Thank you for contacting me about protests at abortion clinics.
This country has a proud history of allowing free speech but the right to peaceful protest does not extend to harassment or threatening behaviour. The law already provides protection against harassment and intimidation, and the police have a range of powers to manage protests. Like all members of the public, protesters are subject to the law and suspected criminal offences must be robustly investigated and dealt with by the police.
Following concerns about the tactics of protestors outside some abortion clinics, a review was last year instigated by Government. This review revealed that anti-abortion demonstrations take place outside a small number of facilities. In 2017 for example, 363 hospitals and clinics in England and Wales carried out abortions. Of those, 36 hospitals and clinics experienced anti-abortion demonstrations. With this in mind, I support the Government’s assessment that introducing national buffer zones would not be an appropriate response given the experiences of the majority of hospitals and clinics.
It is important to achieve the right balance between the right to peaceful protest and the right of women not to feel under still more pressure and distress at what is already a difficult time.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP
5th November 2019