Calls to ban protests outside Leeds abortion clinic with new style ASBOs

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Campaigners are calling on the authorities to use new anti social behaviour legislation to ban protests outside a Leeds abortion clinic.

The group wants the council to create a ‘buffer zone’ around the Marie Stopes clinic and use the PSPO (Public Space Protection Order) legislation - currently used to clamp down on issues like drunken behaviour and littering - to protect vulnerable women from intimidation.

It follows claims that pro-life campaigners have persistently been holding round the clock vigils outside the clinic in Leeds. It is claimed that anti-abortion groups originating in America, such as the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and 40 Days for Life - have been organising protests in Leeds since last year, and more are planned.

Pro-choice campaigners say they are “very concerned that these protests, which ultimately aim to dissuade women from accessing healthcare, put Leeds residents at risk, including vulnerable, disadvantaged and distressed women”.

The group has now presented its ideas to senior councillors at Leeds Civic Hall.

In a deputation, which will now be considered by the council’s cabinet, they said the issue was not about “silencing the views of any group”, but rather about “a duty of care to create a safe buffer zone”, and to ensure women can access healthcare without intimidation.

“Preventing protests close to medical facilities will help protect the anonymity in using these services,” the group says.

“This may include those at risk of domestic abuse or honour based violence.

“It will allow Leeds residents to access reproductive healthcare, and support availability of public healthcare facilities. Protests can still take place in other locations.”

Councillors were told that according to the most recent available figures from 2016, almost 3,000 legal abortions were carried out in Leeds on behalf of the NHS, with 56 per cent on women in their 20s, and 15 per cent on teenagers.