Manchester

Manchester abortion clinic protest ban moves closer

Marie Stopes clinic in Fallowfield Image copyright Google
Image caption People attending the Marie Stopes clinic in Fallowfield have faced harassment from protesters.

A planned protest buffer zone outside an abortion clinic has moved a step closer after the proposals were sent out for consultation.

Manchester City Council has previously supported plans for zones outside abortion clinics.

The council has launched a consultation on a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) for streets around the Marie Stopes clinic in Fallowfield.

A similar ban was introduced in Ealing, London in 2018.

The PSPO could include a space for "people to assemble and express their views with fewer restrictions".

However, Sister Supporter Manchester, a group campaigning for the zone, said the initial proposals could still leave clinic users and staff vulnerable to harassment because the area for people to assemble "is still too close" to the site and only bans A3 signs.

Campaigner Beth Redmond said: "This allows a loophole for the protesters to bring smaller signs and leaflets which are still visible and upsetting.

"It also fails to tackle the use of other objects such as foetus dolls, rosary beads and crucifixes which are commonly seen outside the clinic and presented to clinic users, causing great distress."

Pro-life campaigners argue that vigils outside clinics are peaceful.

The council said it wanted to give everyone in the area "the ability to have their say", according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

"When considering introducing a PSPO we have to make sure that it is the correct course of action for this community," a spokesman added.

A petition from Sister Supporter Manchester was backed by the town hall in June, after receiving more than 1,000 signatures.

What would be banned in the PSPO area?

  • protest, namely engage in any act of approval / disapproval or attempted act of approval / disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services by any means. This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling.
  • interfere, or attempt to interfere, whether verbally or physically, with a staff member or service user of the centre.
  • intimidate or harass, or attempt to intimidate or harass, a staff member or service user of the centre.
  • record or photograph a staff member or service user of the centre without the explicit consent of that person.
  • display any text or images relating directly or indirectly to the termination of pregnancy.
  • distribute any text or images relating directly or indirectly to the termination of pregnancy.
  • play amplified music, voice or audio recordings with respect to the approval or disapproval of abortion services.

The consultation will run until November 15.

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