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'The most severe legislation I've seen within my lifetime': MPs vote to ban prayer and protests outside abortion clinics

by Alex Collett
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BPAS

MPs have voted in favour of an amendment to the Public Order Bill to introduce 'buffer zones' around abortion clinics nationwide which would legally ban prayer, singing of hymns and the signing of the cross.

The politicians voted with 297 to 110 in support. 

Some pro-life activitists argue that their work outside abortion clinics has helped women seeking practical support. 

However, pro-choice campainers say the move will stop women being "harrassed". 

Katie Brookfield, a Christian graduate and commentator told Premier protesting outside abortion clinics can be frightening for paitents attending the clinics.

She said: "It's quite frankly fear mongering intimidating and a really difficult thing to do in a situation that is traumatic for the majority of people going through those doors.

"I think the freedom of speech one is a very complex one, but I ultimately don't think this is banning free speech. 

"These protesters and these groups can still pray, if they truly believe in the power of prayer, then that prayer will be heard whether it's on the streets or in the church or in a private place."

Lois Mclatchie, communications officer for religious freedom organisation ADF International thinks a ban on praying outside the clinics would be a huge loss to women.

"It's a truly devastating decision for women in a country that claims to be a feminist country. This is a move to censor and silence help. 

"For women who are in crisis pregnancies, this is something that really is devastating. 

"It didn't go and ban harassment first time what it went much further, and it banned legitimate offers of help and prayer. 

"The idea that a public street can be censored from something that is just an opinion expressed, or a prayer between yourself and God.

"The idea that that can be banned from a street in the UK is probably the most severe legislation that I've seen in our country within my lifetime."
The bill still has several stages to clear before becoming law, including scrutiny in the House of Lords. If it passes as it stands, people guilty of breaching the 150-metre buffer zones will face a six month jail sentence.

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