Ealing Council bans anti-abortion protests outside Marie Stopes clinic
Ealing Council has banned anti-abortion protesters from demonstrating outside a clinic which provides terminations to pregnant women.
The council's cabinet voted unanimously in favour of allowing a Public Spaces Protection Order to create a protest-free safe zone outside a Marie Stopes clinic in the west London borough.
Richard Bentley, managing director at Marie Stopes UK, described it as a "landmark decision" and said women had a right to access services without facing "harassment".
"This is a landmark decision for women. We are incredibly grateful to Ealing Council for recognising the emotional distress that these groups create, and for taking proportionate action to protect the privacy and dignity of women accessing our clinic in the borough," he said.
"This was never about protest. It was about small groups of strangers choosing to gather by our entrance gates where they could harass and intimidate women, and try to prevent them from accessing healthcare to which they are legally entitled.
"Ealing Council has sent a clear message that this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated, and that these groups have no justification for trying to involve themselves in one of the most personal decisions a woman can make.
"We know other councils have been watching this process and some are exploring similar measures to increase protection outside clinics in their areas.
"Ultimately, we believe every woman in the UK should be able to access abortion services without harassment and we hope this decision marks the beginning of the end of the harassment these groups undertake nationwide."
Before the meeting, John Hansen Brevetti, the clinical operations manager at the clinic on Mattock Lane, said women had been told the ghost of their foetus would haunt them, had been told "mummy mummy don't kill me", had holy water thrown on them and rosary beads thrust at them.
Anti-abortion campaigners, including several children, sung hymns and held signs reading "Don't criminalise help" and "No censorship zones" outside the Town Hall before the meeting began.
Alina Dulgheriu, a representative for campaign group Be Here For Me, said a woman handed her a leaflet offering help as she walked into the Marie Stopes clinic, so she "went with her and got all the help I need and thanks to them I have my child".
The 34-year-old said she was offered financial, practical and moral help, as well as accommodation.
Speaking of her six-year-old daughter, she said: "She's my pride, she's my strength, without her I would not be the person I am today."
Ms Dulgheriu said the safe zone would "remove life-saving help when it's most needed".
"I was given a real choice by the woman at the gate," she added.