MP condemns bid to weaken protection against abortion clinic harassment

street protest
Anti-choice protesters on Brixton Hill last year

Local MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy today (18 January) accused the government of trying to roll back safe access zones designed to prevent women from facing harassment outside abortion clinics.

MPs voted for the zones, which are due to come into force later this year, as part of the Public Order Act last year. They are designed to stop women accessing abortion services from facing harassment and intimidation from protesters.

Prayers and protests from anti-abortion groups have taken place on Brixton Hill.

“Draft guidance from the government would still permit protesters to conduct silent prayers and approach women attending clinics to discuss the issue,” said Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham, whose constituency includes parts of Brixton.

She said such a change would defeat the point of safe access zones and lacked any democratic basis, since similar proposals were explicitly voted down by MPs during the passage of the Public Order Act when a Conservative and DUP wrecking amendment to allow “silent prayer” was decisively defeated.

“The government’s leisurely approach to safe access zones has stood in stark contrast with the rapid rollout of other measures in the Public Order Act, which they have been busily using to target progressive demonstrations,” said the MP.

“With a rising number of anti-abortion protests outside our local clinic over the last year, we must act quickly to protect staff and service users from having to run the gauntlet.”

Bell Ribeiro-Addy urged everyone who could take part to the consultation and oppose the government proposals.

“With this government, there’s always a risk that they’ll just ignore the will of Parliament and the public, so we have to consider other alternatives,” said Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

“I continue to work with local councillors and police to try and defend access to abortion provision and explore other ways we can stop staff and service users facing harassment from anti-choice protesters, such as the rollout of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).”