Local MP’s Abortion Protest Ban Wins Commons Vote

Rupa Huq wants to see the restrictions in Ealing used nationwide

Pro-life protestor being arrested outside Ealing clinic. Picture: Met Police

A bill presented by the House of Commons to restrict protests outside abortion clinics has won a vote in the House of Commons attracting cross party support.

Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, is proposing that The Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) that was obtained by Ealing Council in 2018 outside the Marie Stopes Clinic on Mattock Lane be made more easily available to all local authorities.

Ms Huq, said her private member’s bill was not about the rights and wrongs of abortion but aimed to allow women to access medical procedures without the risk of harassment. It has been claimed that protestors showed images of foetuses to women seeking termination at the Ealing clinic.

Ealing’s PSPO is being challenged in the European Court of Human Rights by pro-life campaigners. The applicant, Alina Dulgheriu, claims the PSPO criminalises speech, assembly, charitable support, and prayer, including silent prayer. Ms Dulgheriu met a pro-life volunteer at the gates of the Ealing abortion centre which she had visited during an unwanted pregnancy and was persuaded to keep her child. The Be Here For Me group say that many women have been helped by the vigils outside the clinic.

MPs voted in favour of Ms Huq’s bill by 213 to 47 and it will receive a second reading in September. Private Member’s Bills are rarely inacted into law without the support of the government and although some prominent Conservatives such as Sir Bernard Jenkin and Andrew Mitchell voted in favour, it is not clear at this stage whether the government will back it. Sajid Javid, when Home Secretary, rejected a similar proposal as disproportionate.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said, "This is a sensitive and complex issue, which is why last year we conducted an in-depth review of protests outside abortion clinics.

"The right to protest is a vital part of a democratic society, but it is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated, and we are clear we expect the police to take action in such cases.

"There are already powers in place for police and local authorities to restrict harmful protests, and the previous home secretary asked the police to work closely with abortion services, to ensure that all those visiting these services are not subjected to harassment or intimation."

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June 27, 2020