In a long overdue but undeniably positive step forward for reproductive rights, the House of Commons have voted in support of buffer zones around abortion clinics in England and Wales.
This also means that it will be an offence for anti-abortion protestors or demonstrators to harass people who are using these services – fighting an issue that has needed some serious attention for a long time.
The vote – which was victorious by 297 to 110 – has been called a “huge victory for reproductive rights” by reproductive healthcare organisation MSI Reproductive Choices. And we wholeheartedly agree.
The buffer zones will cover 150 metres around an abortion clinic, and offenders will received up to six months in prison for a first offence and up to two years for repeated crimes. This ruling will go nationwide, with only local councils being able to implement such “zones” previously.
“This will protect over 100,000 women a year, who will finally be able to access the healthcare to which they are legally entitled free from intimidation and harassment,” Louise McCudden, the UK advocacy and public affairs advisor at MSI Reproductive Choices, has said, shedding some light on the fight many have fought to get us to this point.
“For decades, our teams around the country have been forced to witness the cruel tactics of anti-abortion groups who have had a free pass to harass people attending our clinics, invade their space and attempt to block their right to healthcare.
“At long last, everyone will have the right to access vital reproductive healthcare with safety, dignity, and privacy, no matter where in the country they happen to live.”
Clare Murphy, chief executive of leading abortion provider the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), has stated that she’s “delighted” at the result of the vote, pointing out that it was “truly a cross-party amendment, with support from across the house”.