On Thursday, I hosted a meeting with local residents, councillors, NHS staff and police to discuss the what we can do to tackle escalating anti-abortion protests outside our local abortion clinic. Staff need to be able to do their jobs and women need to be able to access reproductive healthcare without being harassed.
During my time as an MP, I’ve supported measures from central and local government to introduce safe access zones around abortion clinics. One silver lining of the otherwise dreadful Public Order Act was that MPs voted through provisions to introduce safe access zones around abortion clinics. However, these powers need to be brought through via statutory instrument and it is currently unclear when the Government intends to do this. I will be calling on them to do so again when Parliament returns.
An alternative model for introducing a buffer zone, which I have discussed with local councillors in the past, is the option of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). As of October last year, 5 abortion clinics in England had PSPO enforced around them, including clinics in Bournemouth, Ealing, Twickenham, Manchester and Birmingham. With the Government dragging its feet, I’ll be helping the council to explore the implementation of this alternative option.