Manchester City Council has approved a safe zone around an abortion clinic in Fallowfield to protect service users from harassment, following ongoing protests outside by pro-life groups.
The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) will be implemented this Friday around the Marie Stopes Clinic on Wynnstay Grove. There will be a six-week appeals period for parties to challenge its implementation.
The PSPO will ban people from protesting in the area surrounding the Clinic. It is the third safe zone to be introduced around an abortion clinic in the UK.
The development comes after an investigation by the Council found reports of intimidating behaviour towards users and staff outside the Clinic. This included ‘abusive language’, ‘displays of graphic images’ and the ‘throwing of holy water’ towards those accessing the building.
Sister Supporter Manchester, a pro-choice, anti-harassment group, has been campaigning for a safe zone at this Clinic for two years. Their founder, Eabha Doherty, said in a statement:
“This news will come as a great relief to clinic users and staff who have had to endure years of harassment and intimidation from anti-abortion protestors. The distress and trauma that has been caused by these protestors over the years can never be undone, but we are hopeful that this new measure will provide adequate protection for those accessing the clinic from now on.”
The Council’s decision can be appealed in the next six weeks. However, last year, a pro-life group lost their appeal
against the UK’s first PSPO around an abortion clinic, in Ealing, West London.
A pro-life group, 40 Days for Life, began one of their twice-yearly vigils outside Fallowfield’s abortion clinic, and many others, last month. They are yet to say whether they will appeal the Council’s decision.
Managing Director of Marie Stopes UK, Richard Bentley, called the development a “huge victory” for those in Manchester, but highlighted the need for more protest restrictions at abortion clinics nationwide.
He said: “The fact is whether it’s one woman being harassed or 1,000, it’s still too many. It is time for the UK government to end the postcode lottery of harassment and legislate for Safe Access Zones outside all registered abortion care providers in the UK.”
Dr Rupa Huq MP for Ealing Central and Acton, introduced a bill
in June to prevent demonstrations outside all abortion clinics nationally. Its second reading is scheduled for 13th November.