MPs Just Backed Plans To Increase Protection For Women Accessing Abortions

Photographed by Anna Jay
This week, MPs have voted in favour of plans to enforce buffer zones around abortion clinics in England and Wales.
By a hefty margin of 297 to 110, MPs backed an amendment to the Government's Public Order Bill that will make it a criminal offence to harass, intimidate, obstruct or threaten patients within 150m of a clinic.
Anyone found guilty of breaking the buffer zone's rules could face up to six months in jail.
As the BBC reports, the amendment was proposed by Labour MP Stella Creasy, who said it is designed to protect "women accessing a very specific type of healthcare”.
Creasy added: "It does not stop free speech on abortion. It does not stop people protesting. It simply says you shouldn’t have the right to do this in the face of somebody – and very often these people are right up in front of people."
Sadly, the amendment isn't a done deal yet. It still faces several layers of scrutiny before it becomes law, including approval from the House of Lords.
However, the backing from MPs was welcomed by the British Pregnancy Advice Service, whose chief executive Clare Murphy said: "Every year, around 100,000 women are treated by a clinic or hospital for an abortion that is targeted by anti-abortion protests.
"These groups attempt to deter or prevent women from accessing abortion care by displaying graphic images of foetuses, calling women 'murderers', and hanging baby clothing around clinic entrances, causing women significant distress. Today's vote will bring an end to this activity."
In 2019, Refinery29's Vicky Spratt and Poppy Thorpe reported on the incredibly distressing harassment faced by women accessing a BPAS clinic in Bournemouth.
"The protestors say that they are praying for unborn babies, here to give women seeking terminations 'information'. But the leaflets they give out contain misinformation and graphic images of foetuses," they wrote at the time. "These are the sort of scenes you expect to see in the United States, where the strength of the anti-abortion lobby is well documented. Not in Bournemouth."

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