London

MPs support Ealing anti-abortion protest zones, says poll

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Image caption Protestors said women were not being offered alternatives to abortion

More than half of MPs support a council's decision to introduce "buffer zones" outside abortion clinics to prevent protests, a poll suggests.

A survey of 101 parliamentarians found 57% supported Ealing Council's decision to stop anti-abortion groups from protesting outside a local clinic.

The authority is exploring options to prevent such demonstrations, including a Public Space Protection Order.

Protestors display graphic images outside the clinic, the council said.

When asked whether they supported taking action, 24% of MPs said they opposed the decision, according to the poll carried out by YouGov on behalf of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

The remaining said they neither supported or opposed, or did not know.

The poll was released ahead of a debate in Parliament on the issue.

'Significant distress'

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Image caption Some protesters used "deliberately disturbing and graphic images" outside the Marie Stopes clinic, the council said

"A clear majority of MPs support action on anti-abortion clinic protests," said Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS.

"For years, a tiny handful of individuals have been permitted to cause women seeking legal healthcare services significant distress.

"As a direct result of the government's refusal to engage with this issue, these groups have become emboldened and protests have intensified. This cannot be allowed to continue."

Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, will lead a Westminster Hall debate on public order legislation relating to family planning clinics.

The Good Counsel Network, which holds vigils outside the Ealing centre, denies harassing women.

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