For many years anti-abortion groups have gathered outside abortion clinics to harass and intimidate women, with the aim of stopping women from getting an abortion. These groups display images of dismembered foetuses, hand out leaflets containing false medical information and film women entering clinics.
Encounters with these groups leave women feeling intimidated, distressed and, in some cases, too scared to get to their appointment.
Despite clear evidence that the intimidation of women outside abortion clinics was growing, the government maintained that existing powers were sufficient to stop this kind of harassment – we knew that just wasn’t the case and that a national solution was desperately needed.
That’s why we kept pushing for new legislation to introduce safe access zones around clinics. A safe access zone would mean that certain activities could not take place within 150 metres of abortion clinics – ending the harassment of women outside clinics.
Since the law was passed in May 2023, because the safe access zones have not been brought into force, fifteen clinics have been targeted by anti-abortion groups. These include everything from one person stood outside to daily harassment at the clinic door to 30 people stood outside a clinic targeting women attending.
This map details anti-abortion activity reported outside clinics in the UK from 2018 onwards. 50 clinics and hospitals in England and Wales have been targeted by these groups over the course of 5 years.
On Tuesday 18th October 2022 MPs voted to introduce safe access zones around all abortion clinics in England and Wales, by passing amendment NC11 to the Public Order Bill. This was followed by overwhelming support in the House of Lords, and on 2nd May 2023, provisions for safe access zones were put into law.
Unfortunately, for the zones to be brought into force, the Home Secretary has to ‘commence’ the law. This means making the decision about when they will come into force, and telling parliament about it. As of November 2023, the law has not been commenced.
This means that safe access zones are not yet in place across England and Wales, and all the evidence shows us that anti-abortion harassment will continue to happen until they are.
To put a stop to this harassment, we need the Home Secretary to take action.
On Monday 20th November 2023, we wrote to the new Home Secretary, James Cleverly MP, along with 15 other leading medical bodies, abortion care providers, and human rights organisations, imploring him to take actions to implement safe access zones at pace. Read what we said to the Home Secretary here.
Alliance for Choice
Antenatal Results & Choices
Aurora New Dawn
British Medical Association
Doctors for Choice UK
End Violence Against Women Coalition
Everyday Victim Blaming
Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health
FIAPAC (International Federation of Abortion and Contraception Professionals)
Green Party Women
Humanist Society Scotland
Medical Women’s Federation
Race Equality Foundation
Rape Crisis England & Wales
Reclaim Rosslyn Road
Reproductive Health Matters
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Royal College of Midwives
Scottish Women’s Aid
Sister Supporter Manchester
Stop Street Harassment
The Fatherhood Institute
University and College Union (UCU)
The Vagina Museum
Women’s Resource Centre