Thank you for contacting me about protests at abortion clinics.
This country has a proud history of allowing free speech. 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 allegations about the tactics of protestors outside some abortion clinics, a review was instigated by Government in 2018. 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 and pro-life advocates were present at 36 of them on various occasions. With this in mind as well as the peaceful nature of such occasions, I support the Government’s assessment that introducing national 'buffer' or censorship zones would not be an appropriate response.
It is worth pointing out that opposition to 'buffer'/censorship zones goes beyond pro-life advocates and embraces advocates of democratic liberties who may not agree with the pro-life position on abortion but oppose censorship zones because they infringe on free speech.
A number of prominent human rights groups and campaigners, all of whom support abortion, have spoken out against the introduction of censorship zones including Peter Tatchell, the Manifesto Club, Big Brother Watch, Index on Censorship and the Freedom Association.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP