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Second council votes to introduce measures to protect women from harassment outside abortion clinics

The Back Off campaign seeks to change the law to allow protest-free zones to be established outside abortion clinics

Portsmouth Council has voted to introduce measures to prevent anti-choice protesters from accosting, intimidating or harassing women wishing to access an abortion clinic located in the city. The motion, which passed with 31 councillors in favour to only one opposed, follows a similar vote last month by Ealing Council. Humanists UK, which is part of the ‘Back Off’ campaign for protected buffer zones to be established outside abortion clinics, has welcome this decision and called new national legislation to protect women accessing safe and legal abortions across the UK.

The motion was brought by Councillor Will Purvis after scuffles broke out between anti-choice group ‘40 Days of Life’, which has held daily pickets outside of the clinic since September, and pro-choice supporters. Councillor Purvis stated that ‘it was always going to be a difficult debate but it shows that the council is committed to protecting the women of Portsmouth from fear of harassment.’

Last month, Ealing Council became the first council to consider the introduction of a public space protection order to address the problem of harassment from anti-choice protesters. A public spaces protection order, and buffer zones more generally, respect the right of protesters to freedom of speech and assembly, but will require them to maintain a specific distance away from the clinic so that women can enter and leave the building without being forced to encounter them. The measure aims to ensure that there is a balance between the right to freely protest and the right of a woman to access medical advice and treatment.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are pleased to see that Portsmouth Council has followed the lead of Ealing in taking this bold but necessary step to protect women from harassment and intimidation. Buffer zones have become necessary due to the intensification of anti-choice protest around abortion clinics, which have resulted in instances of harassment and, in some extreme cases, assault. It is for this reason that we support the Back Off campaign and its calls for a change in law to make it possible to establish these protester-free zones.’


For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at or 020 7324 3072.

Read more about the Back Off campaign:

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘Ealing Council introduces pioneering measure to protect women from harassment outside abortion clinics’:

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on abortion:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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