UK Politics

Abortion clinic buffer zone announcement expected 'next month'

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Media captionAnti-abortion campaigners protest outside London clinic in 2018

An announcement on potential moves to protect women attending abortion clinics is expected next month.

Campaigners want "buffer zones" barring anti-abortion protests outside clinics, similar to one in Ealing, west London.

A UK-wide review was expected to report in July but Home Secretary Sajid Javid has told cross-party campaigners he now plans an announcement in September.

Anti-abortion groups have said banning peaceful protests or the distribution of information would be "ludicrous".

Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched the review in November last year, saying it was "unacceptable" that anyone should feel intimidated for accessing healthcare.

Mr Javid has now written to Labour MP Rupa Huq, who leads the cross-party campaign, sending his apologies for not responding before the summer recess.

"This is a very complex and sensitive matter, and one which I am taking very seriously," his letter said.

"I did not want to respond prematurely without having taken a fully considered view. I can confirm that I plan to now make an announcement in September."

Ealing Council imposed a 100-metre protest-free "buffer zone" outside a Marie Stopes clinic in April.

A Home Office statement said: "We have conducted an in-depth assessment of protests outside abortion clinics - including looking at the impact of the Public Space Protection Order in Ealing - and will publish our findings in due course."

Ms Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton, said: "I'm not sure how much longer they can string this out. In the meantime, Ealing Council has undertaken a consultation and implemented a Public Spaces Protection Order around our Marie Stopes clinic."

"It is a national problem that requires a national solution as 170 MPs demanded in a letter to the home secretary in May."

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Media captionNewsnight: Should there be 'buffer zones' around abortion clinics in Britain?

A British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) spokeswoman said the group was "optimistic" the government would bring forward legislation.

"We don't believe every council is going to be able to put in the same time and resources as Ealing, and that's why we believe national legislation is needed. Women face harassment and intimidation on a daily basis at other clinics."

However, Alina Dulgheriu, 34, a member of the Be Here For Me campaign against abortion which recently lost a High Court appeal against Ealing's buffer zone, said hearing from protesters outside an abortion clinic had changed her mind about terminating a pregnancy.

"There was a woman there saying, 'we can offer you help'," she told the Press Association. "I chose not to go ahead with the abortion because I was given another option."

She has since attended vigils with her daughter and denied there was any harassment or intimidation of staff or patients.

"We are just three people holding a rosary and my daughter was playing. There's nothing shocking or graphic on the leaflets."

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