The decision to have an abortion is rarely an easy one. It isn’t made any simpler by the hordes of people standing outside abortion clinics, hurling verbal abuse and handing out tiny models of foetuses designed to guilt trip the women into keeping their babies.
Women’s groups, including Mumsnet and The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, came together yesterday to renew calls on the Home Office to ban anti-abortion protests outside abortion clinics.
The letter, addressed directly to home secretary Amber Rudd, asks the government to introduce “buffer zones” around the clinics, meaning protesters will not be able to demonstrate within a certain radius.
The letter reads, “We write to ask you to take action to protect women seeking pregnancy advice and abortion from intimidation and harassment by those with extreme anti-abortion views who stand outside UK clinics. This is a persistent problem that requires national oversight and input from the government."
Genevieve Edwards, who works for Marie Stopes clinics, told Buzzfeed that one of her colleagues had been called a “murderous whore” on her way to work, and that nurses often have to wait 20 minutes to take a woman’s blood pressure as she calms down.
A lead signatory on the letter Polly Neate, the CEO of Women’s Aid, said, “anti-abortion activism is a snapshot of a widespread attitude that underpins violence against women – that women are not entitled to autonomy over themselves.”
The call follows a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation, which saw women handing out inaccurate medical advice outside clinics and trying to persuade women away from going through with their abortion.
A “buffer zone” around clinics would make sure the vulnerable women using abortion facilities are protected. The government, and the health-care industry, need to recognise that the reasons women have abortions are endlessly nuanced and complicated, and that the anti-abortion protesters are another way women are abused.