Responding to the Government’s Review into harassment and intimidation near abortion clinics, deputy leader of the London assembly Labour group, Fiona Twycross AM, said:
“We firmly believe that the appropriate response to rising intimidation outside abortion clinics is not to invent new legislation but to provide clarity to assist in enforcing laws we already have, such as public space protection orders.
“Whilst we would support formal buffer zones, we feel there is already sufficient legislation in place to achieve this aim.
“No women should ever be subjected to intimidation, particularly women considering going through an abortion.
“In exploring this topic, other assembly members and I have received emails and heard comments which suggest all protestors are peaceful and engaged only in prayer gatherings.
“This is disingenuous. “Often the presence of protesters outside of clinics can be intimidating, particularly to women in a vulnerable position.
“As a society we should strive to ensure women who are facing one of the most important and difficult decisions in their life can access support, advice and treatment without fear of abuse simply.
“They are requesting a public service to which they are legally entitled. “This is not about freedom of speech but about women’s reproductive rights and stopping the intimidation of women exercising their legal rights.
“This is not to say that information should not be provided to women making this difficult choice or that anti-choice protests should all be banned.
“But it cannot be right that people in a vulnerable state are emotionally manipulated outside abortion clinics when they are facing such a difficult decision.
“Public space protection orders provide the framework through which this balance can be achieved, as a clearly delineated exclusion zone can be drawn to limit disruptive activity only around the vicinity of the clinic.”
In December, the London Assembly agreed a motion which called for the Mayor to clarify the powers of the Metropolitan Police to arrest and prosecute anti-choice campaigners, who intimidate and harass women outside family planning clinics. (Source: London assembly Labour press release)