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UK News

Abortion clinic prayer vigils banned by London council

by Press Association

Ealing 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.

The council has spent months exploring a range of options on how to prevent "intimidation, harassment and distress" for women using the Marie Stopes clinic on Mattock Lane following a petition set up by local women.

 

Pro-choice demonstrators, including the group SisterSupporter, cheered and applauded as the cabinet members voted the proposal through.

But the meeting almost had to be adjourned when two distressed women walked up to the cabinet members, urging them to reconsider.

"I cannot give up on this," one of the women told the members.

"Please go back and review what you have just done here."

Anna Veglio-White, co-founder of SisterSupporter, said she was "completely elated" and "overjoyed that the council recognises there is a huge imbalance of human rights at Mattock Lane and they've taken the necessary steps to address that".

"It's pretty incredible, we just hope we see the effect of this all over the country," she added.

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.

Woman abortion - copyright Burger/Phanie/REX

He said: "We're absolutely thrilled, we think the council, SisterSupporter... they've all shown such leadership and bravery on this and we can't wait for the PSPO to come into effect so that our patients can finally access the clinic free from intimidation and harassment after two decades.

"We're also so hopeful that this is just the beginning, that other councils are watching and taking note, that Parliament itself, the Home Affairs Select Committee, will continue to look at this issue and find a solution that works not just for Ealing but for the whole of the UK."

One by one, councillors gave their reasons for voting for the safe zone to be put in place.

Leader of the council Julian Bell said he felt the cabinet had done "absolutely" the right thing.

He said: "I believe that this is something that's long been needed, so it feels good that we are actually breaking the ground with this and leading the way.

"So I'm proud that we are doing it."

He added: "We've always been clear that that's what this was about. It wasn't a debate for or against abortion."

The order will be reviewed in six months "to see whether we had the outcomes we are hoping," Mr Bell added.

It will probably come into place on April 23 after a cooling-off period, he said, adding that the council had noted there may be a legal challenge.

Alina Dulgheriu, a representative for campaign group Be Here For Me, decided not to have an abortion after being handed a leaflet by a woman outside the clinic.

The 34-year-old said she was offered financial, practical and moral help, as well as accommodation, and now has a "beautiful" six-year-old daughter.

She 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.

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