Pro-life groups have condemned Manchester City Council’s decision to approve a buffer zone around a Marie Stopes clinic in the Fallowfield district of the city, saying it means women will be unable to receive “loving support and care” when they need it most.
The public space protection order (PSPO) came into effect on Friday 9th October and will last for three years.
Pro-life group 40 Days for Life have branded the buffer zone “draconian”, noting that it “infringes on freedom of speech”.
Robert Colquhoun, of 40 Days For Life, said vigils taking place outside the clinic are “peaceful, prayerful and legal”, and insisted his group would continue to pray outside the buffer zone.
The decision to implement the buffer zone follows a consultation. City council deputy leader Nigel Murphy said: “Our overriding priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents. No-one should have to put up with behaviour which has a negative impact on them or their environment.”
However, pro-lifers have branded the consultation a “sham”, saying it was “one-sided” in favour of the pro-abortion lobbyists.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) had said its local supporters would not engage with the consultation on the grounds that it misrepresented what actually took place at pro-life vigils, contained a strong bias against pro-life vigils and forced respondents to concede that harassment and intimidation were taking place, when nothing of the kind was actually happening.
SPUC said that when the council asked whether intimidatory behaviour outside clinics was a ‘problem’, there was no option to say that no such harassment had taken place.
“Manchester City Council’s decision means that women approaching the abortion clinic will not get the loving support and care of pro-lifers at the time when they need it most,” said Antonia Tully, of SPUC.
“The city council ran a sham consultation on whether a buffer zone should be imposed; the outcome was a foregone conclusion. We knew then that women in Manchester would lose out on the real help pro-lifers outside the Fallowfield clinic can give.”
Ms Tully asked: “What is so terrible about offering women last-minute help as they approach the abortion clinic? Every year, hundreds of women take advantage of this help.”
Catherine Robinson, of Right To Life UK, said it was ironic that the ‘pro-choice lobby’ wanted to ensure women did not have the chance to choose the compassionate help and advice offered by pro-lifers, adding “our support offers a vital lifeline to women in crisis pregnancies.”