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REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo
UK News

Legal action brought against Birmingham City Council over prayer ban outside abortion clinic

by Kelly Valencia

A Christian pro-life group has launched legal action against Birmingham City Council after it imposed a so-called 'buffer zone' outside an abortion clinic. 

In September, the council issued a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to deter people from gathering outside Robert Clinic in Kings Norton with placards and graphic pictures. 

They argue it is to protect patients from being harassed and intimidated as they enter the clinic. 

But for Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who runs 40 Days for life Birmingham, the order censors free speech and makes it illegal to pray outside the clinic. 

"Through this action I am not asking for anyone to agree with what 40 Days believes; others have the right to disagree.

"However, I am asking for justice to be upheld despite our differences in belief."

She added: "We believe it is totally disproportionate and unnecessary to ban prayer connected to abortion in an area where a Catholic Church is, as well as banning the use of the words 'baby' or 'mum' in any text or imagery.'"

Vaughan-Spruce, who is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, said she believes the order is "unlawful, unjustified and an interference with Miss Vaughan-Spruce's and other pro-lifers' rights". 

The PSPO came in following a public consultation. But Vaughan-Spruce told Premier she believes it was a "sham" and "unlawful" process. 

"There was a lot of false information, it was even published online, saying things like, for instance, that the leaflets that we handed out were inaccurate. Whereas in actual fact, they'd been checked by a doctor who has signed a witness statement to say, you know that these are factually correct information that we're handing out.

"There was supposed to be a year-long consultation, and yet only right at the end of that we even consulted, and that was basically to tell us that, you know, this was going to happen, and wasn't really to actually find out what was going on. So we really want them to have another look and actually to think about the women that are going to be affected by this."

Local authorities can establish 'buffer zones' but only if they receive substantial complaints and a process to gather evidence and conversations with locals is set up. 

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson told Premier: "We have received a legal challenge to the Public Space Protection Order introduced in a defined area around Robert Clinic in Station Road, Kings Norton. As this is currently being reviewed, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."

The PSOP comes just a few weeks after MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour of an amendment to the Public Order Bill to include the introduction of nationwide 'buffer zones' outside abortion clinics. 

If introduced, the bill would see 'buffer zones' set up within 150 metres from any part of an abortion clinic or any building or site that contains an abortion clinic in England and Wales.

Those who breach the law could face up to six months in jail for a first offence and up to two years for several offences. 

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