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Government decides against new legislation on buffer zones around abortion clinics

The UK Government has decided not to introduce new legislation to specifically tackle anti-choice protesters harassing women outside abortion clinics in England and Wales. The decision, announced in a written ministerial statement delivered by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, was taken because it has concluded that existing legislation can be sufficient to tackle such harassment, and therefore further specific legislation would ‘not be a proportionate response’. However, Mr Javid did say that ‘The Government will publish information on the current legal remedies that are available in tackling intimidation and harassment’.

Humanists UK responded to the Home Office consultation calling for the introduction of new national legislation. While welcoming the commitment to publish new information, it expresses disappointment at the decision not to legislate.

Since the Home Office’s consultation was launched, a number of councils have made moves to introduce local buffer zones by way of public spaces protection orders (PSPOs). The first of these was Ealing Council, whose decision was subsequently the subject of an unsuccessful judicial review. The success of the Ealing Council scheme was part of the justification for the failure to introduce national legislation.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented,

‘A public spaces protection order does appear to have helped reduce harassment of women outside the Ealing clinic. But such PSPOs are cumbersome to introduce, rely on local political will to be possible, and have not been introduced in most of the places where such harassment has occurred. This means women are still being harassed outside clinics across the country.

‘We’re disappointed that the Government won’t take further steps to protect women accessing vital medical services from experiencing harassment while doing so. For our part, ending such harassment is a goal we will continue working to achieve, and we very much hope that more PSPOs are introduced in the coming months.’

Notes

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

Read Sajid Javid’s written ministerial statement: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/07/02/high-court-upholds-ban-on-abortion-clinic-protests/

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns around abortion: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

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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