MPs back Rupa Huq’s plans for buffer zones around abortion clinics

Image above: Rupa Huq with counter-protestors outside Marie Stopes clinic on Mattock Lane in 2016

Anti-abortion protestors face criminal record should they breach buffer zones

MPs have backed Rupa Huq’s proposals to install buffer zones around abortion clinics in England and Wales, which campaigners hope will deter protestors from harassing women from seeking abortions.

The Ealing Central and Acton MP has long campaigned for buffer zones to be introduced outside abortion clinics. She was was among the 297 MPs to vote in favour of the NC11 amendment to the Government’s Public Order Bill, with 110 MPs voting against. The bill still has several stages to clear before becoming law, including scrutiny in the House of Lords

Under the legislation, harassing, obstructing or interfering with any patient attending an abortion clinic will become a criminal offence. Protesters found guilty of breaching the buffer zones, which would extend 150 metres from the clinics, could face up to six months in jail.

Ealing Council established the country’s first buffer zone, around the Marie Stopes clinic in 2018. Since then, other councils have proposed similar schemes.

Rupa Huq “delighted” amendment was passed

Dr Huq said she had witnessed the protesters at the Mattock Lane clinic blocking the pavement in the past and said the issue was very close to her heart, as it was an issue specific to Ealing.

After the vote, Huq said she was “delighted” the amendment passed and that the newly appointed Home Secretary Grant Shapps voted in favour. “Finally”, Huq said, “National protection from harassment for abortion clinic users passed by Commons”. She added:

“I’ve spoken countless times on this issue in Parliament and across the media. I’m grateful to my colleagues for backing this legislation.”

“Many MPs came up to hug and congratulate me yesterday in the aftermath of the vote,” she added.

“What began in Ealing now leads the nation.”

Above: Tweet by Rupa Huq

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