Clare Murphy, BPAS Chief Executive, said:
“At BPAS we know the impact that anti-choice harassment and intimidation outside clinics has on both clients and the staff that care for them. Since the government last reviewed the issue in 2018, fifty clinics have been targeted by protesters in England and Wales. Over the last year, we have seen five new protest sites in Chester, Northampton, Clapham, Peterborough, and Sheffield. The protest in Chester began today.
“Anti-choice groups routinely follow women and healthcare professionals as they enter and leave clinics, display graphic banners of dismembered fetuses, and tell women that if they terminate a pregnancy, they risk breast cancer and long-term mental illness. We ask the government how many women have to suffer this cruelty before they act?
“It’s time for new national legislation to protect women whilst they access confidential medical treatment and support, and a cross-party group of MPs are trying to achieve just that. A cross-party coalition of MPs, led by Rupa Huq MP and Sir Bernard Jenkin, have tabled an amendment to the Public Order Bill which would establish buffer zones around all clinics providing abortion care to protect women and healthcare professionals from escalating, and increasingly aggressive, anti-abortion protests. We expect that the amendment will be debated during Committee stage between 9th June and 23rd June. Unless the government blocks the amendment, we expect a vote during Report stage in the second week of July. If the government refuse to allow time for a vote on the amendment, the amendment will be brought back to the Public Order Bill when it being considered in the House of Lords.
“Buffer zones and efforts to stop clinic harassment are supported by Medical Royal Colleges, clinicians, and Violence Against Women’s and Girls groups including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, MSI Reproductive Choices (UK), and Women’s Aid. It would be shameful and unforgiveable if the government were to attempt to block this amendment, which is supported by members of their own party, and in doing so give a green light to those harassing and intimating women seeking to access legal healthcare.”
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BPAS is a charity that sees over 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/
In 2021, BPAS launched BPAS Fertility, England’s first not-for-profit fertility service, to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service, without profiteering from patients. Our service gives those ineligible for NHS funding an affordable option to access the care they need.