Buffer zone around London abortion clinic is a first for Britain

Source: Religion News Service

Wearing pink, members of the group Sister Supporter gather outside the abortion clinic in the Ealing neighborhood of London. A new buffer zone, the first in Britain, will prevent protesters from going within 100 meters of the clinic. The group was formed to protect women it feels are harassed by those who protest abortion outside clinics. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

LONDON (RNS) — A municipal council in a West London suburb voted this week to allow a buffer zone around an abortion clinic — the first such zone of its kind in Britain, where abortion has been legal for 50 years.

The move has buoyed abortion-rights supporters, who are looking for the creation of more such zones around the nation. But it troubles abortion opponents and others who say it violates their free speech rights.

The debate, while relatively new to Britain, has a long history in the United States, where cities and states have taken varied approaches to the zones. They have been tested in several courts, and then in the Supreme Court in 2014, which declared them presumptively illegal. 

In Ealing, the suburb where the 100-meter zone will be established, the clinic run by Marie Stopes International charity for more than 20 years had long served its clients without much protest. On most days, the only people who used to pass its door were commuters traveling to the nearby train station or dog walkers heading for the adjoining park.

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