New laws to protect women from being harassed and intimidated outside abortion clinics will be considered, the Home Office has said.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd today ordered an "in-depth assessment" of gatherings outside abortion clinics following concerns over the tactics used by some pro-life protestors.
Last month Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing, urged the government to introduce legislation which would make the areas outside abortion clinics "safe spaces" where protestors couldn't enter.
Huq told The Independent at the time: "For years and years the passage of women to the Marie Stopes clinic in Mattock Lane, Ealing within my constituency has been blocked by protestors brandishing rosary beads and lining the pavement with foetus dolls and gruesome ghoulish images to deter vulnerable women... and clinic staff trying to enter their workplace, leaving me and other local residents silently fuming."
The Ealing-based organisation Sister Supporter has also been set up to lobby for "harassment-free abortion access nationally."
The Home Office said today that its assessment of the situation will gather evidence from the police, healthcare providers and local authorities before determining whether enhanced or new police powers are needed to tackle the problem.
The way other countries such as the US, France and Australia tackle similar protests outside abortion clinics will also be taken into consideration.
Amber Rudd said today: "While everyone has a right to peaceful protest, it is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated simply for exercising their legal right to healthcare advice and treatment. The decision to have an abortion is already an incredibly personal one, without women being further pressured by aggressive protesters."
She added: "Let me be clear, this review is about ensuring the police, healthcare providers and local authorities have the right powers to protect women making these tough decisions. But this isn’t to kick the issue into the long grass. The review will collect the detailed evidence and firm recommendations that allow us to take the right action to tackle this problem."
Responding to today's announcement, Rupa Huq said she hopes for "action now rather than just warm words."