We’re taking action over abortion clinic harassment17th May 2021
Women and staff at the Marie Stopes Clinic in Camden have suffered harassment and intimidation from anti-abortion activists for years. Since 2019, Marie Stopes and a group that campaigns for safe zones, Sister Supporter have been documenting this abuse and providing evidence in the form of photos, videos and witness testimony to Camden Council. Yet so far the Council has failed to act.
One woman reported: “I was heckled by a man outside who kept shouting ‘mum’ at me…a woman followed me two blocks and made me feel unsafe”.
Another woman said: “I felt humiliated, upset, harassed and angry that this was allowed to happen, that nobody was able to prevent this…it made me have an anxiety attack that took hours to calm down from.”
Everyone should be able to access the healthcare they’re entitled to safely and free from discrimination and threat.
Councils have the power to implement safe zones around abortion clinics to protect service users and staff. We’ve seen safe zones implemented in Richmond and Ealing with very positive effect. But despite indicating that a consultation would be held last June and receiving extensive evidence of the continuing intimidation and harassment of women, Camden Council has not taken any further steps.
So we have teamed up with Sister Supporter to write to Camden Council to ask them to urgently confirm the steps they are taking to protect abortion clinic service-users and staff. If they do not, we will consider formal legal proceedings.
We know that this is not a problem that starts and ends in Camden – it is a national problem in need of a national solution.
Across the United Kingdom, women report feeling scared and distressed by anti-choice activists at the gates of abortion clinics. Service users and staff face, among other things:
- Being blocked at clinic entrances;
- Being told that the clinic is in the other direction;
- Being asked why they are having an abortion;
- Seeing large graphic placards of babies and children;
- Seeing graphic images of foetuses;
- Being videoed by anti-choice activists;
- Being handed pamphlets full of gross misinformation;
- Being followed, chased and physically assaulted.
Based on information collated by BPAS, and the Department for Health’s 2019 Abortion Statistics, 50.1% of service-users attend an abortion clinic that is affected by anti-choice intimidation and harassment. That means over 100,000 people were exposed to the risk of encountering anti-choice harassment at the point of access.
It is the duty of the Government to ensure that women can access abortion clinics without facing harassment. Until it does so, this obligation falls to local councils – and we will ensure that duty is met.
It is only with your support that we can continue to hold Government to account. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.