Campaigners take first step in bid to challenge abortion clinic protest ban
Campaigners have taken the first step in a bid to take a council to court over a ban on demonstrations outside an abortion clinic.
Ealing Council was the first in the country to create a protest-free safe zone outside a Marie Stopes clinic in the west London borough.
Alina Dulgheriu, a representative for campaign group Be Here For Me, was at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London on Friday to start the legal process to fight the authority's decision.
The group describes the High Court move as being against a "censorship zone" which "criminalises prayer and support" outside the clinic - arguing that it violates the human rights of residents and visitors, including the right to freedom of speech and prayer.
It says the challenge launched by Ms Dulgheriu, "who was supported by a pro-life vigil" outside an abortion clinic, was being brought to "ensure that the vital support options that pro-life vigils provide to women outside Ealing clinic are available again as soon as practically possible".
Ms Dulgheriu, 34, said she was offered financial, practical and moral help, as well as accommodation, and now has a "beautiful" six-year-old daughter.
The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) came into force on Monday after reports of "intimidation, harassment and distress" for women using the clinic on Mattock Lane.
John Hansen-Brevetti, clinical operations manager at the clinic, 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.
After filing case papers at the High Court, Ms Dulgheriu said: "Without sufficient justification, Ealing Council has decided to criminalise otherwise lawful behaviour, to criminalise charitable activity that is needed by some of the most vulnerable women in our society.
"I am asking that justice be done for those women who have been ignored by Ealing Council."
She said: "I never expected a local council in the UK to make a decision that violates so many human rights; the right to free speech, the right to pray, the right to receive information and the right to assemble.
"As an immigrant who loves so many of your traditions, I never expected to have to defend the rights that keep a healthy British democracy alive."
She said: "I cannot put into words the joy, the beauty and the love that my daughter has brought to my life.
"She would not be with us today if it weren't for the vigils that Ealing Council has criminalised."