, it has become clear that behaviour of this kind is happening at clinics across the country. We need ministers to come forward with a national solution to this problem, giving councils and police appropriate powers to prevent intimidation and distress.”

Since 2015, anti-protests from group Sister Supporter have also sought to protect women attending the centre; a 2017 Guardian article described their efforts as “groundbreaking”. 

The Good Counsel Network claim that their protests do not constitute harassment, and that they are simply “praying”; their website states that they merely “speak to clients about God’s plan for them and their baby”. Others claim differently, with clinic operations manager John Hansen-Brevetti saying that “women are reduced to tears on a daily basis after being forced to ‘run the gauntlet’. It’s not protest and it’s not support, it is cruelty and abuse”. Speaking to The Guardian, Hansen-Brevetti says that protestors address women as “mum”, “tell them they would be haunted by the ghost of their aborted foetus” and are shown graphic images. 

In Ireland, pro-choice campaigners are also gearing up for a referendum to repeal the eight amendment, which gives an unborn foetus and a pregnant woman an equal right to life. 

According to The Irish Times, the referendum is likely to be in May or June of this year. 

Image: Rex Features

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Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist and author based in London. Her first book, A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind, came out in February 2017 with Hodder & Stoughton. She is currently working on her second.  

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