UK mothers launch campaign to oppose plans to set up 'buffer zone' outside abortion clinic

(Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)A pro-life campaigner holds up a model of a 12-week-old embryo during a protest outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast October 18, 2012.

A group of mothers has launched a campaign to oppose a council's plan to establish a "buffer zone" outside an abortion clinic in Ealing, west London.

The Ealing Council is reportedly considering a proposal to enact a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) outside the Marie Stopes clinic on Mattock Lane in an attempt to prevent pro-life advocates from conducting prayer vigils.

According to Catholic Herald, the order would restrict activities such as "[p]rotesting, namely engaging 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."

The buffer zones would also prevent vigil participants from harassing or photographing staff or visitors to the clinic, as well as displaying images or text referring to abortion.

A designated area will be set up for pro-life activists, but only four protesters may be present. The protesters will not be allowed to shout any anti-abortion slogans or display posters that are larger than A3 in size, Catholic Herald reported.

Mothers who had received help from vigil members had set up the "Be Here For Me" campaign in an effort to oppose the creation of buffer zones that would prevent pro-life activists from offering help to women outside the abortion clinic.

The campaign organizers have condemned a report recommending the establishment of the buffer zone, saying it ignores the testimonies of women who were helped by the vigils. They also complained that the report recommended to the Cabinet members that limited weight should be given to the 1,430 submissions made through the Be Here For Me website.

"I have personal and direct experience of meeting the pro-life people from the Good Counsel outside the Marie Stopes Clinic on Mattock Lane, Ealing last October when I attended the clinic for a proposed abortion and absolutely refute the Council's allegations that there is any harassment, name calling or signs of intimidation as women either enter or leave the clinic," one anonymous woman said in her submission, according to the Catholic Universe.

A mother named Jaceline, who received support outside an abortion clinic, feared that the buffer zones would force many women "into going ahead with abortions they don't want."

Clare Carberry, who supports pro-life advocates outside the Ealing facility, said that it will be an "anti-choice move" to deny the offer of help to women in need, and that it encourages people to meet those desperate women and hear their stories.

As many as 5,960 people have reportedly signed a petition opposing the creation of buffer zones around the facility.

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