Fury over Home Office year-long delay over UK abortion clinic protest buffer zones | abortion

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Pro-choice MPs and activists have expressed frustration over the government’s failure to implement a law on buffer zones around abortion clinics, a year after 297 MPs voted in favor of the zones and as women face a new wave of protests when accessing reproductive care.

TO Home Office the spokesperson told the Observer that deadlines would be confirmed “in due course” but refused to explain why the law was not yet in force and did not confirm whether a consultation on safe access zone legislation had been launched.

Labor MP Stella Creasy, which has been targeted by anti-abortion protesters, called on the government to urgently intervene. “The Home Office hasn’t even had the courtesy to come up with a decent excuse as to why they are ignoring that vote or why in the bill they put this obstacle on a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion in peace,” Creasy said. he Observer.

MP Stella Creasy, with her short hair tied back and a locket on a chain, smiles slightly.
“The Home Office hasn’t even had the courtesy to think of a decent excuse”: MP Stella Creasy. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Guardian

Conservative MP and chair of the women and equalities committee, Caroline Nokes, shares Creasy’s concerns. “The will of the House was very clear: we want women accessing health care to be protected from aggressive protests. It is not clear why the Ministry of the Interior has not even made preparations for the introduction of buffer zones with the affected clinics. “I am disappointed that women do not seem to be the priority here,” she stated.

The safe access zones law was part of the Public Order Act, which received royal assent in May. Since then, at least 15 clinics have faced protests from anti-abortion groups, including a man who walked into a waiting room and groups displaying graphic images of aborted fetuses on a 15-foot banner.

With no date yet set for the law to take effect, abortion providers fear that Interior Minister Suella Braverman’s own views on abortion are behind the delay.

He voted against safe access zones and has a history of opposing liberalization of abortion access. “Given that the Home Secretary and her minister overseeing the law opposed this legislation, one can only wonder what the constitutional implications are of them attempting to deny the will of parliament in this way,” Creasy said.

“The point of a free vote is for decisions to be made by the individual consciences of MPs, not for the government to choose what it wants to do with these essential laws,” said Rachael Clarke, chief of staff at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. “This law received overwhelming support and the majority of MPs from all major parties agreed. “There is no justification for total silence on the part of the Minister of the Interior.”

Braverman’s parliamentary allies Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger voted against the introduction of the zones, as did numerous Conservatives who have expressed anti-abortion views, such as Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Fiona Bruce. Women’s Minister Maria Caulfield also voted against.

Louise McCudden, head of UK external affairs at MSI Reproductive Choices, told the Observer: “We are baffled by the Home Office’s lack of commitment to the timeline for implementing safe access zones.”

There are also concerns that an anti-abortion movement emboldened by its success in the United States is pressuring the government not to enact the new law.

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Abortion clinics across the UK are being attacked by protesters linked to the US organization 40 Days for Life, which is calling on its members to take part in a 40-day “vigil” outside reproductive health centers on 28 September to November 5. Its website lists protests in a dozen British cities.

Women have said they felt anxious and scared having to walk past protesters, with one woman describing how the men became “aggressive and yelling in my face.”

The international director of 40 Days for Life is Robert Colquhoun, a board member of the UK Center for Bioethical Reform, the anti-abortion group that in 2019 displayed graphic anti-abortion images outside Creasy’s electoral office.

The Home Office said: “It is unacceptable for anyone to feel harassed or intimidated. “Police and local authorities have powers to restrict harmful protests and we hope they will take action.”

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