This is an extremely sensitive and emotive issue that engenders passionate views on both sides. It is vital that anyone considering an abortion receives impartial, non-directive and clinical information on pregnancy in order to make an informed choice without being pressured into either continuing with their pregnancy or having an abortion.
Given how difficult and stressful this decision is, it is essential that women are able to access confidential medical and psychological advice and support without fear of harassment or intimidation and I share your concern about reports of an increase in the number of protests outside abortion clinics, with some positioning themselves directly outside clinics and blocking entrances.
It is important, of course, that people are able to protest peacefully. However, as the British Pregnancy Advisory Services' (BPAS) 'Back Off' campaign has highlighted, these protests can intimidate both women considering an abortion and the staff at these clinics. I therefore believe the Government should look at the experience of countries abroad and consult with health service providers, patients and the police about the potential for operating 'buffer zones' around clinics. As you know, in the US, Canada and France, a number of measures - including buffer zones - have been introduced to stop anti-abortion protests happening directly outside clinics and prevent protestors approaching patients or staff. None of these measures prevent anti-abortion protests, they just restrict the distance from clinics protests can be held, to ensure women accessing healthcare are protected from being harassed or intimidated.
It is essential that women can attend sensitive health care appointments and that health care workers can do their jobs without fear of harassment or abuse. That is why I have signed Early Day Motion 162 Closures of Abortion Clinics and Early Day Motion 172 Buffer Zones Around Abortion Clinics. I have also written to Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary to urge that action is taken to protect women’s access to abortion care.