A prominent Catholic lawyer has expressed concern that local governments are considering exclusion zones around abortion clinics, with no proof anyone is harassing pregnant women.
Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre and author of two legal textbooks on UK harassment law, said Marie Stopes International had failed to prove that pro-life pavement counsellors were intimidating its clients. Marie Stopes is an international nongovernmental organisation that provides abortion services.
The Marie Stopes clinic in west London wants the local Ealing Council to create a ‘buffer zone’ to keep anti-abortion advocates away from pregnant women. The council has agreed to undertake an eight-week public consultation, in which it will listen to a range of opinions before deciding what action to take.
If the council issues a Public Space Protection Order for a buffer zone, other local authorities across Britain are likely to follow suit. Local councils in London, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Manchester are considering establishing buffer zones around abortion clinics.
In written submission to Ealing Council, obtained by Catholic News Service on 7th February, Addison said there was no evidence of anti-social behaviour by members of the Good Counsel Network, a largely Catholic group that prays outside the clinic and offers leaflets to women entering.
He said legal measures, such as injunctions, to prevent menacing behaviour existed under the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act, but the clinic had made no attempt to obtain them. In the last decade, he said, the injunctions had proved successful in keeping animal rights protesters away from testing laboratories but could be granted only after judges considered evidence.
‘If harassment has been occurring at the clinic, then I question why Marie Stopes has made no attempt to apply for injunctions under the Protection from Harassment Act,’ Addison wrote. ‘I also question why police would not bring prosecutions under the Harassment Act or the Public Order Act if harassment is taking place.’
Picture: A pro-lifer holds a rosary as he stands outside an abortion clinic in in London. A prominent Catholic lawyer has expressed concern that local governments are considering exclusion zones around abortion clinics, with no proof anyone is harassing pregnant women. (CNS photo/Andrew Winning, Reuters).