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Humanists UK calls for buffer zones around abortion clinics

Humanists UK has responded to the Home Office consultation into harassment and intimidation of women by anti-choice activists outside of abortion clinics, calling for the introduction of activist-free ‘buffer zones’ in the immediate vicinity of clinics. The consultation sought views from healthcare providers, police forces, local authorities, and indeed groups carrying out such activities.

Humanists UK is a founding supporter of the Back Off campaign, coordinated by BPAS, which aims to change the law to make it possible to establish buffer zones around clinics. The campaign was established due to an intensification of anti-choice protests around clinics. At such protests, anti-choice activists have accosted women without solicitation, shouted abuse, exposed them to distressing and graphic images, either in leaflets or on large banners, filmed people entering and leaving clinics without their consent, as well as blocked the entrances to the clinics.

Humanists UK believes that the introduction of buffer zones balances the competing rights between women accessing safe and legal medical services without being harassed and intimidated for doing so, and those of the anti-choice activists to freely express their views. This measure would make it possible for women to access clinics without being subjected to unsolicited approaches from activists whose primary intention is to cause distress when they are undertaking an emotional and significant decision. Such a measure does not ban or in any way prevent anti-choice activists from organising such activities, but offers women a meaningful choice about whether they wish to engage with these activities or not. Such measures have been successfully introduced in states in Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘It was made clear when the Home Affairs Committee began its investigation into harassment and intimidation near abortion clinics in December last year, that there is no possibility of anti-choice activists voluntarily agreeing to remove their activities from the immediate vicinity of clinics. Therefore, buffer zones must be brought into force with legislative backing, to ensure that the right of women to access medical services safely and in confidentiality is adequately safeguarded.’

Notes  

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 0781 55 89 636.

Read more about Humanists Uk’s campaign work on abortion: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

Read more about the Back Off campaign: https://www.homeofficesurveys.homeoffice.gov.uk/s/8KA5N/

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.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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