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Back off into a buffer zone

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bpas, call for buffer zones, abortion clinics, contact your MP, Back OffThe space immediately outside abortion clinics should not be a protest zone.

Women are being filmed, followed and intimidated on a daily basis by anti-abortion protesters standing directly outside clinics providing abortions in the UK.

But, clearly, women should be able to access legal healthcare free from intimidation and harassment.

And over the past few years there has been an escalation in this kind of anti-abortion activity outside clinics in the UK, with women attending pregnancy advice and abortion centres now regularly exposed to groups of anti-abortion activists standing directly outside.

Many of these anti-abortion protesters carry large banners with pictures of dismembered foetuses, distribute leaflets containing misleading information about abortion, and follow and question women as they enter or leave the centres, and carry cameras, or have them strapped to their chests or positioned on a tripod.

Not surprisingly, women trying to access a lawful healthcare service in confidence report feeling intimidated and distressed by this activity.

Even staff at clinics have on occasion needed escorting from the building by the police.

It even reached the point where staff on NHS premises where a clinic is located felt so intimidated by this kind of presence outside they asked for the abortion service the clinic provided to be withdrawn.

Because this activity has been quite unusual there is no legislation in place that covers the scope of what is occurring outside clinics and that would allow the police to take effective action to prevent it.

Appeals to the church leaders who support many of the people involved to reflect on the impact on women going in to a clinic for help have failed.

That is why groups around Britain believe the time has come to act.

Specific legislation is needed to ensure women can access pregnancy advice and abortion centres free from interference.

The right to protest needs to be balanced with the right of pregnant women to obtain advice and treatment in confidence and free from intimidation.

For those who wish to campaign to restrict women’s reproductive choices, there are plenty of opportunities and locations in which to do so.

The space immediately outside clinics should not be one of them.

This is not about closing down debate on abortion.

Women accessing pregnancy advice and abortion services are not seeking debate – they are trying to make their own personal decision about their own pregnancy.

Establishing protest-free zones outside centres would provide the reassurance and security women and healthcare staff need.

A campaign calling for buffer zones is being led by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and supported by dozens of organisations dedicated to the protection of women’s health and rights.

Please support the Back Off campaign to help achieve this goal.

Please ask your MP to support the Back Off campaign and the call to create buffer zones outside British abortion clinics.

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