Campaigners who help women find alternatives to abortion say they are deeply saddened by a legal ruling that backs a ‘buffer zone’ around an abortion centre in London.
Ealing Council restricts people from offering alternatives to abortion outside a Marie Stopes clinic, and yesterday the Appeal Court backed its position.
Be Here For Me, which campaigns for the freedom to speak about abortion outside such centres, said it was “horrified and shocked” at the judgment.
Alina Dulgheriu brought the case after personally experiencing the support on offer.
She said: “My little girl is here today because of the real practical and emotional support that I was given by a group outside a Marie Stopes centre”.
“I am going to appeal this decision to ensure that women in Ealing and all across the country do not have this vital support option removed”, Dulgheriu added.
Marie Stopes – in a joint statement with fellow abortion giant BPAS – said it hoped the Government would now legislate for ‘buffer zones’ nationwide.
Last September, this idea was rejected by the then Home Secretary. Sajid Javid said it would not be proportionate given that nearly all pro-life activities in such areas simply involve “praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets”.
In the latest ruling, Sir Terence Etherton, Lady Justice King and Lady Justice Davies said that the actions of campaigners outside the centre affected the “quality of life” of those seeking an abortion.
They said a “designated area” for protestors outside the exclusion zone was an appropriate balancing of rights.
Free speech group the Manifesto Club said the decision was likely to further damage freedom of expression.
In a previous High Court judgment, Mr Justice Turner said the bar on pro-life supporters went against their human rights but that Ealing Council had justification to make such an interference.
Be Here For Me said it was a “very sad day”, and would support an appeal.
“No one can claim to uphold a right to choose whilst supporting the stripping away of all but one choice”, the group’s Clare Mulvany said.
Marie Stopes claimed any type of activity outside an abortion centre is “targeted street harassment”.
Free speech travesty
When Ealing Council backed the zone in 2018, abortion supporter Josie Appleton, of the civil liberties organisation the Manifesto Club, described it as “a travesty for public freedoms”.
Later a letter – signed by the Manifesto Club, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship, the Freedom Association and Peter Tatchell – said Ealing’s ban was “so widely drawn as to impose potentially unlawful restrictions on the rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression”.