Buffer Zone Update #backoff


I was  very disturbed to read an update from Katherine O’Brien (BPAS Media and Public Policy Manager) regarding anti abortion protests out side clinics. 

Katherine has very kindly allowed me to detail the points raised in her email. 
1. “The situation is deteriorating – and the government continue to ignore the protesters campaign of intimidation. We have received no Ministerial response from the Home Office, they have refused to meet with us, and they have refused to issue national guidance on dealing with protesters to local police forces. ” I also have had no response from the Home Office. 

2. “A clinic is closing down due to protests.” I find this deeply worrying. The lack of action by the Government is causing women’s access to abortion clinics to be reduced. It’s a slippery slope towards the erosion of abortion services. Abortion is legal in this country, women are not doing anything wrong and have a right to safe health care.  

 3.”The Home Office insists that abortion clinic buffer zones are not necessary, that police have all the powers they need and are able to manage clinic protests locally. We know this is simply not the case. Existing legislation has failed – and the government have failed to take this growing problem seriously. Women are still harassed on a daily basis outside clinics, called murderers, filmed, and confronted with graphic banners. Just last week anti-abortion protesters in Richmond took photos of an ill member of staff being taken away from a clinic in an ambulance. The police refused to do anything about this.”  I completely agree. If the law was adequate then these protests would not be happening. Women, staff and members of public would not feel threatened to walk in to a clinic or even walk past a clinic! 

4.”……. and have also written to Rt Hon Mike Penning MP, Home Office Minister, again to ask for a meeting as a matter of urgency. Without swift and meaningful action, more clinics will close down due to protests, restricting access to abortion care across the UK”

 I think you may agree that this is a truly appalling situation and the Government need to step up and do something about it – urgently! 

Bpas have an online form so that you can email your local MP and I urge you to do so. 
I can assure you that I will not give up and I will not allow the anti abortion protestors to win. I do need your help though! So keep sharing the petition and keep emailing your MP…..send as many as possible. 


Many thanks for all of your support 



39 thoughts on “Buffer Zone Update #backoff

  1. Kate

    Never had an abortion but I know woman who have been raped or/and forced into marriages and escaped. So for them to be bringing a child into that life would hell and it’s their choice! I don’t know if Glasgow has the same problem in England with these idiots making it harder for woman going to abortion clinics but my advice would be get in there,be louder and get them to ####! Good luck with your petition. If you’re still struggling I’d suggest taking their homemade banners and using them as bats 🙂

  2. Stephanie

    It might be a naive question, but I wonder why there have to be seperate abortion clinics? Can this not be incorporated at any hospital? This would probably remedy the problem of people harassing women who have to have an abortion, as they would not know who they are amongst everyone else… I cannot imagine that it is helpful for the women to be seperated out like this.

    • ali

      It isn’t a naïve question. I was wondering the same thing when they said the nearest one is an hour and a half away. I don’t understand why they are separate? and why there are so few? its distressing to hear that some are closing as well. all that will do is deter people from going as its too far.

      • They should have them in amongst regular hospitals with no access to the ward for visitors. I think it would be much better. No one knows who’s going in unless they go to the ward. The ward could be named something arbitrary.

  3. Jim Coxhead

    Religious extremism and intolerance is taking us back to the Dark Ages. If the Police are not able to protect abortion clinics then an exclusion zone should be set up.

  4. Diane Kivi

    Many Conservatives are against abortion, and lack of police action could if we let them do their work. But the same people see it as OK to send them of aged 18 to possibly die in war. Hypocrisy!

  5. ali

    I had a abortion last year, which was a difficult decision in itself, and they stand outside making you feel guilty when you are vulnerable. Fortunately for me, my mum was with me and she just distracted me and tore up the leaflet that was shoved upon me. I do not understand why this is legal. But we have a conservative government so this will be difficult to change.

  6. Anita

    To choose to have an abortion is always a horrible and hard decision to make, regardless of the circumstances! It’s a free world and people should not be persecuted for the choices they make concerning their own body, their own life!

  7. Karen Johns

    I totally agree! I am fortunate enough never to have been in a position to have to consider an abortion but I do have an idea of what it is like for many women. As a hospital social worker I used to provide ‘termination of pregnancy’ counselling The vast majority of women were really distressed at having to end their pregnancies. I always had to have plenty of tissues at the ready as most couldn’t hold back their tears. It was heart-breaking work at times but I always hoped that they left feeling that they had made the best possible decision they could at that time in their life. I knew they wouldn’t forget what had happened but hoped they would always remember it was the ‘right’ thing to do at the time. How anyone could be so cruel and insensitive to harass and intimidate a woman who has found herself in this position is beyond belief.

  8. John

    Is it possible to get legal advice as to the possibility of bringing legal actions against the harassers who station themselves outside family planning clinics?
    During the Miners’ Strike 1984, the police invoked an old offence of besetting, which I assume is still valid in law.
    Could not the clinics and/or private individuals undertake private arrests and prosecutions of individuals involved in besetting and harassment activities?
    Another possibility would be to apply privately to the courts for banning orders, naming specific individual harassers and getting them banned from the vicinity of clinics.
    To obtain the identities of the harassers, it may be necessary to follow them to their homes and then check the electoral register for their address in order to get their names.

    • These protestors are well funded and legal savvy. They seem to be able to play the law to their own ends. A man was arrested for criminal damage when he took down one of their signs and put it in the bin – he was with his two young daughters at the time.
      The clinics have involved the authorities and they have refused to do anything.

  9. Fiona

    Can someone not organise counter actions? I am certainly up for a bit of direct action. Apologies is this is already happening – please direct me to where I should learn more about it.

    • Bpas and their back off campaign page would be a good start. Counter action would be good just so long as it doesn’t cause any disruption to the clinics and the women attending. These anti abortion protesters are well funded and very legal savvy (but not so much social media savvy…..).

      • Mark

        My partner organised and ran a counter protest around the corner from our local Marie stopes clinic in ealing. The police had advised us to set up where we did so as to avoid head on confrontation. Personally I was up for a bit of confrontation with these vile people (40days4life & Abort67) but heeded the police advice!
        I was greatly heartened by the number of fellow locals who joined the couter protest on the day including Rupa Huq (labour politician).
        Many people expressed their exasperation with the anti choicers and their actions.
        We will keep fighting for our local clinic. There has got to be a policy change sometime soon that will allow the police to use the powers they already have under the Public Order Act 1986 and the harassment act 1997! The current situation where they do nothing baffles me beyond belief! I have to hope that if exclusion zone legislation came in then the police would enforce these!

      • That is good news. I have concerns over counter protests on the grounds of creating a worse environment out side of clinics for women try to access them … But it sounds like you did it in a sensitive way.
        I’m very disappointed with the police and the CJS here. The Home Office stated that the police have the powers and that no buffer zones are needed – we all know that we wouldn’t be debating this if the law was adequate!

      • John

        The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 offers both criminal and civil remedies. If the government is not prepared to act within the law then the local clinics and larger groups like BPAS should take legal action themselves.
        The law exists for them to take action but they seem equally unprepared as the government to take any effective action.
        Why – apart from cost – eludes me.

      • Cost is the problem! They simply don’t have the money or time to take on such a huge case.
        bpas have their #backoff campaign. Plus they have called the police on countless occasions and been told that there’s nothing the police can do.
        There’s a residents group campaigning against anti abortion protestors at one clinic and they have yet to make any progress at getting antis removed so the law doesn’t care about the women accessing the clinics of the people who live near by.
        Also, none of these people/organisations should have to go to such lengths. The police say that there’s nothing they can do so my argument all along has been …. If the law, as it stands, is adequate then these protests would not be happening.

      • John

        The Police DO have powers under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to take action against anyone causing distress by their behaviour. They DO have to follow a certain procedure and will need guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure they follow the correct procedures. One other thing that could be done is to lobby MPs who are local to clinics to get the Home Office and the local police service involved. In London, Assembly Members and outside London, County Councillors or equivalent should also be lobbied, as they agree the budgets for the police. There are also Police and Crime Commissioners now in all parts of the country and they too should be lobbied.
        There is plenty to be done to stop these criminals from their criminal activities of harassing staff and clients of the clinics.
        On the civil front, I am sure the BHA and NSS should be able to find lawyers to act pro bono for BPAS or any similar group.
        Stop wasting time asking Teresa May to do something about it. She is just not interested.
        Focus on other approaches that involve some small measure of initiative and actual real action to stop the criminals.

      • Mark Rodgers

        I have joined a local (Ealing, London) pro choice group Sistersupporter. We have a page on Facebook :https://facebook.com/SisterSupporter/
        This weekend we are doing a lot of local public engagement to raise the importance of choice to counter a large anti demo. We shall also be directing people to your new petition Parliament page. Hopefully your petition will eventually reach the number of your Change.org one!

  10. Derek Farmer

    Idiots poking their nasty noses into other people’s dilemmas should be told in no uncertain terms to ‘back off’. Ideally, arrests would be made and individuals made to suffer for their own intolerant attitudes. What the hell has it to do with anybody other than the two people involved in starting the so-called problem? Why do they think they have the “Right” to harass and bully people who are already suffering immense emotional stress (which is something they seem unable to comprehend)?

  11. Kim Thornton

    Behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress is a public order offence. These thugs are clearly breaking the law and the police should do their job for once.

  12. John

    It has been stated above that the harassers are legally savvy and I have heard of similar situations in the USA where the harassers deliberately but legally goad people into stepping outside of the law.
    They are perfectly happy to risk being physically assaulted so that they can thereby remove an opponent legally.
    As such, they are smart – but not clever.
    That is why I am saying we should forget appealing to the authorities who generally do not care. Further, the people in positions of power may share similar sentiments to harassers.
    We should support groups like BPAS in taking private legal action against the harassers. This should include applying for writs to get harassers banned from being within – say – a mile of any of their clinics.
    The question to answer is “Is this feasible?”
    In all of this, we have to remain cool, clear, calm and even more determined that the fundamentalist lunatics.

      • jay

        It’s a little obvious but people in power wil make many decisions influenced by religion. Which is only peripheral to the issue of exclusion zones.

  13. John

    Ekkie: I think you know my email address (if you are the organiser of this weblog); if not, I am happy for you to obtain it from the administrator. I am happy to help in any way I can.
    I am a humanist and a rationalist (or try to be!) and am also a man who thinks men should defer to women where subjects such as abortion are concerned.
    Who are we (men, that is) to tell women what to do in such circumstances?
    It is women’s bodies and minds at stake – not men’s.
    I am often struck by the sheer arrogance and impertinence of men who try to tell women what to do with their lives and bodies. Almost invariably, they are religious fanatics.
    I support a woman’s right to choose – and so should any other decently-minded person. End of.

      • John

        I supply it each time I leave a comment on this blog.
        Do you not have it recorded somewhere by WordPress?

      • Mark

        I would like to echo John’s offer of support and am also happy for you to contact me via the email given when I post comments.
        If bpas are keen on the idea of getting solicitors to do pro bono work let me know as I have a number of contacts I may be able to call on.
        As well as NSS I imagine BHA and abortion Rights UK would get involved too

      • Thanks. I’ll pass on your comments.

        Abortion Rights UK don’t like buffer zones and have ignored my attempts to talk to them 😦

    • Karen J

      As an aspiring ‘humanist’ myself I so appreciate John’s thoughtful comments. It really helps to counter all that bigotry.

  14. John

    I have spent some time this afternoon and evening researching possible legal remedies.
    Section 3 (Civil Remedy) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 seems to me to be appropriate for deterring would-be harassers from stalking/besetting people wishing to avail themselves of services at family planning clinics.
    Have BPAS spoken with their legal advisers about seeking a legal remedy under this piece of legislation?

    • Thanks for the research. I’m sure that they have but I will contact them.
      The police say that there is nothing that they can do.
      I still believe a buffer zone is a better option. It will not stop the protestors but it will move them away from the clinic doors.

  15. John

    See Blackstone’s Guide to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 http://www.harassmentlaw.co.uk/book/ch2.htm.
    Even to a lay person like me, it seems clear there is ample legal scope for taking action against the harassers.
    One benefit of taking civil action against the harassers is the lower legal burden of proof. Once the harassers have been found guilty, if they re-offend, then the police will be compelled to take action against the harassers.
    They could in that case be sentenced to up to 5 years imprisonment and/or fined up to £5,000.
    I have friends who are Ecumenical Accompaniers or EAs.
    They routinely visit occupied Palestine – what they call the holy land – in order to accompany farmers wanting to harvest their crops but fearful of doing so due to risk of attacks from illegal settlers and/or the zionist army.
    Could you not organise rotas of volunteers to accompany staff and patients into and out of clinics?
    The volunteers could also confront the harassers and take them on on theological or other grounds, also demanding that if they are genuine about the women involved carrying foetuses to full term that they – the harassers – should be prepared to meet the financial life-time costs of having a child, which I would roughly estimate at a cost of £1 million per child. Let harassers put their money where their mouths are, I say !!
    One final suggestion: have the clinics contacted their local Police & Crime Commissioner? I don’t think much of these individuals but they do have powers to direct the police far more than anyone else.

  16. jay

    My grannie got butchered by a backstreet abortions,leaving a violent dad to deal with the4kids. She had no choice. The kids were beaten. She held on after massive blood loss..if only she could have used a clinic. I weep.

    • That’s shocking! We need to make sure that access to abortion services is never compromised. Could I use your comment as anon on my Twitter please? People need to know

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