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Call for clarity on abortion buffer zones as Christians arrested for praying but women 'still facing harrassment'

by Marcus Jones

Pro-choice advocates are complaining that women are being harassed outside abortion clinics despite MPs voting in favour of introducing 'buffer zones' around the buildings.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service is calling for the law to be enforced as women are being made to feel "anxious and distressed" by those demonstrating or offering support.

It comes against the backdrop of numerous Christians being arrested and prosecuted for praying inside buffer zones, which have been introduced by local councils.

Many of those individuals have been supported by the religious freedom group ADF International.

Spokesperson Lois McClatchie Miller told Premier the government may be beginning to understand the problem with this law.

She said: "The problem is that this legislation is so vague and difficult for police to understand and difficult for citizens to understand so it results in these cases where people are put through difficult trials, simply for having prayed in their head.

"It's a piece of legislation that is too confusing and leaves situations where human rights are defied and Christians end up in court for simply praying."

Five councils have introduced buffer zones, meaning those wanting to protest, pray or offer support to those considering a termination aren't allowed within a certain distance of an abortion centre.

In light of the confusion around arrests for those praying within these zones, Lois McClatchie Miller is urging the government to tread carefully with its plans for a nationwide rollout.

"What I hope is that as the government consider which guidance they're going to use, how they're going to word the guidance that the police and prosecutors will use when they're looking at this law, that they clarify that silent prayer can never be a crime and that freedom of thought isn't absolute right.

"The government do have an opportunity to clarify this law, which bans influence and to say this doesn't count for people who are simply praying in their heads. So we hope that the government take note of that."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: "It is completely unacceptable that anyone should feel harassed or intimidated.

"The police and local authorities have powers to restrict harmful protests and we expect them to take action in such cases.

"The government will confirm timelines for the commencement of safe access zones in due course."

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