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'Government needs to do more to protect abortion clinic users from anti-choice harassment'

  • Abortion clinics should be provided with safe zones without having to request for it, say campaigners
  • Women should be allowed to make their decision without fear of harrasment 

For years, abortion clinic users suffered from harassment and intimidation from anti-choice protesters who are against people’s decisions and right to choose abortion.

In the UK, the Ealing MSI clinic was the first clinic to get a buffer zone until last year when the MSI Choice clinic in Fallowfield secured a safe zone for its area.

Shelly Doherty, front of house assistant and health advisor at the clinic, spoke to the Northern Quota a year on to see how the buffer zone is working.

She said: "All abortion clinics should be automatically granted a buffer zone without having to request for it. Women should be allowed to access health care with dignity and confidentially.

"The clinic was able to get its buffer zone with the support of the council and Sister supporter, a pro-choice anti-harassment organisation that support clinic users.

 

Shelly said: "The process of getting a buffer zone approved was very distressing as women who were already traumatised from walking into the building and trying to by-pass protesters stood outside were asked to write down their experience before the clinic could get a PSPO granted.

 “Up until a year ago, it was completely normal to have protesters stood outside the building with their paraphernalia, which included posters and ornaments of foetuses with miscellaneous articles of every reason not to have an abortion while taunting staffs as well as clients who come in for treatments.”

She said it was “very distressing” for women coming in to receive treatment who were subjected to harassments from protesters standing outside on their way into the clinic.

“Not only do they carry posters, but they have cards that they give to every single lady that comes into the clinic,” she said.

Shelley Doherty. Front of house assistant and health advisor. MSI Manchester

“Before the pandemic and the PSPO grant, clients were being allowed to come in with their friends or family and they felt the anxiety for their friend or family member coming in for treatments due to the displays outside the building.

“Things became physical with protesters attacking clinic users which resulted in one of the protesters getting an injunction so she could no longer come anywhere near the building.

“People came in their cars while playing loud music and shouting around the clinic, women sitting and breastfeeding their babies outside the clinic and people with megaphones making noises and disrupting the area.

“Clients before or after arriving at the building had to call staffs asking for assistance before they could have access to entering the building.

“Staff were intimidated as their car tyres including mine were nailed all the time and we couldn’t really do much to protect ourselves.

“With the buffer zone approved, things have been relaxing as we feel we are supported and have the law of our side. Clients now come in freely without being trouble that they would be harassed.

“With all of the vulnerability and abuse that clinic users have to face from getting treatments, the government needs to make sure that the PSPO is rolled to all abortion clinics in the country.”

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