MPs have written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd urging her to ban people from protesting outside abortion clinics.
In a letter to Rudd, 113 MPs, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, claimed that trying to change a woman’s mind on abortion amounts to “misogynistic” abuse.
A ban on abortion protests was recently introduced in Canada, where people can now be fined and even imprisoned.
Shutting down opposition
The letter to the Home Secretary coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act.
It calls for public attempts to change a woman’s mind on abortion to be made unlawful.
The signatories want “buffer zones” to be set up outside abortion clinics, arguing that members of the public should instead voice their disagreement with abortion in other meeting places.
Opposing the concept of buffer zones, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has said: “This isn’t about protecting women – if there was any harassment by pro-lifers happening outside clinics, they would be arrested under existing legislation. Moves like this simply seek to shut down any opposition to abortion.”
In a statement, the Home Office said: “This government is absolutely clear that the right to peaceful protest should not extend to harassment or intimidating behaviour.
“Where vulnerable women are harassed or intimidated, simply for exercising a legal right, we are clear that the police and the local authority should deal with it.
“We will carefully consider the important issues raised in this letter, and work with the police and local authorities to ensure they are able to make full use of their existing powers to prevent this kind of behaviour. We will also explore whether any further action is needed to ensure clinic staff and patients can go about their lawful business free from harassment, offence or alarm.”
Last month, legislators in Ontario, Canada were slated for banning any opposition to abortion near “abortion services”.
The Safe Access to Abortion Services Act 2017 states that “no person shall, advise or persuade, or attempt to advise or persuade, a person to refrain from accessing abortion services” within a certain distance of a premises.
Residents of Ontario are also prohibited from showing “disapproval” near such facilities.
Failure to abide by the law can result in a fine of up to $5,000 or up to six months in prison.
Criticising the law, pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition said: “This law is the first step in silencing and criminalising speech that is not the official opinion of the state.
“The whole process of fast-tracking this bill, and slandering pro-life people throughout, was a shame.”