Council Votes in Favor of Buffer Zone around Abortion Clinic
In a vote that would create the second so-called "buffer zone" around an abortion clinic in the UK, the Richmond Council voted in favor of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) around a clinic run by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. If it receives final approval at the next council meeting, the PSPO would make it a crime to hold prayer vigils near the clinic. The broadly-worded PSPO would also prohibit any form of interaction with staff or visitors to the clinic.
Claire McCullough, director of the Good Counsel Network, the organization that runs prayer vigils at the clinic, said the ban goes against their right to freedom of expression.
She said: "This is people who are ideologically opposed to what we are doing using the PSPO to make sure that we do not have any right to free speech."
Spokeswoman for Be Here for Me, Elizabeth Howard, denounced the PSPO saying:
"It is shocking to see how Richmond has acted on allegation rather than evidence in bringing in this censorship zone. The astonishingly broad nature of this PSPO shows that they are merely virtue signalling as opposed to protecting women, as they have deliberately chosen to outlaw charitable activity that has a profoundly positive impact for many vulnerable women.
Harassment and intimidation is never acceptable outside abortion centres, and thankfully the council and police have wide powers to deal with any problematic behaviour. However, expelling pro-life vigil members at the behest of noisy activist groups in the absence of clear justification is extremely damaging for our society."
In 2018, Ealing Council was the first to introduce a buffer zone around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. That decision is being challenged in the Court of Appeal.
Sources: Christian Today, Richmond & Twickenham Times, and Be Here for Me (photo credit)